Personalizing Websites: How to Tailor the Journey, Not Just the Content
Harsh reality: the majority of your website visitors are not going to convert. And paying to get them coming back to the same experience time after time is simply not a good strategy.
You can send all the email follow-ups and retargeting ads in the world. But if your messaging didn't convert the first time, why would it work on the second, third, or fourth?
This is where website personalization is so powerful.
Done right, personalization is about way more than dynamic text. It's about tailoring the entire buying experience to solve different problems for different people.
So in this post, we cover everything you need to know on personalizing websites for optimal conversion. We'll walk you through collecting the right personalization data, and then how to come up with a strategy that’s going to work for your business.
Ready? Let's go 👇
What is website personalization?
Website personalization is the process of tailoring your website to different groups of people. It uses data already collected about a person to give them a unique, personalized customer experience, be that through personalized calls-to-action, landing pages, or product recommendations.
Personalization vs. dynamic content
It's super important to note here that dynamic content (e.g. "Hi %FirstName%") is not website personalization. Or at least, it's personalization at its most basic level possible.
Very few people will convert just because you can recite their name or company back to them on a web page.
Why marketers should be personalizing websites
Web personalization might seem like another fancy CRO hack that marketers use to make minor improvements to their conversion rate.
But it goes much deeper than that.
Customers don't just want a personalized shopping experience—they expect one. In fact, the vast majority (80%) of shoppers want personalization from the companies they engage with. McKinsey says:
“Customers take [personalized shopping experiences] for granted, but if a retailer gets it wrong, customers may depart for a competitor.”
Think about it.
If you were deciding to purchase from one of these two companies, which would you choose?
- Website A, which gives a generic “get 10% off your order” popup whenever you land on their website
- Website B, which sees that you're browsing a blog post about marketing automation, and gives a popup to promote its “5 days to master marketing automation” email course
Website B wins hands-down. The company gives an offer that's uber-specific to you.
It's no wonder why 63% of businesses with a personalized website say their conversion rates increased after using data to give tailored offers:
3 types of website personalization
We already know that website personalization works by collecting data about your potential customers, and relaying that information back to them with an offer they can't resist.
But what data should you be using to personalize your site?
Here are three data types you can use to start personalizing websites for your visitors:
1. Stated data
Stated data is anything you can collect from an action a visitor has done themselves.
This can include:
- Setting their location and being directed to the right website language/region
- Completing a quiz and being shown relevant products
- Entering their details in a survey or form for you to use later on
You can use forms, quizzes, polls, buttons, surveys, or just about anything to collect all kinds of data about your website visitors—such as their demographics or interests.
Here's a simple example of how Gymshark collects stated data using a popup that asks website visitors to choose their region:
2. Behavioral data
As the name indicates, behavioral data is something you'll collect by looking into a person’s behavior on your site or app.
This can include touchpoints like:
- Pages they've viewed on your website
- The time of day they usually sign into your mobile app
- The referral source or social network they've used to arrive on your website
You've probably seen this type of personalization on Netflix's website. They use a subscriber’s previous behavior (the shows they've watched) to recommend others they might also be interested in:
It's estimated that 80% of watch choices come from these personalized recommendations. That engine is reportedly worth $1 billion every year 🤯
3. Contextual data
Contextual personalization is where you draw context from the data available in order to show something tailored to the person browsing.
You can take a visitor's IP address to automatically push them to the correct region of your site, or run promotions based on their location. Or take it even further by using that IP address to decipher the weather in their geo-location, and run promotions based on that.
Very.co.uk has done a great job with this on its home page in the past.
Here's what you might see on a rainy day:
While you'll likely see something like this if it's sunny outside:
Your strategy for personalizing websites
We've covered what website personalization is, and the types of data you’ll need to collect before you start giving customers a tailored shopping experience.
Now, let's put together a personalization strategy that helps you convert visitors like a pro.
1. Map out your different buyer journeys
Website personalization works best when you know as much as you can about that specific person (or group of people) in a segment.
Because (as we've already mentioned several times) personalizing websites effectively isn't about random changes that look cool—like showing someone's first name or company details. It's about tailoring the experience in order to solve more specific problems.
This is where your buyer personas come into play.
Take some time to think about the typical groups of people that buy from you. Then, for each persona, look into previous data and figure out:
- Which pages they view before converting
- The offers, emails, or content that usually convinces them to purchase
We can put that into practice and say you're selling, for example, bouquets of flowers. You have a customer segment of men buying bouquets for their partner's birthday. Just before their birthday, they usually browse the “gifts for her” category page.
That persona is much different from the people buying bouquets for a co-worker who's quitting their job, right?
Each buyer persona will need different personalized experiences.