Get started with online personalisation

6 July 2023

Users expect increasingly relevant experiences. How should your organisation tackle this? By focusing on online personalisation. iO experts Client Services Director Charles Borremans and CRO and personalisation expert Eddy Boeve will tell you all about it.

header personalisation

Online personalisation: a small but important part of CRO

Online personalisation is a small part of a larger whole — CRO, or Conversion Rate Optimisation. At iO Campus Amsterdam this is a  seven-person team, but we have CRO experts on our other campuses.

Online personalisation, that's not a new story.

Eddy: "I recently remembered that I had the book  'The One to One Fieldbook' by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. That book was published in 1999. So online personalisation has been around a lot longer than many people realise."

But what exactly does online personalisation mean?

Eddy: "Simply put, personalisation means delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time. That may sound simple, but it isn't always. It's about understanding personas, complex customer journeys, and coming up with suitable messages. Sometimes that can be quite a difficult puzzle to solve."

The most traditional forms of online personalisation are found on websites, and in e-mail marketing where the message is increasingly focused on the recipient. And it doesn't stop there.

Eddy: "We also see more personalisation on social media than, say, five years ago. Both in advertising and in organic content, we are becoming more and more personal."

Get started with personalisation

Charles: "Organisations hear from all sides that personalisation is important — that it can have a big impact on the customer experience, brand preference, and even revenue. But how do you get your organisation off to the best start with personalisation?"

Eddy: "The most important thing is not how or when you get started with online personalisation, but that you start with it at all. It can seem like a daunting job, but getting started with personalisation can be easy if you have the right tooling. In most cases, this tooling is very accessible and affordable."

This tooling has several roles:

  • Identifying who your users are: is someone visiting your website for the first time? Have they made a purchase before? That knowledge should be stored in a database, or CDP;

  • Making sure you can present the right message: with tools like Squeezely and Datatrics, you're in control;

  • Making the link with a CMS or email service provider: the personalised message should eventually be sent from a CMS or ESP.

Personalisation can become a complex project that’s worked on by permanent teams, but actually anyone can try it.

Eddy: "For example, you can distinguish between new and returning visitors to your website. Or you can send a different newsletter to new subscribers than to people who have been subscribed for some time. These are forms of personalisation that don’t require a lot of energy but can have an impact."

To start with online personalisation, you need at least one digital medium — usually a website and/or a newsletter.

Too small to personalise?

It is easy to get started with personalisation, but there are certain basic conditions that you have to meet.

Eddy: "SMEs can also personalise, but it’s difficult if you don't have a marketing budget. In addition, you also need to be able to make time to talk about your business."

But even at the other end of the spectrum, it isn’t always plain sailing. Multinationals sometimes use cumbersome systems and can be culturally very resistant to change.

Eddy: "Sometimes in large organisations, everything can seem difficult and complicated. But investments in personalisation are small, and potential gains are large — that often convinces stakeholders. We don't work for organisations, we work with them."

What about privacy?

Charles: "With personalisation, you use personal data to better tailor the experience to your users. But those users are becoming less and less eager to share their data with organisations — thanks in part to the disappearance of the third-party cookie. How can you deal with that?"

Eddy: "I think personalisation is a great opportunity. Users now have to give permission to receive personalised communications but that doesn’t mean the end of personalisation — quite the opposite."

Based on that consent — which is part of first-party data — organisations can build an even more relevant connection with users. Personalisation thus becomes more of a collaboration between users and organisations, and much less of a one-sided form of communication.

From the masses to the individual

Organisations that spend most of their media budget on traditional mass media — radio and TV — can also benefit from shifting the focus from the masses to the individual. Why do these organisations also have to invest in personalisation?

Eddy: "Everything you invest in adding to your knowledge about your target groups and channels is strategic. You learn more about your visitors and their behaviours, so you get closer and closer to your core business. This certainly applies to 'traditional' organisations."

Organisations that are used to operating online often already know certain tooling better than organisations that fully focus on traditional media. The knowledge about personalisation is not always present, but the awareness is increasing.

Charles: "But new tooling is not the only difference — for many organisations personalisation is also a change of mindset."

Eddy: "We start every personalisation process with a workshop. This way we get everyone on the same page. During these workshops we show examples of the impact of personalisation. As a result, we see a lot of enthusiasm within the teams, which is energising to work with."

Personalisation: a hot topic?

Partly thanks to the disappearance of the third-party cookie, personalisation is an often discussed topic in the professional media. Is it a flash in the pan trend that will be gone as quickly as it arrived or is personalisation here to stay?

Eddy: "We notice that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get organisations involved in a personalisation process. People are generally open to smart hypotheses and A/B tests to get more value from web traffic, and then the next step towards personalisation isn’t as daunting."

One possible consequence of personalisation is that you have to invest more in content production — after all, you want to offer every user a relevant experience, and you may need more content for that than if you don't do personalisation.

Eddy: "Organisations need to grow alongside their personalisation efforts. At iO, we use a maturity matrix for this. This helps the people we work with to understand that personalisation is not a short project, but an ongoing process that you work on every day."

And that is a cyclical process with a positive impact on the organisation: by focusing on personalisation, you can build better audiences in the medium term, so that you can personalise better, and always go one step further.

Charles Borremans
Client Services Director - iO

Charles Borremans is Client Services Director at iO Campus Amsterdam. He spends his days immersed in the stories that companies and organisations are trying to tell. He is always exploring new, relevant trends.

Eddy Boeve
About the author
Eddy Boeve
Senior Conversion Rate Optimisation Specialist - iO

Eddy’s entrepreneurial history has taught him a valuable lesson: always side with the user. Every day, he lives up to his creed by acting as the user’s advocate in terms of CRO, UX and – most of all – in reaching emotions through tech.

Do you want to take the next step with personalisation?

Our CRO experts are here to help you get started.

Relevant topics


Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter

iO respects your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.

 Or get updates & insights via our WhatsApp newsletter!