Over 90% of companies state that personalization is important, but only 4% feel they are really personalizing user experiences. A whopping 72% of digital marketers don’t know how to start (Econsultancy). With 2014 labelled the year of personalization, the potential for content management systems, live assistance and marketing campaigns could be immense. But this great promise of personalization is plagued by inertia from both implementation challenges and static from the market due to how it's being done. The solution to both problems is to focus on building personalization from explicit user intent, putting the emphasis on the customer’s primary purpose of visit.
Shift your thinking from who the visitor is to what the visit is about
Personalization often begins with the assumption we need to know as much as possible about ‘who’ the visitor is. Sites demonstrate they know a visitor’s location, what the visitor did on their last visit or even what they’ve done elsewhere on the web. Personalization can then seem less about the visitor’s needs and more about the person themselves. This creates user discomfort without necessarily helping them accomplish what they came to do. Part of personalization’s slow growth and looming privacy concern is a consequence of this focus on the visitor, and not on the visit itself.
Personalization planning often starts with mapping out who is visiting the site, but more importantly we should understand what the visit is about. Profile based variables such as gender or age are useful for initial context but they are static and don’t describe what should happen next. Ultimately, a web session is a progressive experience and can only be personalized as such. When you have session level attributes, such as visit type or the purpose of visit, the same person (gender and age) may visit a site a few times but what will change is their intent. Personalizing an experience based on the visitor’s previous visit may be at best distracting and potentially inhibiting if the reason for the visit (as it often is) has changed.
Build personalization schema based on purpose and common needs
Personalization schemes should be built around visit level data, attributes that describe the session itself, such as the visit intent. Someone shopping for electronics for personal use, who is at an initial research stage, will have requirements that are different than someone shopping for their home office that is in a rush to get it today. For marketers, one can easily map out relevant content, suggestions, and support, when sessions are described based on intent as opposed to profile. Personalization strategies become easier to develop, and intuitive to implement when the focus is the visit type, and not the visitor type.
The starting point for intuitive personalization is to develop the primary visit types not visitor types. Visit types are broad groupings of key visits (sessions) based on context and purpose of the session. For example, a travel site may have - researching leisure travel, booking business travel, checking current account, etc. This is far more useful than describing their profile. Defining just a few key visit types will allow the marketer to develop a personalization flow based on proactively providing common needs (such as the right information, key comparisons, purchase info, important support information) and moving visitors towards mutually beneficial outcomes.
The starting point is a representative sample of Active Research
Where do you find a representative sample of context information from which to build from? Active Research frameworks powered by the voice of your customer (i.e. Active Research data) are the digital analytics primary source of context, intent, needs, and outcomes. This type of data can only be derived through customer research on the digital touchpoint you want to personalize. iPerceptions’ research is focused on collecting a representative sample of customer insights for web properties to help companies build better digital experiences.
From your Active Research data, combined with behavioral data, you can define and describe key visit segments. The Active Research data will also describe key needs and barriers to completing the purpose of the visit, allowing the marketer to map out needs the site can then proactively deliver.
Fuel Real Time Personalization by Recognizing Visit Intentions in Real Time
The challenge for the Voice of the Customer space has been that the critical insight it uncovers, such as visit type, purpose of visit, and ability to complete your task, is only collected for a small percentage of sessions, and is only available after the fact. While this data is perfect to build strategy, optimize site functionality, build better experiences and increase business results, it is not available in real time such that an organization can take action directly on individual sessions.
iPerceptions’ Active Recognition Technology was built specifically to allow ongoing sessions to be labelled with critical context such as a visit’s purpose of visit. Not only that, this information is provided in real time, making it the most viable data on which to build personalization programs. The ability to recognize intent in real time will allow personalization to respond to a set of likely needs, moving customers towards mutually desirable goals. The information they are seeking will be more readily available, site search results will skew towards their intent, live assistance will intervene when most needed, remarketing efforts will display content related to their purpose and nurture the right next step.
The marketing technology is being built and the customer expectations are mounting for intuitive, customized experiences that don’t overstep on privacy perceptions. The right data with which to fuel these tools is a critical piece of success. Basing yourself on data built form explicit customer feedback is an undisputable source that will inherently deliver back to customers the personalized experiences they are expecting.