What happens when you embrace personalized marketing?

It’s more than just delighting your customers. When you are able to target your website visitors with content, messages and offers that resonate with their needs and align with their goals, you’re providing a better experience to your website visitors. Your visitors will more effectively and efficiently move through your buyer journey with the content and answers they need delivered right to them.

Many companies are already seeing measurable results with personalized marketing which justify the incredible amount of work it takes to create the personalized content and experiences. Here are a few snapshots:

What’s stopping more marketers from seeing these kind of returns with personalized marketing? It’s not an easy task to undertake, and the budgets and resources required for getting started can easily become astronomical for many departments. Even just understanding what messages will resonate with website visitors at every stage of the buyer journey requires a tremendous amount of research and data. After that, there’s the setup of the system with complicated tagging and profiles (that need to be continually updated), as well as churning out content to fill any gaps in your personalized journeys.

It’s a lot. How are your peers actually getting this done? Do they have a secret piggy bank of funds that you don’t?

The truth is that there are some ways to make creating and implementing your personalized marketing strategy easier, and that starts with first clearly understanding what your website visitors want from your personalization efforts to help you prioritize.

What Do Your Visitors Really Want from Personalized Marketing?

We can’t provide the exact answers for your business, but we can point you in the right direction for where to look.

“Send me more personalized offers and discounts.”

You’re looking at a product or service online, decide not to purchase, and then see a promotion for that exact product or service in your inbox a few days later. Coincidence? No. This is where you can use the online behavior of your website visitors to push them across the finish line toward purchase.

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According to a 2016 Salesforce study, consumers are willing to exchange their personal data for personalized offers and discounts. These personalized offers don’t have to be limited to email either. Retargeting ads, social media and more can all play a role in getting your prospects’ attention and deliver the exact content they need when they need it.

“I want recommendations.”

Your website visitors and prospects suffer from information overload.

According to a study from the University of Texas, personalization helps to overcome information overload by imbuing your website visitors with a sense of control over the information that they see. Your website visitors know their choices are being tracked as they move through your website, and want you to infer their preferences and interests from that behavior.

Product and content recommendations can be a powerful tool in helping jumpstart the buyer journey and move your website visitors more efficiently through it. Once you understand the exact content that they need at the right time, you can deliver it right to them via their preferred channel and increase the conversion rate.

Pro tip: don’t rely on your “marketer’s intuition” to understand what content your website visitors need. Segment your visitors by their context and online behavior and use the previous successful journeys of visitors in a similar context to select the content.

“Personalize every experience, not just what’s online.”

Business Insider recently explained how the personalization of in-store experiences, where impulse buys most often happen represents a tremendous opportunity for retail brands. About 85 percent of shoppers made an impulse purchase after seeing a personalized marketing message, and most often impulse purchases more than $50 happen in the store.

Every business needs to understand that creating separate channels and interactions is hurting the bottom line. With a customer experience split into fragments and the intelligence of that experience not shared across silos, you’re losing out on crucial insights into what your prospects need and how to close more sales.

For example, athleisure retailer Fabletics links the in-store dressing room experience to your online shopping cart. What data could be more crucial than understanding what and why your customers tried on outfits that they ultimately did not purchase? Unifying interactions like these are paramount to delivering personalized experiences at every touchpoint for your in-store and online visitors.

How Do You Get Started with Personalized Marketing?

It’s easier – and more cost-effective – than you think. You don’t need to triple your team with data scientists, content writers and analysts. There are efficient and effective ways to embrace personalization and show some quick wins before diving in headfirst. Here’s how to get started:

#1 Make sure your data is in order.

Do your website visitor data, email data, social media data and more “talk” to each other? Or are they all speaking different languages? This needs to be addressed before doing anything else. Just like the Fabletics example above, you need to unify the interactions with your brand and unify your digital channels.

Many companies have accomplished this with a powerful index that will unify the content from their customer community, product documentation site, Youtube and more. By making all of this content searchable, your customers can get the exact answers they need by using your site search, and your search usage analytics will provide rich answers to the questions you have about what your website visitors want when they come to your website. Where else are your visitors exactly typing their needs into your website other than your search box?

Once you have these answers, you can start to develop your content personalization strategy and use your site search to drive recommendations, as well as content and landing pages.

#2 Embrace artificial intelligence and machine learning.

You’ve got the answers and insights you need, but transforming all of those into recommendations, content pages and landing pages is going to require a lot of work, and not just at the project outset. The creation of these personalized experiences requires constant and manual tuning and analysis from your team.

Or does it?

This is where artificial intelligence and machine learning can make your personalized marketing solution scalable. If you invest in an AI-powered insight engine, your back-end system will ingest the data and see the patterns that your to-be-hired team of analysts would have found, and then applies the insights that data to your future website visitors automatically.

Here’s how it works: you have a visitor come to your website with a question about your latest product. They type it into the search box, then see the list of results. Because your system understands that their context, from their language to the fact that they visited that product’s page, it knows the exact content that should be at the top. Even better, it uses the previous journeys of other visitors with the same context to recommend their next step and move them closer to purchase.

#3 Close your content gaps.

Now that you’ve embraced the magic of artificial intelligence, you’re all set, right? Not quite yet. There is not an AI-powered insight engine capable of creating content that does not exist and this is where you do need to involve your team and do some manual work.

Your search usage analytics are a great place to start. You need to start looking at:

  • Queries with no results. This is a dead-end for your customers, and a sign that content needs to be created to address this issue. Don’t ever let customers get to a “no results” page. Instead, try providing suggestions for what they could have meant or relevant content that users in similar contexts have needed.
  • Queries with a low click through rate on results. Your customers aren’t seeing what they need to see from your results page to click. Experiment with the titles on the results page first to see if it’s just a matter of “advertising” the content correctly for the query, and then look into creating content for these queries.
  • Popular queries with a high click through rate. This is a sign that this content may need to be more prominent on your website and possibly needs to be broken apart into multiple content pieces. Think of ways to extend and promote this content through your recommendations.

#4 Test, test, test.

As with everything a data-driven marketer does, if there’s no data to back it up, you have no argument. Invest in A/B and multivariate testing with every manual change you make to your personalization and content strategy. Don’t let anything go live on your website without a solid expectation of how it will affect your key metrics, from conversion to engagement rates. This is where you need your analysts to take the lead; you’re about to have a lot of data on your website visitors and you need to make sure you are not shortchanging the analysis of that data.

Many AI-powered insight engines will give you this option through your site search, but don’t be afraid to use it for insights beyond content. You can also use it to test messaging to specific personas, try out an account-based marketing strategy, and complete other experiments.  

Ready to get started? Check out our latest whitepaper from two Sitecore MVPs, “Simplifying Personalization in the xDB.” This walks you through the basics of personalizing with Sitecore xDB, and how to bring artificial intelligence into your strategy.

White Paper
Simplifying Personalization in Sitecore xDB