Personalisation: is this the right time to start?

Personalisation improves the user experience and conversion rate. It’s a powerful tool, but one that also presents a few challenges. Is your organisation ready to take the next step? And how do you achieve optimal results? In this article, you’ll read more about the benefits of personalisation. Plus, you’ll get seven practical tips that will help you determine if your organisation is ready for personalisation and how you can make it a success.

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Personalisation in a nutshell

Using personalisation on your website means you’ll have to categorise your visitors into different user segments. Per segment, optimise and personalise the content and customer journey. This creates a better experience for your visitors and, in many cases, has a positive effect on the conversion rate.

For example, you can personalise the following:

  • texts and images on a website

  • the content of online advertisements or newsletters

  • a search engine that takes data such as purchase and browsing history into account

  • online advertisements that show products or services that match your purchase and browsing history

  • pop-ups where the content depends on the stage of the purchase funnel that applies to the visitor; like positive reviews, newsletter registration forms, USPs, or a special offer

There are two important steps towards personalising your website. First, you need to get started with a tool to identify your website visitors and analyse their behaviour. Then, you can use the data you gathered to adjust and personalise the user experience.

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What you can achieve with personalisation

1. Visitors reach their goals faster because of specific triggers and messages that (unconsciously) influence them.

2. An increase in returning visitors, as a consequence of an improved overall website experience.

3. A better conversion and click-through rate, thanks to a more relevant website. A survey by Epsilon shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalised experiences. Accenture came to similar conclusions: 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a website that uses some form of personalisation. In addition, companies that use personalisation sell, on average, 20% more than competitors that don't (Gartner).

4. Making content more accessible to those who need it. With personalisation, you can bring specific copy or functionalities that are only relevant to a select group of your visitors — and therefore usually hidden in the background — to the attention of those visitors.

One size doesn't fit all

How a good personalisation strategy leads to a better customer experience

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7 ways to turn personalisation into a success

1. Don't start too fast

Personalisation only works when the basic conditions for conversion have been met. Compare it to the perfect salesperson in a terrible shop: the door jams, meaning less customers will come in. The supply is mediocre and does not meet the expectations of the customer. The payment terminal malfunctions, preventing certain transactions from going through. With those parameters, even the best salesperson in the world can’t perform optimally.

The same goes for an online store, so first make sure the basics are in place:

1. Your proposition and your offer are relevant to your target group.

2. You have a sufficient amount of visitors and contacts.

3. Your website is completely user-friendly, everything works and it works well.

4. You have mapped out the different customer segments (buyer personas).

5. You have an idea of ​​your customer journey and how it works.

6. You approach the right visitor at the right time with the right message, pushing them towards the next step in the customer journey.

7. You are aware of influencing principles such as Cialdini's.

2. Don't put too much focus on tools

Tools are great instruments for collecting data and modifying and testing elements. But they’re only a means to an end. Ultimately, it’s about the insights that you get out of all that information. Figuring out the visitor segments, working out how to tempt them, testing your hypotheses ... A tool does not do this for you automatically, and you’ll always have to fall back on old-fashioned thinking. The adage ‘10% tools, 90% brains’ is still valid here.

You can spend many months and a lot of money on tool selection, but the fact is: your customers are using your website now. They're considering your proposition, reviewing your offer, comparing it and trying to make a choice to reach their decision. By waiting too long to act, you’ll miss out on the interaction that is currently taking place and you’ll learn nothing. So, starting quickly with data collection is worth more than taking a long time to select a 'state of the art tool'.

“You don't just switch on a tool. It’s an ongoing search for what works and what doesn't. Better customer insights don't just get you good results, they also lead to even more insights that will help you organise things much better. We are incredibly happy with the personalisation steps we’ve taken with iO.” – Rogier Goed, verf.nl

3. Gradually grow the number of customer segments

It seems attractive to implement as many optimisations as possible, as quickly as possible. However, in our experience it’s better to start with a limited segmentation and gradually expand it. This is how you do it:

  • Foundations first, then the interior. Or, start with a limited number of segmentations that you refine and expand.

  • Look at the numbers: for reliable results, make sure all segments have sufficient volume and a high conversion rate.

  • Don't make it too complex: too many hypotheses at once will burden your team, and make it difficult to interpret the results correctly.

Setting up segmentation: an example

Dividing visitors into segments and gathering additional information is just the beginning. Collecting visitor data will give you continuous insights into their behaviour. Based on that behaviour, you can determine more specific segments. In turn, you can finetune the messaging and reporting for those segments.

For example, start with messages to convince unknown visitors. This way, you gradually discover which messages work for a broad audience. When creating these messages, don’t forget to use Cialdini’s principles of persuasion.

The next step is that unknown visitors become known visitors. People who, for example, return without buying anything, or return some time after a purchase of over 100 euros. Here, other principles of persuasion can have more impact. Based on visitors' behaviour on your website, you can expose them to different messages.

Constantly developing and getting to understand new segments, while optimising the messaging, ensures continuous improvement. For example, you can gradually attune certain messages more to the wishes of a certain segment, with the goal of developing a personalisation strategy for it.

Is it growth you’re after?

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4. Keep it simple

A complex personalisation strategy requires a lot of time and money, is difficult to set up technically and offers an uncertain return on investment. That's why we recommend starting with simpler personalisations that are likely to impact conversions, segments, and how visitors go through funnels. You can then refine and develop these personalisations based on the results even further.

The advantage of this approach is that it’s easy to start and get the process up and running quickly. This prevents your wonderful optimisation ideas from getting bogged down in technical challenges and internal discussions with the IT and development team, resulting in your tests dropping down on the backlog priority list.

Simple personalisations to get you started
You could start with small overlays and on-page additions, which is something a personalisation tool can do for you. Later on, with proven success, you can always work on complete page redesigns, email database integrations and advanced links.

A next step could be to adapt your content to the location of the visitor or the weather forecast for the next three days. A suitable tool could save you a lot of work in this area, too.

5. Take the device your visitor uses into account

It’s important to be aware of the devices your visitors use (mobile, desktop, laptop, iPad ...). This also has a major impact on their experience and intentions.

Not every type of personalisation works on every device
In real life, we see that desktop users are more susceptible to persuasion techniques in the form of pop-ups, notifications and overlays to influence unconscious behaviour.

For mobile users, however, it’s not as simple as that because of the limited screen space – which means: less wiggle room. That's why we usually recommend adapting on-page elements for these users. That way, you don't scare off visitors with large messages on small screens.

Mobile personalisation gone wrong can actually interrupt the experience instead of supporting it. So, always pay attention to the appearance and placement of elements you want to adjust.

Different device, different intentions
In addition, you have to remember that the visitor’s intentions, behaviour and conversion often greatly differ depending on the device. During the day, a visitor could look at a product or service on his work computer, and wait to buy it until after work, using a mobile device.

6. Personalisation is a process, not a project

Organisations often turn personalisation into a project, but it’s actually better to approach it as a process. After all, you’re not just flipping a switch: you have to test personalisations continuously. In order to create better and more personal experiences for different types of visitors, you’ll have to keep monitoring, analysing and optimising the tests and results, generating new insights for new hypotheses.

7. Don't lose sight of the context

When using personalisation, don’t lose sight of current campaigns, special promotions and current events. These can strongly influence the purchase intentions of your visitors and therefore also the impact of your personalities.

For example, a Black Friday campaign has a big impact on the intent and behaviour of the visitor. When the buyer’s intent is so strong because of high discounts, other personalisation techniques suddenly have little influence.

Another example we recently saw are delivery problems during the pandemic. As a result, the purchase intention decreased. This influence was so strong that personalisations were (temporarily) less effective.

So, are there any major changes to your strategy, campaign or approach? In that case, always adjust your personalisation strategy accordingly. If that doesn’t work, at least switch off the ongoing personalisations: otherwise, there’s a chance they’ll have the opposite effect.

Are you ready for the next step?

Implementing personalisation in your digital environments will quickly lead to a 10-20% increase in conversions. That makes it an interesting next step for many organisations, provided that basic conditions are in order.

Would you like advice on the right strategy for your organisation? Our iO experts are happy to discuss what’s possible and realistic for your situation.

Eddy Boeve
About the author
Eddy Boeve
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.

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