The early 2000s. You loved your pink Motorola Razr, Survivor by Destiny’s Child played on the airwaves, and Friends was still a few years away from ending. Seems like a long time ago, right?
Well, it was.
Nearly 19 years have passed since that era, and nowhere is that as noticeable as when you browse the internet — where Moore’s law, advances in APIs, and numerous other tech developments have made the landscape a whole lot, well, more advanced.
In the last two decades, Facebook, YouTube, Slack, Dropbox, and other household names in tech have all popped up. Plus, our internet is a whole lot more navigable and easy to use.
While many parts of the internet are light years ahead of where it was at the millennium — it’s still odd that we’re treating visitors in the same way we were at the turn of the 21st century.
As marketers, we continue to show generic landing pages to every visitor. We somehow are hoping that a mass-market approach designed for a different time will still work for today’s tech-savvy consumer.
Want to know a secret? It doesn’t work.
Today’s top brands are realizing this, and using the power of personalization, data, intelligent segmentation, and account-based marketing to create more relevant and personal experiences for a new generation of consumers.
In this article, we’ll discuss what personalization is, why it matters for consumers in 2019, and how you can you easily start implementing elements of it on your site today.
So, what is personalization?
Personalization is the concept of building a customized experience for each and every visitor. Rather than showing a one-size-fits-all page to a visitor — you use available first-party (your own data) and third-party data (enriched from an external source) to make a page more relevant for each and every visitor that lands on-site.
This can be accomplished by adjusting headlines, CTAs, subheadings, value propositions, and so much more! Really any piece of on-page content can be swapped out in real-time for a more relevant one. With personalization, you adjust a normally static page for each and every visitor’s unique profile. And the best part? It’s relevant and it works.
In fact, McKinsey reports that personalization reduces acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lifts revenue by 5-15%, and increases the efficiency of a company’s overall marketing spend.
While these metrics increases alone are impressive, the bigger takeaway is that more relevant experiences from personalization create better on-page experiences for consumers. They’re on the whole happier, they view your brand more highly, and consequently, they’re likely to have a higher LTV.
5 ways to add personalization to your site
At first glance, web personalization can seem like a daunting subject to approach. There are simply so many possible experiments, audience segments, and data points at your disposal. Plus, most instances of personalization requires some level of technical knowledge.
But don’t be discouraged!
We’ve found five quick and easy personalization instances that nearly any site can deploy. We’ll walk you through what they are, excellent examples of the techniques in action, and a few software tools you can use to help you launch these changes on your own site.
1. Swap out content on a landing page
When a visitor lands on a page, you have only a few seconds to make sure you make an impression. In fact, 55% of visitors bounce in less than 15 seconds.
Think about that for a second. Most of the traffic that you work hard to get on your site through paid traffic and SEO will bounce after barely interacting with your content. That’s a problem.
So, how do you change that unwanted situation?
One surefire way is to start adjusting the content on a page for each unique visitor. Let’s consider an example. On our homepage at Proof, when we don’t have information on a visitor’s industry, we display the following generic headline:
But if we’re able to identify a visitor’s industry (in this case, e-commerce) from their past behavior or responses on our site, we can adjust our headline and subheadline to directly speak to their industry:
We accomplish this by using own web personalization platform, Proof Experiences, to dynamically adjust the content on a page. Or you could accomplish the same tactic through an A/B testing software tool.
Alternatively, you can set up multiple personalized landing pages and segment your audience through the traffic that you route into each option.
In fact, that’s exactly what Drift does on their site. If you’re in the marketer ad bucket and you click through to their site, you’ll see a landing page that describes how “Today’s Top Marketing Teams Use Drift to Drive Revenue.’
But if you’re in sales and see an online ad about Drift, you’re pushed to this page declaring Drift as “the secret weapon” for your team:
2. Suggest a relevant next article for visitors
On company blogs, FAQ pages, and resource centers, visitors are looking for answers to questions and education around topics that they find interesting. On these sections of sites, visitors provide a ton of meaningful behavioral and contextual clues about their interests.
For instance, if you sell to multiple personas, a reader of an article on strategies for reducing customer acquisition costs or content marketing strategy is probably a marketer. And it’s your responsibility to make your website as easily navigable as a street for that visitor. How do you do that?
Well, through a recommended content section. These modules present similar articles to a visitor.
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While the concept of content recommendation is nothing new — it’s a technique that’s often an afterthought for sites. Rather than showing the best article for a visitor, they display the Most Recent or Most Popular piece across their whole site.
And while this is better than not recommending content at all — it’s largely impersonal for a visitor. A more advanced, personalized approach is to use a smart content recommendation that learns about a visitor’s unique behavior.
Here’s an example of this tactic in play on Mailshake’s blog where they use smart content to personalize the journey for their visitors:
Another example, this time from Pique Tea, and ecommerce site with a popular health blog:
The result? Readers see more relevant content — and the site sees visitors stay longer. Win-win!
3. Change CTAs based on buying cycle
When a visitor comes to your site — you have an opportunity to create a meaningful impression. Most popular website builders, regardless of the sophistication of their data program, at least collect whether someone is a first-time visitor, a returning visitor, a lead, or a customer.
And many companies use an even more sophisticated lead scoring method than that. At a basic level, most sites can create four different versions of a homepage for these scenarios:
First time visitor: welcome the visitor to your site, give a pitch of your product
Returning visitor: welcome them back to your site, remind them about why they visited last
Lead: urge them to finish signing up or purchasing
Customer: delightfully welcome them back
Let's see an example of this in action.
A brilliant example of this is Gusto’s homepage. On the first visit to their site, you see the page below. The headline declares “take care of your team on payday and every day.”
But if you’re a customer, Gusto knows it. Here’s the same homepage that this segment of visitors sees:
The first-time visitor and the customer sees the same URL, but the experience comes across as far more relevant for each group.
4. Autofill forms with user data
The wildest concept of B2B marketing is that when someone wants to pay more money for your product (i.e. buy a high-tier or Enterprise plan), marketers often respond with more red tape: a barrage of questions, required meetings, and many emails.
In any other context, this would be ridiculous:
Imagine you walk into a high-end clothing store. You go, “I’d like to buy this $10,000 suit, a pair of $400 shoes, 3 shirts, and this tie. Here’s my credit card.” The sales associate would be overjoyed, make you feel comfortable, and quickly run your transaction.
In B2B SaaS, if you go, “I want to buy this software, here’s my credit card, I’ll pay anything” this is the response you get. “Ok great, can you fill out this form with 20 fields of information we already know about you, schedule a demo, talk with a qualifying rep for an hour, then we’ll the company decide if you’re a good fit.”
In hindsight, it’s a preposterous scenario! Many brands are finally realizing the craziness and using a set of real-time sales intelligence tools to make the buying experience as easy as other forms of online shopping.
Let’s look at an example to see this in action.
Consider Mention’s site. On their homepage, there’s a page that asks for your email to start the signup flow.
Most sites would take this info on the homepage, and then ask a series of follow-up questions on the next page to gather more info about you. But is that the right thing to do?
Not when you get the info without having to ask for it!
Mention keenly identities this signup as an opportunity to delight their visitors by smartly identifying and validating data. As soon as you insert your email on the first page, they hit a database to pull demographic or firmographic data on you.
Then, on the next page, Mention auto-fills their form with information they’ve pulled about you. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that they pull your first name and last name from your provided email as well as carry your email from the first step.
It creates a better experience for the consumer, and it acts as a gut check on a company’s data.
Personalization shouldn’t worry you
Personalization can be a frightening topic for brands. It can seem time-intensive, hard to manage, and technically-complex. And while this used to be the case, in 2019, it’s no longer an issue.
Personalization is easier to implement than ever — and it can be used to create human and high-converting pages across your whole website.
There are tons of strategies that brands can start implementing today to build more engaging sites, and we hope the four covered in this article get the creative juices flowing for how you can make your site more human and higher converting!
Interested in learning how to better serve your customers beyond personalization? Find out what makes them tick and all of the most in-depth discoveries in our customer service statistics roundup.
Ben Johnson runs Content at Proof, a Y Combinator-backed startup that provides real-time social proof and personalization software. Over 18,000 sites trust Proof to help increase their conversion rates.