How to Master Website Personalization

In the summer, there’s so many things I enjoy: The sun, the temperature, chilled drinks, BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries, but most of all … my summer subscription box.

The seasonal subscription box I’m subscribed to gives me a little something extra to look forward to every couple of months, and the company has a knack for making me feel like a valued customer.

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In my opinion, it starts with the website. Every time I log on, the homepage is configured to my account, browsing history, and activity:

Example of a personalized website.

The dashboard greets me by name and gives me an update about my next box, like when it’ll be shipped. Next to that, I can look at order history and manage account settings. Underneath, I can look at what I received the previous season with the option to purchase something I really love.

Websites that are designed to adapt based on previous behavior make me feel like a valued customer. Every time I visit FabFitFun, I know I won’t have to follow multiple links for updated shipping information because it’s displayed at the top of the page. This tells me that the company thought of a question I might have and solved for it beforehand.

If you’re one of the 63% of marketers ready to update their website, let’s talk about an essential: personalization. Personalized websites deliver a customized experience to visitors. They configure based on a visitor’s behavior on the website, demographics, and interests.

88% of marketers believe that customers expect a personalized website experience when they visit. Static, generic websites are becoming a thing of the past. Given these figures, a multi-channel personalization strategy should be among your top priorities.

However, only 12% of marketers are satisfied with their personalization efforts. Personalization helps with traffic, customer retention, and sales. But if you aren’t experiencing that with yours, it can be easy to think you’re doing something wrong.

Maybe there’s something you can be doing better. Let’s look at examples of personalized websites that are doing it right, and tools that’ll help you deliver the best visit possible to customers.

How does website personalization work?

When I visit Disney+ or Hulu after a long day of work, I don’t feel like searching for new things to watch; Instead, I’d rather jump right back into The Bachelor. Hulu tracks which shows I’m currently watching and my homepage configures accordingly — so I can quickly play them without having to go to the search bar. When I do want to browse my options, though, the recommendations based on my interests have me covered.

Hulu’s team thought about the intentions I might have for streaming, like to unwind after a long day, and streamlined the process of catching up on shows by offering them on my homepage. This makes me feel like a valued customer, and knowing I can easily jump back in makes me want to stay a customer. And, when I’m browsing my options, I spend a lot of time going through my recommendations, increasing my time spent on the service.

My challenges are solved before I identify them, making me an advocate for the service. This is how website personalization adds to the customer experience — by making the consumer’s life easier.

You can use website personalization to give customers recommendations based on what they like, and offer premium content to repeat visitors. Ultimately, it tailors content based on your buyer personas to delight your audience.

Website personalization happens with data. Data that’s collected by the website is then used to add unique features to homepages, enhancing the browsing experience for the visitor. For example, you may be recommended products on an ecommerce website based on your past browsing history the next time you visit.

Customers want their website visit to be individualized because it makes them feel valued. Having the security of knowing that I can easily repeat an order on Amazon makes me feel as if they know what I want — it’s the joy of being a “regular,” just online.

Personalization can happen in a variety of ways; It’s not just regulated to a fancy homepage. Having CTAs that are relevant to a specific audience is personalization. Product recommendations and location-based copy are also examples.

Even though subscription services and streaming platforms are probably the most prominent examples of website personalization, nearly every company can benefit from having it on their website. Let’s look at some ways B2Bs, ecommerce, and software websites are using it to engage audiences.

1. English Tea Store

I’m a huge loose leaf tea fan. Unfortunately, new flavors are hard to find — so I decided to get international with my next purchase. That’s how I found English Tea Store, which offers a variety of teas, tea accessories, and sweets.

Today, I visited the website for the first time, and I explored how the ecommerce experience was personalized for leads. When I found a tea I liked, I was brought to a page that was full of customized options:

Personalized offers from English Tea Store

Teas I might like based were displayed to the right, catching my attention. Additionally, I was given a special offer as a lead: I could sign up for the website and use the special code for a percentage off of my first order. A completed form is one way websites collect data to improve future visits.

I appreciated having a discount offer right off the bat; it gave me an incentive to complete that form. The recommendations streamlined browsing the products on the website. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the many offerings, I was able to navigate through a smaller set of recommendations.

If your business has a large array of products like English Tea Company, use personalization to offer recommendations based on the products viewers are exploring. To gain leads, consider adding a special offer to first-time visitors like a discount — give them an incentive to fill out the form.

2. HubSpot Academy

Every quarter, I challenge myself to learn something new. Online courses like HubSpot Academy make that easy for me with personalized homepages.

When I log into the Academy homepage, this is what I see:

Personalized courses from HubSpot Academy.

The page greets me by name and lists the courses in progress. Unlike the first example, I’ve been using Academy for a while, so every time I come back, I can quickly jump right back in where I left off.

Personalization doesn’t have to be overly complicated. If you’re a B2B marketer that prefers minimalist design, think about simple elements that will still give you the results you need. Greeting the user by name and showing previous interactions are great ways to make the customer feel valued.

3. AccuWeather

Every morning, I check the weather so I can dress accordingly. Even though I work from home, I like to match my wardrobe with Boston’s unpredictable forecasts. On AccuWeather, I don’t have to type a thing to find what I need.

Accuweather's GPS personalization.

AccuWeather’s website uses location data to automatically generate the current forecast in that area. This is a great example of how a company guessed what visitors would want to know, then used personalization to cater to them.

If location-based data is huge for your company’s offerings, like Zipcar or Airbnb, offer visitors suggestions based on where they are in the world. It’ll make them feel like you’re an expert in offerings that only locals know.

4. Google News

If I’m on a website I visit frequently, I instantly go to the section marked “For you.” Google News is no exception. This app looks at my browsing history on Google and pulls relevant, recent news articles that I may like in the “For you” section.

For instance, I’ve been really into searching for sci-fi movies and pasta recipes lately, so I had quite an interesting mix of articles for today:

Google News personalized news sources.

Google pulls from different sources, including websites I visit, to give a range of options for me to read. Remember, personalization doesn’t have to be limited to one goal. You can use the data you have from customers to think of new content to offer them.

5. Topshop

Online shopping for clothing is tough sometimes. Often, it’s hard to know what you’re looking for with so many options. Especially if you don’t know your sizes. That’s why I really like Topshop’s personalization.

The website has a quiz that gives visitors an entire edit, wardrobe, and outfit recommendations based on the answers. The quiz asked me to choose clothes I liked, what I wanted suggested, and my budget. For sizes, I go to choose from competitors I frequent, like Forever 21 and H&M, and use their sizing details to inform Topshop of mine.

After taking the quiz, this is the screen I saw (Not before creating an account, so the website could store my data):

A Topshop personalized wardrobe.

I loved that my wardrobe had a name. Plus, I liked the organization — I could choose recommendations by piece, season, occasion, or outfit. It was also cool to see what closet staples to have and avoid.

Topshop’s team thought about the worries I have about online shopping and solved it with a quiz that personalized my visit. Offer a quiz or chatbot that answers questions and uncertainties first-time visitors might face. Use them to create a page just for that visitor or lead them to the one they need.

We’ve seen how personalization can look when it’s done well. So next, let’s talk about some best practices to keep in mind when you’re setting up personalization on your website.

Personalization Best Practices

When website personalization works, it can account for a delightful, interactive website visit for visitors. But what about when things don’t work so perfectly?

For example, what if a repeat customer visited your website and got an offer for leads? Or, what if your website gives inaccurate recommendations to audience segments? Websites that are personalized, but done poorly, may result in a loss of leads or customers.

To make sure your website aces personalization, let’s look at some best practices.

1. Solve for your buyer personas.

Buyer personas are fictionalized accounts of your ideal customer. They help you identify challenges, interests, and demographic information about your audience. Figuring these things out helps you improve the effectiveness of marketing messaging.

Use personalization to create content that will be valuable to your personas. To illustrate, let’s say you’re part of a computer company and you have two buyer personas: The university student and the professional.

The university student is looking for an affordable, functional laptop that’ll allow them to complete assignments without hassle, while the professional is looking for a sleek computer with all the bells and whistles.

To personalize your website for those personas, you can create two content offers for each; One that advertises an upcoming webinar, “Choosing Your College Computer,” and one that promotes an ebook for the best professional laptops by industry. That way, when these personas visit your website, they’ll see special offers that are specific to their needs.

When you personalize according to the challenges, or needs, of your personas, they’ll feel like a valued advocate for your company.

2. Make the design simple.

Poor personalization can be a result of too many moving parts at once. Would you want a first-time visitor to access your homepage and be bombarded with content offers, their name plastered across the banner, and product recommendations from every section of your website?

All of these functions, while helpful, can be overwhelming when working together — and lower the load time of the webpage. To avoid a busy webpage, keep your personalization simple. Choose one or two elements that will be the most useful for your company and audience.

Think of Amazon or a streaming service. The personalization tool, recommendations, used on homepages are usually separated into minimal, relevant categories. Keep categories based on genres or audience preference — Like “Horror movies” or “Based on your last purchase.”

3. Keep your goals in mind.

Identify the reasons why you’re personalizing your website. In addition to thinking of your customers, keep those goals at the forefront of personalization decisions.

Let’s say one of your goals is to increase customer retention. How can you keep customers coming back, outside of retargeted ads and emails? Design webpages for returners that feel familiar to them and are easy to navigate.

Save login information, make the homepage greet a customer by name, and display recommendations based on their recent purchases. That way, when customers return to your site, they’ll find it easy to navigate and repurchase. In addition, they’ll recognize that your company wants its audience to feel catered to directly, even online.

The ease and delight of your website will keep customers coming back for quick purchases. Because you made personalization choices based on your goals, you were able to delight your customer and accomplish your company’s objectives.  

4. Make sure your data is quality.

We know by now that website personalization is powered by data. This data needs to be accurate to make an impact. When you make forms, add fields that will give you the right information for personalization.

One way to do this easily, especially if you have an ecommerce website, is to use chatbots or quizzes. Think back to the style quiz from Topshop and how the questions were related to products and preferences. Use chatbots to answer FAQs leads might have.

A personalized chatbot example.

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These tactics will give you the data you need to make accurate personalization choices. If you don’t know about your audience’s interests, it can be hard to know which strategies you should implement with your design.

The right data helps your audience do what you want them to, and nurture them along in their buyer’s journey. You’ll have those insights about what they want and how you can help.

5. Pick the right tools.

Behind every great personalized website is fantastic software. Choosing the right software is important — it’s what powers those beautiful web pages. A CRM and a CMS work together to make this happen.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is what you’ll use to manage and organize customers, leads, and your relationships with them. It’s what will store that quality data you need.

This data can range from completed forms and chatbot conversations to lead tracking. Look at the pages your visitors are returning to often and the time spent on pages to personalize offers.

Then, your content management system (CMS) will allow you to implement what you’ve gathered on your website. It will change based on the data it has about specific customers. Data, like location and returning visitors, can be logged by a CMS.

Next, let’s talk about some software options you can use to build your website.

Website Personalization Tools

For ease, look for software that has a CRM and CMS rolled into one, like HubSpot. Software should be simple to operate and its tools should be useful to your customers and business goals.

1. HubSpot

Price: $300/mo. For CMS Hub Professional

HubSpot’s CMS allows you to build and manage a stunning, personalized website. You can also leverage forms and chatbots to enhance the options you give customers to customize their experience with the software.

A personalized website example for HubSpot.

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The drag and drop editor in HubSpot’s software makes it easy to add smart rules or personalized features. Using the CMS, you’ll collect data about the behavior of website visitors and use those insights to enhance your website.

You can also test different web pages to find out which options are the most valuable for customers. This can help you decide on a final personalization design that’s exciting and functional. If you’re looking for an all-in-one software package that’s easy to use and scalable, check out HubSpot.

2. Barilliance

Price: Contact for pricing

Ecommerce platform Barilliance offers tools to personalize online storefronts. Options, like relevant recommendations, can help reduce shopping cart abandonment and close more sales. With Barilliance, you can optimize and customize shopping trips for every visitor.

A personalized website made using Barillance.

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Pushys website was created using Barilliance. In the image above, notice how you can add relevant product recommendations to fit the visitor’s interests. There are two categories that show off the expansive catalog of Pushys’ health products.

If you have an ecommerce website that you want to tailor to every visitor, consider using Barilliance’s campaign and website features to make that a breeze.

3. Qubit

Price: Contact for pricing

Personalization using Qubit is just as unique as the websites you can create with the software. Offerings are categorized into three parts: Start, Grow, and Pro. These categories target company goals and are separated by experience level.

Qubit Start is for those who just want personalization foundational tools, like chatbots or recommendations. Grow is meant for solving more specific goals — for instance, integrating customer data across platforms. Pro, on the other hand, offers different packages for you to choose.

Every Qubit category comes equipped with the same base features: tests, integrations, recommendations, and omnichannel personalization. If you’re looking for software that has tools fit for your skill level and business size, look into Qubit.

4. SiteSpect

Price: Contact for pricing

If user behavior is one of your biggest goals, SiteSpect is a great option. Its tools offer personalization that is based on user data, like previous visits, sessions, and omnichannel behavior.

This data is collected by SiteSpect, which you can analyze and use to customize web pages for audience segments. When you create segments with the software, choose from an array of factors that will enhance the impact of your site, like location and device type.

Home decor company, Temple & Webster, uses SiteSpect. The “Room ideas” tab offers tons of different rooms styled using the company’s products. As you scroll down the page, you can see similar ideas based on the one you chose initially.

A personalized website made using SiteSpect.

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This website’s personalization features are very interactive and cover a range of decor styles, so it’s easy to find furniture attuned to your interests.

SiteSpect can help you build a website like Temple & Webster’s — and track their effectiveness among your visitors. When you analyze campaign performance, you can know what’s working and what’s not, to better configure your design for customers.

5. Hyperise

Price: Starts at $29/mo.

If your company is a B2B, Hyperise was created just for you. With it, you can use hyper-personalization (using data to recommend products) to boost conversions, all without coding experience.

You’ll be able to use tools that nurture leads such as IP lookup and form completion. For company branding, you can add your logo, profile images, and dynamic text. Additionally, you can create multiple, custom, CTAs to engage your audience.

Hyperise website personalization example.

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This software lets you pull data from your CRM and upload it into Hyperise, so the platform is highly integratable. Hyperise also offers an extension you can download to make it easy to continue on website building.

Maybe you’re in search of a personalization tool that will integrate with your HubSpot, Salesforce, Shopify, or Google Sheets account. For that, Hyperise could be the solution.

When you visit sites that give you an amazing personalization experience, what about it makes it great? Pull influence from your favorite brands if you find yourself stuck. But ultimately, personalization allows you to take a decent website to one that behaves like customers expect it to, every time.

My subscription box order shipped today, and I can see when it will arrive from my homepage. While I excitedly await its arrival, I can’t wait to see what you come up with for your shiny, new, personalized website.

Discover videos, templates, tips, and other resources dedicated to helping you launch an effective video marketing strategy. 

Originally published Jul 8, 2020 4:00:00 PM, updated July 08 2020


Smart Content

How Dynamic Content Makes Your Marketing More Personal

The first time Amazon introduced me to the perfect book for me via their recommendation engine, I was completely awed.

The idea that a website could not only recognize a return visitor, but also discern their interests and alter their site experience accordingly felt like nothing short of magic. For instance, when I check Amazon’s site, I can find numerous personalized recommendations just for me, and it still feels like a delight, every time.

Since then, data-driven personalization has become more common, though not entirely pervasive in the marketing space — perhaps due to a lack of understanding around how it really works. I mean, just what drives all this highly adaptive content?

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More than that, how does adaptive content affect a lead’s decision-making process? That’s what we’ll go to in this post. I’ll break down the concept of “smart,” or “dynamic” content, explain what it is, how it works, and give you some strategies for incorporating it into your marketing.

First, let’s explain what dynamic content is and why it’s important to use for your business.

What is Dynamic Content?

Smart content delights customers. When you utilize data-driven content, you can influence a lead’s buyer journey. Let’s talk about what exactly dynamic content means.

Dynamic content creates an experience that’s customized specifically for the visitor or reader at that moment. One of the most well-known examples of smart content is Amazon’s recommendation engine, which we talked about earlier. Other forms, however, range from personalization fields in emails to entire images or offers on a webpage that shift based on who is looking at them.

For example, let’s say I visit an ecommerce site for the first time. During this first visit, I browse around, click the “like” button on a few products, and maybe purchase something. When I come back a couple of weeks later, the home site has now changed to say “Welcome back, Kayla!”, and recommends items I might like based on my history.

Suggested items were chosen based on what I purchased previously, and the information I gave while purchasing, such as my name, was stored by the website’s scripts to create a personalized experience the next time I visited.

Dynamic content also works with ads. Earlier this morning, I browsed a cosmetics site I hadn’t visited before. After closing the website, I opened Facebook, and all of my ads were from that company I’d just visited. Facebook chooses ads to show users based on their browsing history and interests, so when I visited that makeup website, Facebook found the ads from that business and displayed them on my feed.

Now that we have a deep understanding of dynamic content, let’s take a look at how it works.

How Dynamic Content Works

The key to dynamic content’s effectiveness is its relevance. This content is developed from data known about the user based on behavior.

The data collection works by scripts in a webpage’s HTML that changes to make the page relevant to the user. This data is stored in the site’s database, and is what’s called a database driven website.

If a website is database driven, it’s dynamic. This is because most of the content on these websites are stored in its database. The content being stored is user data that’s then used to create personalized experiences.

Ultimately, dynamic content is collected from what the user gives the website, such as an email address, first name, or shopping history. This data will be organized and stored in database driven websites with associated values — think of this as a filing system. The website then assess the need of the page and shows the viewer content that’s relevant to the user.

There’s two different types of content-based websites, however. Other than database driven, dynamic websites, there’s websites that have its content stored in HTML files, known as static websites.

Next, let’s go in deeper about the differences between dynamic and static websites and how they work together.

Dynamic content vs static content

As we’ve learned, dynamic content is powered by a database driven website. Static websites are powered by websites where the content isn’t stored on a database, rather HTML files.

Generally, most are used to static websites. To sum it up, static websites are the ones that don’t recognize user behavior and change to be personalized. Think of pages you visit that don’t change based on your past behavior, such as ecommerce sites that don’t give you suggestions and marketing emails that don’t mention you by name.

It might be a good idea to use static pages if you don’t have the time to devote to creating dynamic pages. Additionally, if you want to get more comfortable with running a website, static pages take less time to create, and you can still create a delightful experience for customers if you manage your website using software to manage your pages seamlessly, like a CMS.

Even webpages that have a section similar to “Based on people you follow,” like Twitter, are dynamic. There’s awesome benefits to using dynamic websites, for instance, the personalized aspect can help improve KPIs like conversions and return visits.

Other benefits include an improved user experience, clean web design, and low maintenance. A page that’s dynamic doesn’t need to be constantly updated — it’ll always be active.

Technology dynamic web pages uses to be dynamic include:

  • A Centralized Marketing Database — Your marketing database is the brain behind your dynamic content. It stores your contacts’ download and interaction history with your site.
  • A Smart Content Generator — Informed by the database, a smart content generator will show or hide content (blocks of images or text) based on rules you set.
  • Malleable Web Pages — A dynamic site has to be one that is easily editable and typically marketing-controlled, rather than run through another department like IT.
  • An Integrated Email System — Extending smart content to the emails you send will require an email system that is tied into your contact database.

To sum it up, static content is easier to use and manage. Dynamic content thrills the viewer, but both can provide an engaging content to the reader if managed using the right software.

Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help you create dynamic experiences.

Smart Content Marketing Strategies

Now that you know what smart content is and how it works, you should use it all the time without discrimination.

Just kidding. Actually, the bottom line with smart content is to make sure you’re purposeful and intentional about its use. Smart content should create a better experience for your leads and customers.

When you’re integrating smart content of any sort into your marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to start with the question of how it will improve potential customers’ time on your site or with your emails. Here are a few places to start if you’re having trouble envisioning how to integrate smart content into your marketing.

Eliminate Repeat Conversions

If a website visitor has already downloaded a particular lead generation offer or purchased a particular item, you can use smart rules to remove that offer from their view. The result is two-fold: you’ll create a website or shopping experience that never gets old for your customers, and create an opportunity for you as a marketer to expose fresh offers and products that boost reconversions.

Example of eliminating repeat conversions

To use smart rules, check for the option to add it on your CMS software. Alternatively, code it into your website. Here’s a page on how to add a transaction ID into your dynamic page to eliminate a repeat conversion.

Lead the Lifecycle Stage

A lead’s lifecycle stage refers to how far along the visitor is in his or her decision-making process. Is this their first visit? Are they ready to buy? Are they still evaluating options?

Taking what you know about how much experience a particular lead has can help you avoid over-selling to someone who is in the early stage of their research — or miss out on an opportunity to sell to someone who is ready to make a purchase.

The perfect remedy? Mapping content to the stages of a potential customer’s buying cycle . This is typically done through a series of gradually evolving emails in a lead nurturing campaign. Smart content tools, like HubSpot’s smart call-to-actions (CTAs) , can also extend this adaptability to your website and landing pages.

Example of customer mapping stageWhen you use smart CTAs, you are helping the customer along through every part of their journey.

Help Loyal Customers Skip Excess Steps

Many B2B companies offer content behind a form in order to generate leads. While this is a nice way to get to know new leads, it can be a hassle for customers who may be interested in the content, but have already filled out your forms previously.

Rather than having a customer fill out another form, using dynamic content recognizes a visitor as a customer and gives them a CTA. This CTA either minimizes the form fields or lets them bypass the download form entirely.

Reflect Different Industries or Personas

Most companies serve a number of personas from a variety of industries. While it may be difficult to tailor to every different industry you touch, dynamic content can help you create a highly customized experience for your highest-value industries.

Start by talking with your sales team about the different personas or industries with whom they have had the best success. Then pick one or two industries to focus in on at first as a test.

Use smart content to set a default, and then another set of images that reflect your top industry segments. In the example below, we’ve selected two images — one to represent the manufacturing industry, and another the healthcare industry. When anyone from those industries lands on a given page, this image will change to reflect that context.

Smart content leverages the valuable insights your visitors, leads, and customers have provided you with: their interests, preferences, and historical behavior. Make sure you put that knowledge to work by guiding and supporting your prospective customers with personalized content. Every potential buyer should be recognized as an individual with unique and evolving questions; smart content is one tool in your arsenal for creating marketing that’s more personalized and tailored to their needs.