What are your goals?
First and foremost, decide on the exact goals you hope to achieve with content personalization. The lowest hanging fruit in B2C is conversions – by targeting users with products that relate to what you already know about them, you make it more likely for them to buy. However, often times the more useful goals turn out to be far more complicated ones than ‘increased conversions’. This is true in B2C and especially true in B2B, where sales cycles are long, touch points are numerous and each touch point might deal with several different stakeholders, each with their own roles and criteria. Your goal will be directly related to a point in your marketing funnel. The first step to building a personalization strategy is choosing which macro goal you want to address.
- Attract: driving traffic to your site through personalized advertising and preventing visitors from bouncing by offering relevant messaging in real time.
- Nurture: supporting your customer’s decision process with helpful resources that have the dual goal of educating and building trust.
- Convert: placing personalized targeted CTA’s at strategic points in the consumer journey.
Once you have decided which step of the funnel to focus on, consider what micro-goals you want to accomplish. This is done by customer journey mapping – following a typical customer journey and asking what actions can a visitor take on your site that are valuable to your business. For example, if you have identified the a goal for your business is to increase conversion rates, you will want to find out what signals indicate that a person might be ready to complete a transaction. The answer to this question then becomes a micro-goal – an intermediate goal which furthers your progress towards your macro-goal (in this case increasing conversions). If you find that someone who is ready to buy exhibits certain behaviors, you can change your messaging and CTAs based on your customer’s readiness to take action.
If you have identified the ‘nurture’ phase of the funnel to be the target of your personalization efforts, you will have to ask yourself different questions. A relevant question in this case may be whether there is a specific level of familiarity with a brand, product, or service is required to complete a transaction? If, for example, you find that someone who has read 5 blog articles more often than not often goes on to complete a transaction, you can personalize with the goal of making it as easy as possible for customers to read 5 blog articles.
In general, it’s better to start with a single goal, get the hang of it and then move on to more ambitious goals later on. Making too many changes at once can make it difficult to know what is working well and what is not.
What data points do you need?
Now that you’ve identified your strategic goals, think about KPIs. What are the specific data points you’ll need in order to track progress toward those goals? In other words, which user metrics do you think will predict success for the goal(s) you’ve chosen? Maybe it’s the number of pages visited, the number of products opened, the number of whitepapers downloaded, the time spent on site, etc.
This again depends on the goal you set for yourself in the section above. Here are a few KPI’s for each part of the marketing funnel:
- Bounce Rate – If you want to attract more people to your website, tracking changes in bounce rate is a good way to determine whether your personalization is making a difference. Personalization, when done correctly, should decrease bounce rate as customers are immediately shown content of interest to them, not giving them the chance to bounce.
- New vs Returning Visitors – The number of returning visitors in particular is a good way to track how well your nurture campaign is going. Real-time web personalization helps you create a personalized experience using the limited but still valuable in-session behavior that is available, and set the expectation from moment one that your website is engaging. If this is done right, you should see an increase in returning customers.
- Media Consumption – A good way to measure how engaged someone is with your site is to monitor their interactions with your content. If visitors are spending an increased amount of time reading your blog posts and watching your videos, you’re doing a good job of engaging them. Personalization gives your site the ability to make relevant recommendations: view this video, download our ebook, etc.
- Transaction Value – This metric measures how good your website is at enabling you to cross-sell and up-sell purchases. This KPI can be challenging to impact, but if personalization is done correctly you can expect results. For example, visitors getting ready to complete a purchase on your website can be offered a related recommendation: hiking gear to go with new boots or extended warranty coverage for a new laptop.
- Average items in shopping cart. – This KPI won’t work for every business model (won’t work in B2B), but if it is applicable to you, it’s a good way of assessing the efficacy of personalization in terms of achieving your goal of improving your business at the convert end of the funnel. Real-time web personalization provides the ability to serve real-time offers during checkout based on related items, previously viewed items, and more. So done right, you can expect an increase in revenue.
There are obviously many other metrics to choose from that will likely correlate with these metrics, but the key ones are the ‘bottom line’ when it comes to assessing progress toward the goal. Having a clear and decision way of gathering the data points you need is vital in order to assess your progress toward your goal.
Define your segments
Now that you’ve defined a broad goal and the data points needed to track it, you need to decide on the exact customer segments you want to target. Since content personalization uses on-site behavior as well as things like location, referral domain, etc. to track users and determine which bucket they fall into, your segments should reflect two important things:
- What are the broad categories of customers (by role, geographic location, industry, place in the funnel) that require specific messaging? In a perfect world, each person would see a message completely targeted to them. However, keep in mind that almost any kind of segmentation is better than no segmentation at all. So if all of this becomes overwhelming, start with 2-3 very simple segments and go from there.
- Are there online user metrics that can be used to determine the segment that a user falls into? This is a tricky consideration. Since you need to define the rules that will ultimately place a user into a specific segment (e.g. users who visited my SEO service page and read one SEO post fall into my ‘SEO segment’), you have to think about the type of data that will be available.
Now that you have your broad goals, KPIs for tracking progress toward those goals and segments to target with those goals, you can start thinking about implementation.