No really, this just was not how I planned to start this post. I was going to drone on about the small town I grew up in and how we all knew of each other etc. How that upbringing had put a lens on how I see things...but, when I searched for an image to help inspire me when writing this blog, I typed in customer service and only saw images of people wearing headsets. I typed in coffee shop and saw people sitting with their coffee, doing work on their phones or laptops. The truth of it is, that is exactly the point I am trying to make: many of our consumer relationships have changed drastically. We can thank technology for most of those changes, and well stock photography sites from saving you from my rambles… mostly.
Though a few of us might still have that coffee shop or gas station where someone says “Hey Joe, how’s that new puppy of yours doing? Getting the regular?” for many of us, our consumer relationship involves ordering our coffee from our phones and only showing up long enough to pick up a cup with our name misspelled on it. Then, we are right back out the door.
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal, it stated that in 2016 consumers were cited as making 51% of their purchases online. Raise your hand if you’re in this statistic (this would be me waving both arms). The ease and convenience of online purchasing, or at least consumer research, has changed the way we communicate as individuals, and how we as marketers communicate with our customers - but it doesn’t mean that each customer still wouldn’t find the “Hey Joe” experience more engaging.
That’s where personalization comes in. It allows you to take what you’ve learned about your customers and connect with them. To be clear, I’m not talking about only putting the “Hey Joe” at the top of an email. Personalization has to be more, it has to be all about providing greater value to that end user.
Personalization is already being utilized by many of the common services we use online. Think about it for a moment: when listening to streaming music based off of a song or band; how great is it when it, seemingly randomly, pulls up a song you’ve not heard since high school or college? Because of a few “Thumbs Up” clicks my phone App just figured out I was all about the August and Everything After album. How great is that? The same goes for shopping online. I always check out the “others who bought this also looked at…” sections of a site. It makes it easier to see my options.
Now onto a larger scope: Consumers have options from all around the world at their fingertips. We’ve gone from having funnel marketing model to reviewing the buyer's journey and now, with personalization, we have the ability to customize that journey to the individual. It’s about bringing the content, the experience that each consumer finds meaningful.
A recent eBook by Optimizely defined personalization as “…a strategy for tailoring your website to an individual visitor based on what you know about their tastes and motivations.”
Already into 2017, the Wall Street Journal cited this report that indicates 65% of organizations are utilizing personalization to meet their customers’ needs.
The benefits have been shown time and again; creating that bond with the end user through personalization creates
more meaningful engagements,
faster conversion rates,
greater investments made per order, and
overall greater customer loyalty.
Ok, you’re sold! You’re ready to join the masses… now what?
Stop, breathe, and remember, this isn’t going to happen with a snap of a marketer and/or developers fingers. It takes research and planning, even if you have a pretty good idea who your customers are.
Homework never ends! Before you begin and all throughout the process keep your finger on the pulse of your data!
Review Your SEO
Where are people coming from and what keywords are they using?
Are your Meta Descriptions, Page Titles and H-Tags well developed?
Where are people entering and exiting your site?
Analyze your Sales and Marketing Reports
What messaging produced the most conversions?
What were the most common concerns about your product/service?
What are you clients saying?
Don’t stop there! View whatever other information you can find to understand how customers move through your site. Once you have that you can see how to be best engage your visitors, where to show them additional information, and what messaging is more likely to help them move through the buyer's journey.
Keep asking questions!
Are you buyer personas giving you actionable insights? Are you already collecting individual data? Studies in basic demographics are no longer enough: we need to build and continue to evolve our methods of collecting and analyzing data.
Develop a strong strategic plan
You’ll need to be able to answer questions like:
Why are your clients coming to your site?
At what point in the journey are they joining you?
Where are they coming from?
Why are they leaving?
If you can answer those you can better determine what are the best forms of engagement for your customer base.
Let’s use our hypothetical friend Joe from the start of this article: we know he likes coffee and has a puppy; though instead of hearing about this over the counter we’ve studied his buying history and his behavior flow. We know he’s coming to us already knowing what kind of coffee he likes and, already having the puppy, likely already has the basic supplies he needs. Now we can adapt our approach with Joe based on that.
It’s time to put some of your strategies into action.
- Use your gated content to start a conversation. Set up a waterfall campaign to keep the user actively interacting with your site:
Invite them to fill out a form to see a white paper or other high quality content.
House training 101
Direct them to Thank You pages after they fill out your form.
Thank you for downloading House training 101, would you also like to read about crate training?
Engage them with emails following granting them access to gated content that speak to their interests and needs; such as other gated content or blog posts.
You may be interested in blog posts like “How I became my puppy’s alpha” and “The 3 best products to stop unwanted chewing”
Allow for profiles on your site to gather more specific information per user.
Make recommendations based on similar articles as he is reading or products often purchased with the ones he is researching.
Combine your efforts across platforms. Utilize Social Media Marketing in conjunction with your other efforts.
Keep your eye on the data that you collect as you engage! By tracking the information you’ll keep learning more and can continually evolve the user’s experience.
What are the dangers of personalization?
Any good thing can be taken too far. So what is the potential for this going bad? In short, it’s coming on too strong. A good buyer's journey is almost like a romance. The awareness stage is like flirting with your target audience, the consideration stage is much like dating, and the decision stage is like them saying “yes” to your proposal. If you get too personal too fast, you’ll never make it past the awareness stage.
The goal is to make your customer feel valued and understood, not like you have a socially awkward 17 year old in a HUGE, bubble-gum pink prom dress drooling over you… *sigh* ...so ok that was me in pink but it was a very small town, and really, you get where I’m going with this.
That may not have been how I planned on starting this post, but it speaks to how we need to make each of our engagements count. We need to personalize the customer experience and to do this we need to research, plan, and engage, with respect to our end users, while still providing them interesting, entertaining, or simply meaningful content. We need to provide each visitor with the “Hey Joe” experience and in return, we will benefit from their patronage and loyalty.
Using Marketing Automation for Personalization: Benefits and Challenges | Mediacurrent Blog
Web Personalization with Drupal: An Introduction | Drupalcamp Presentation
Website and Email Personalization (Through Automation) | Mediacurrent Blog