Elise Dopson

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.

The goal? To give people the buying experiences they want—and improve the conversion rate of your entire website.

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.

Personalizing websites in a way that affects conversion on a large scale comes from tailoring the buyer experience. This means personalizing the journey around your website and how you are presenting your solution to the visitor's specific problem.

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. 

Truth is:

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?

  1. Website A, which gives a generic “get 10% off your order” popup whenever you land on their website
  2. 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:

Top benefits to personalizing websites graph

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:

Gymshark website personalization

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:

Personalizing websites like Netflix

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.

For example:

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:

Very.co.uk rainy day home page

While you'll likely see something like this if it's sunny outside:

Very.co.uk sunny day home page

One study found that major purchases (like cars and houses) are affected by the weather. By using that data to personalize the shopping experience for website visitors, you might convince them to convert sooner than they planned.

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.

PRO TIP:

Use a mind mapping tool like Miro to plan out all the different journeys your different customer personas might go down en route to your overarching 'macro' call-to-action:

Buyer journey mind map in Miro

Once you know the routes to purchase each segment tends to have (and the motivation behind their visit), you can start to build a personalized conversion funnel for each one.

2. Use surveys to get visitors to segment themselves

You've grouped your previous customers into segments. But, how do you know which segment a visitor falls into if they're visiting your site for the first time? 

Figure out how to segment your audience by showing a popup survey on your website. Their answers will show you which segment that person falls into—and therefore, which personalized offers they should see. 

Here's how Thinx does something similar to this with a website survey. It asks where a visitor found out about their website:

Thinx website survey for personalizing websites

They can use that data to put visitors into a segment and create personalized offers for each.

For example: if they see that someone found them through social media, they'd replicate a similar offer to the one their social media marketing team is pushing—like an influencer endorsement. That's the kind of social proof that a social media-savvy millennial would need before purchasing.

PRO TIP:

You can segment your audience with a survey asking all kinds of questions. For example, what industry they're in, a specific problem they're facing, company size, buyer persona—pretty much anything that helps your business's personalization efforts.

Check out the survey templates in our library to customize your own. Like this one:

3. Create relevant, supporting content

Now we know the different buyer personas and customer journeys your potential customers will take, it's time to create a library of relevant content that each segment might need.

Bear in mind that “content” doesn't just mean blog posts.

Sure, it's smart to have a blog library of content your customers can dive into (that's also optimized for search engines). But content can take other formats, including:

  • Product pages
  • Landing pages
  • Tools
  • Lead magnets
  • Online courses
  • Webinars
  • Email series 

Each piece of content will act as a different stepping stone, guiding visitors and subscribers down a more personalized path. Buyer Persona A, for example, will be directed towards Webinar A, whereas Buyer Persona B will get Webinar B.

Using the same floristry example from earlier: you know that people browsing your “gifts for her” page tend to be men looking for birthday bouquets for their partners. Why not create a personalized offer that directs them to your “best bouquets for birthdays” landing page?

Remember:

The key to personalization is to segment your website visitors, and give personalized offers they're most likely to take you up on. 

Most often, that’s supporting content that pushes them through your typical customer journey.

4. Use targeted CTAs for conversion

It's great to give website visitors content that's personalized around their specific needs and problems. But to continue driving people down a tailored funnel, you'll need to personalize your calls-to-action, too. 

This means explicitly telling people which action to take next, in the form of targeted CTAs or targeted messages.

There are several types of CTA you can use, including:

  • Popups
  • Sticky bars
  • Site messages
  • Buttons
  • A direct call widget can also be great if you want to quickly get on the phone with prospects

Basically, anything that entices a website visitor to take a specific action.

A quality website conversion tool will allow you to not only create these calls-to-action, but target them so they only show to visitors matching certain criteria.

For example:

A new visitor might get a generic site message, while someone who's recently purchased might get a site message cross-selling similar products. Or someone who's been segmented as Buyer Persona A in your CRM will see Popup A, whereas Buyer Persona B will see Popup B.

Personalizing websites with targeted CTAs

Intelligently targeting your CTAs allows you to create personalized lead capture offers, drive sales, grow CLTV, or just direct visitors to the right content for them—all showing to the right people, at the right time, and when they're at the right stage of the buyer's journey.

5. Run a product recommendation quiz 

Did you know that shoppers are 40% more likely to view items that have been recommended to them based on information they've shared with a company?

Amazon takes advantage of this by showing product recommendations on each product page.

(They've become so infamous for these recommendations that 47% of shoppers will go to Amazon if the brand they're shopping with doesn't provide relevant product suggestions.)

Amazon product recommendations

The only issue?

Huge brands have mountains of historical data to reliably predict the other products someone might be interested in, depending on the page they're on. They use machine learning software to analyze previous customer journeys, and deliver those recommendations in real-time. 

Sites without much data to work with don't have that luxury.

But they can collect data (and give similar personalized product recommendations) using quizzes.

Quizzes ask your website visitors to choose an option that best describes them. Depending on their answer, you point them towards a product recommendation (or landing page) that people similar to them have found useful.

We can see this in action perfectly with this quiz front and center on the Undersun Fitness home page:

Undersun Fitness quiz step 1

As you can see, instead of showing generic product categories, they ask visitors to take a quiz to find out which fitness program is best for them. The final step is a personalized product recommendation for that person—and a $10 coupon code to convince them to buy it:

Undersun Fitness quiz lead capture step

The end result? A personalized user experience that guides people to a product they'd want to buy—even if they haven't realized they wanted it yet.

PRO TIP:

We have a bunch of customizable quiz templates inside our template library. Each can be configured to ask website visitors a specific set of questions relating to your brand or product catalog.

Here's a blank one to get you started:

6. Set up dynamic content areas 

By this point, you've got offers, CTAs, popups, etc. that change depending on the data you've collected about a person—in other words, they're personalized.

These are all things that tend to appear as some kind of overlay on top of the main website content. But what about personalizing the actual on-page messaging itself?

Areas like:

  • In-line mid blog post content
  • The bottom of product pages
  • Sidebars
  • Page hero sections

The problem most marketers have is that the scope for doing this is just so large that it becomes unmanageable. Some websites can consist of thousands (even millions) of pages—and keeping all these updated with personalized info is simply not scalable for most small teams.

This is where setting up dynamic area snippets can be so powerful.

This involves identifying key areas and sections of your website that you want to personalize (like the list above). Then, inputting a small snippet of code inside that page's template in your CMS, so you can control the content dynamically for that particular section.

For example:

On ConvertFlow's website, we have areas pre-defined in a whole bunch of places:

ConvertFlow pre-defined site sections

We can then embed a piece of content (like a button or form) directly in any of these areas:

ConvertFlow embedding content to pre-defined sections

While also targeting it to visitors that meet specific conditions:

Visitor targeting for embedded CTAs

What this means is that you can personalize these different sections and areas of the website. Showing, for example, Form A to Buyer Persona A and Form B to Buyer Persona B. Or a content upgrade to new blog visitors, while returning subscribers see a free trial button.

Final thoughts on personalizing websites

There's no doubt that personalizing websites effectively has the potential to make a real impact on your overall conversion rate.

But the key is to have a strategy that focuses on personalizing the experience and the journey. Not just simple pieces of individual text and content.

So use the ideas here to collect data, segment your audience, and give unique experiences to each person visiting your website.

Ready to get started personalizing your website?

Start a free 14-day trial to see how ConvertFlow makes it easy to build personalized experiences for your visitors. Or, if you don't have an account yet, create one for free today.

About the author

Elise Dopson

Contributor, ConvertFlow
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Elise is a writer at ConvertFlow, and expert in B2B marketing. She's been featured in publications like ConversionXL, HubSpot, CoSchedule, Content Marketing Institute, Databox, and more. You'll usually find her cooking up some high-quality content for the ConvertFlow blog or campaign library.