The simplest example of effective personalization

Personalisation is a vital part of user experience. If done well, it molds volumes of content and data into a concise, meaningful message. It cuts out the annoying irrelevance and makes customer journeys easier.

Amazon does it. Facebook does it. Google does it. And so should you! Or at least this is what your customers think.

But here’s the problem.

Even though most web professionals agree that personalisation is fundamentally important, successful implementations are still few and far between. Large organizations realize the need to personalize, but they also understand the associated costs, complexity, and overhead expenses.

Setting up personalisation requires a thoughtful strategy around:

  • User segmentation
  • Content modelling (which content areas will be personalized?)
  • Personalisation rules

This in turn calls for integration with CRM and custom-built online applications, creation of new content and new business processes. On top of all that, if you are operating in a highly regulated environment such as finance or pharmaceutical, you will face additional challenges associated with storage and archival of personalized content for audit and complaints handling.

For a company that has never implemented personalisation before, the evident complexity can lead to paralysis. No wonder that all too often personalisation is the “phase two” project that never comes.

If you feel like personalisation is an insurmountable hurdle on your way to success, the easiest first step you can take is differentiating between your new and existing customers.

This can be amazingly simple.

A single click on a Login button will indicate that the user is an existing customer. Hold on to this piece of information! Even if the post-login process is a separate, bespoke application which sits outside your content management system, the mere fact of knowing that this user is an existing customer is something.

Something useful. Something relevant. Something important.

You may not know who this customer is or what his or her preferences are, but this user’s attempted login already allows you to personalize content in a meaningful way.

Similarly, once a user hits a Buy button, he/she becomes your existing customer too.

This most basic segmentation works really well for businesses that promote “loss-leader” products with a hidden agenda to attract (and hopefully retain) new customers. These products aren’t openly advertised as “new customers only,” yet are launched with the aim to acquire new customers and new revenue. If existing customers are attracted to the offer instead, this leads to product cannibalization, not customer acquisition, resulting in failed marketing efforts and a loss on sale.

For example, in the UK banks are fighting over their rankings in so-called “Best Buy tables” and launch astonishingly attractive products in the hope to get access to new money. Being able to differentiate between new and existing customers allows them to target these products at new customers only.

Other businesses and other industries can benefit from this basic personalisation too. Selling to existing customers and approaching new prospects always requires fundamentally different approaches, and the impact on the bottom line can be visible and substantial.

Tracking this sort of clicking activity with cookies is easy. It doesn’t require fancy integrations with other systems or a lot of technical resource. This most simplistic segmentation can become your first step to creating personalized user experience, the first opening sentence to your personalisation story.

Once you’ve made the first step you can build on your successes. The hardest bit is to start.

This blogpost was first published on Digital Clarity Group website in 2013.