My wife sent me to Safeway the other day — on a mission: to get some Kraft Macaroni & Cheese…it was comfort food night. I hadn’t shopped for this product in years, but I fondly remembered it as a “post- college” staple — 19 cents a box, add some butter and milk. Delicious…and filling.
So imagine my surprise when I found not one but nine different versions of my comfort food classic. Among them: Thick and Creamy, 3 Cheese, Spirals, Sponge Bob, and after much searching, Original Flavor, etc.
Such a venerable, old product and so many versions. Yet it made sense. An American food staple that needed to reach new audiences who might seek out the products core values but need a subtle difference in the message; each seeks the basic product but desires a slight variation in the delivery of that message.
Brand extensions are nothing new in food industry. (That’s why there are so many toothpastes and laundry detergents). But on the web, the concept of personalization is fairly new.
First and foremost let’s talk about what personalization is not.
- It is not simply adding a first name to an email.
- If you are not already doing this, you are missing an entry level personalization tactic.
- It is not “a check box.”
- Simply asking someone to categorize themselves when they create their profile on your site as to what content they will be interested in from your association at a “point in time” is like asking a high school senior what job they will hold 10 years from now.
- It is not a shopping referral engine. “If you liked this, then you are going to love this…”
- Amazon pioneered this to sell you more stuff. Future iterations of this technology will be very productive for personalization when they can intuitively understand a “content consumption event” and refer like-minded content.
From the pages of Wikipedia a very encompassing definition of personalization…
Personalization technology enables the dynamic insertion, customization or suggestion of content in any format that is relevant to the individual user, based on the user’s implicit behavior and preferences, and explicitly given details.
James Doman March 19, 2012.
In short, personalization is the closest thing to being there in person while your member/customer is using your website. That’s a good thing. And whether they are gathering information, updating their profile, shopping or booking an event on your association’s website, the experience they have directly relates to their perception of your brand. Website personalization is not simple, but it’s also not as hard as building a website. That said, it is amazing that so few companies employ it.
Let’s take a look at what personalization can do for your association from three different vantage points.
10,000 foot view: What it can do for you?
- Personalization allows you to leverage your understanding of the behavior of your website user and deliver the most relevant experience based on that previous behavior.
- Personalization customizes a browsing experience through the use of A/B testing and multiple variant regression analysis.
- So you can test a home page or a content page before you publish and then publish it with just the right message for each audience.
- Personalization allows you to test content on-site, in email, in mobile and social applications, and in display ads.
- Different devices and platforms lend themselves to different users and the way they consume information it’s important to cater the message to the platform.
- Personalization provides the reporting that reveals the combination of elements that leads to the greatest lift in conversion…whatever that conversion may be. Publications sales, white paper downloads, membership renewal, event registration, etc.
- Potentially increasing your conversions by 5-10% after they have left your site.
Currently most businesses personalize shopping carts, product pages and or a post order email as shown in this recent survey by Adobe (June 2012).
Big Brother View: Re-Targeting
Ad retargeting is the process which tracks a user across the web based on their search and viewing behavior and serves them an ad to potentially drive them to your site, or back to your site. The tracking can either be generated from contextual searching the user has done, or be generated by a user’s previous visit to your site and viewing of a certain product (personalized re-targeting).
I view this as personalization, (albeit in a “Big Brother” kind of way) because it is a process that gleans information from a user’s behavior and then provides a gentle reminder to them to remember you and your brand and prompt them to action. In that sense, they are not strangers; in fact most may be very familiar with your company.
Taking action—including signing up for a mailing list, purchasing a product, viewing a video, renewing a membership, joining an advocacy campaign all are desired goals for associations. In general, re-targeting has proven to be effective — depending on industry — resulting in a 5-10% conversion rate on users who have left your website. Another measure of re-targeting success is Return on Advertising Spent (ROAS). In this context, the amount you return in gross sales, versus what you spent on the retargeting can range from $4-10.*
Ground level: Getting started
If you are ready to get started, and if you are looking for personalization software, google “web personalization software”. In the interim, here are four leads to begin your search:
Adobe Test and Target
- Very cool software that serves up customized content based on rules you determine. Uses a/b testing and multi-variant regression techniques to create the algorithm.
- Soup to nuts platform that integrates web analytics with real-time behavioral targeting.
- Low-cost solution to basic retargeting that helps increase engagement and increase.
‘WP Greet Box’ WordPress Plugin
- Ideal for bloggers, customizes the greeting by referring source.
Personalization is a strategy that can increase engagement and conversion because it functions just like a box of Sponge Bob themed Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Not my personal way to enjoy macaroni & cheese, but I understand those that find that presentation of cheesy pasta as the exact way they want connect with the brand.
*Vintner’s Alliance March 11, 2013