How to Get Started in Web Experience Personalization

When we get something else, reactions can range from mild disappointment to utter frustration. Shoppers take their business elsewhere. Click. Click. Gone.

This phenomenon has spilled over to B2B marketing, where business buyers expect the same sort of shopping experience that they have in their personal lives. Is that unreasonable?

No, says Noah Logan, senior vice president of Upland Software and the general manager of its Clickability unit, which provides services to NBC, Cantor Fitzgerald and about 500 others sites around the world. He spoke Thursday in a CMSWire webinar titled "5 Effective Ways to Personalize Web Experiences." The session was sponsored by Clickability.  (Click to watch)

Fundamental Changes

"Over the last 10 years, especially the last five years, a buyer's journey has fundamentally changed," he told the audience. "More than 70 percent of the customer's journey is already complete before they even let you know they're actually shopping."

In that context, it's increasingly important to provide the type of personalization that is available today, he said, citing data from Hubspot, which found highly targeted calls to action had a 42 percent higher submission rate than generic CTAs. He also noted a Forrester report that found the upper half of a company's customer base will spend 50 percent more when they receive personalized offers.

"We're beginning to see marketers leap-frogging their competition by delivering a much more personalized experience," said Logan.

Still, while 77 percent of marketers surveyed by the Direct Marketing Association agree that personalization is important, most haven't made the move. In a poll taken during the webinar, 48 percent of the audience said personalization was important, but not their top priority. Only about one-eighth of the audience already had a personalization strategy up and running.

Personalization Myths

Logan ran through five "myths" about personalization that are often cited by laggards:

"I don't have enough content." Logan said this is a myth because by choosing simple use cases, companies can create personalized variations based on content they already have. For example, he noted one of his customers uses "heroes" from different industry segments for site visitors for those segments. They do that by mapping the company name and the visitor's IP address to their own CRM data.

"I need to redesign my website."  Actually, Logan said, minor variations in content can help you get started. A full website redesign can come later when you've learned more about what works best.

"I need to have it all figured out." Not true. Logan noted that taking a basic approach will not only reduce complexity but will allow for important experimentation and testing that will improve the end results.

"I need a lot of new expensive tools." Logan noted that companies can save as much as one-third to one-half by using SaaS-based tools like those from his company.

"I don't have time to do it and need a large team to manage it." Logan noted one of his clients, Sienna, tripled its efforts with no increase in the marketing team.

Get Started

Logan said there are several keys to getting started. The first is to understand the "personas" within the audience segments you want. You need to know who they are, their motivations and the impediments that stand between them and a sale.

The second tip was to start listening to what your target personas are saying, gathering data and analyzing it to determine the best approach. That leads into a third suggestion: Make sure your audience segments are seeing the content that best suits them.

Speaking of segmentation, he said it's important to define the facets of the audience you value. And keep it simple. Create just a few segments to start.

Finally, he advised making careful decisions about what to personalize. Using case-driven decisions will get you started, but you can also use analytics to identify the web pages most frequently visited by different segments.

Q&A Time

During the question-and-answer period, Logan was asked how to create cohesive experiences across multiple websites -- a common problem for larger companies.

He said it's best to bring the stakeholders of the different websites together to develop a "shared roadmap" they can all follow. If that fails, he said it may be best to consolidate the sites into one system, or make a change to a more flexible, multisite platform.

He also was asked what drives the best ROI -- software, strategy or execution.

"I think the biggest determinant of a high versus low ROI comes from good planning and good strategy as opposed to good execution," he said. "You can execute well on a poor strategy and still have a very low ROI."

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