Last Updated Oct 10 2019

CRO glossary: personalization

What is personalization?

Personalization is the act of tailoring a product, service, or experience to match an individual visitor’s needs, desires, and expectations. 

Common examples of website personalization include Netflix’s movie recommendations (based on a user’s viewing history) and Amazon’s product recommendations (based on past searches and purchases). Personalization, when done right, can increase conversions by delivering the right content to regular buyers and potential customers.

Why personalization is important

A 2018 study found that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer a personalized experience. In fact, 90% of surveyed people found personalization 'appealing' and, likely, wouldn't have a problem with companies using their personal data if it makes shopping easier. 

Personalization can be used to show customers relevant products or offers they would normally spend time searching for; companies can also use geo-location-based targeting to offer local deals, deliver sales pages in someone’s native language, and adapt to local markets.

These are just a few of the things you can do with website personalization—but there’s a downside to all these possibilities…

With so many choices, how do you get it right?

When it comes to personalization, there are more ways to get it wrong than to do it right. For every Netflix recommendation that’s spot-on, there’s another company out there trying to personalize things that don’t matter to their audience. And of course, there are also times when personalization completely fails (like when Facebook reminds you how excited you were to start that failed relationship three years ago). 

Personalization can be challenging, so if you want to get it right most of the time, your best bet is to start small. Instead of trying to personalize everything for everyone, focus on creating a better experience for the people who really drive your business.

Personalize your website for your ideal customers in 2 steps

Ideal customers are the ones who get the most from your brand. And if you treat them right, they will keep coming back. Here’s how to find out who they are and how you can personalize their experience.

Step 1: create user personas

A user persona is a semi-fictional character based on demographic and psychographic data from users and customers who regularly use your website. A simple persona answers the following questions:

  1. Who are your customers?
  2. What is their main goal?
  3. What is preventing them from getting what they want?

If you're just getting started, you can use two different methods to collect this information: 
  • On-page surveys: placing an on-page poll on your website pages can help you understand who your customers are and why they turn to you to get what they want. (Editor's tip: check out this article about user personas for step-by-step instructions on how to do it). 

  • Customer interviews: sit down with a handful of your paying customers and listen to their stories. Ask them to tell you about the day they decided to fix a problem that your business tries to solves.
    Customer interviews won’t give you piles of data like surveys will, but you’ll learn needs and objections from your customers that no poll will bring out in such depth.

Step 2: apply the Pareto principle to your personalization

The Pareto principle, when applied to sales and marketing, says that roughly 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your sales. If you take care of the 20%, they will take care of you in return.

What does that look like? Once you know who your ideal customers are, personalize their experience in ways that really address their needs. You’ll have to test different strategies, but your goal is to help your customers find what they want faster—for example, by giving more prominence to pages that were previously buried in a menu, or encouraging the support team to start making stronger recommendations (“this is the product for you”) instead of presenting multiple options. 

Make sure your personalization efforts really add something to your customers' lives, and follow up with open-ended survey questions to make sure you’re getting it right.

Understand who your customers are

Use Hotjar to collect feedback from your users and customers, understand who they are and what they need from your website. 

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