Product Marketing Mgr. IBM
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Landing pages: How to use customer data to improve personalisation

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4th Aug 2011
Product Marketing Mgr. IBM
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Len Shneyder looks at how firms can use customer data to improve personalisation and integration in a marketing campaign. Last time, Len looked at email marketing, this time he turns his attention to landing pages.

Michael Pollan’s message from In Defense of Food is a study in minimalist simplicity combined with Buddhist sublimity — it goes something like this "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." For those who fancy themselves digital marketers, chew on this: "Create readable pages. Across devices. With simple offers."
I started the previous article with what arguably can be called the ‘bread and butter’ of every marketer’s digital strategy: email. We’re going to shift gears a bit and start thinking about what happens after you deliver a compelling email in lockstep with your customer’s needs.
But first, a history lesson — 10 or 12 years ago landing pages were static with one market-leading browser and a standard 1024x768 screen size; you saw the same thing on your monitor that your neighbors saw on their monitors. Personalisation wasn’t a possibility as we all struggled to remain relevant in a vacuum of behavioural data.
It’s high time we re-tool our marketing programme into a service experience for our customers. A well-crafted, well-targeted, well-timed email that renders beautifully across email clients will fall flat on its face if the landing page that loads is neither optimised nor personalised. Landing pages run the same risk as email and other digital channels of becoming a static poster if the customer is not at the heart of the data and content that is driving the experience behind the landing page. Landing pages represent the click after the click and must be as personal as the channel that brought the customer to the page in the first place.
Defining the landing page project as the 'WELCOME MAT'
My family and I visited a shopping centre one Sunday afternoon, when my nephews ran to the shop window of an unopened Fun Factory, a veritable play land that was still under construction. A forward thinking marketer included a QR label in the window that I zapped with my phone and was instantly redirected to a keenly designed landing page for interested parties. The experience was like stepping onto a welcome mat at the front door of a store with my name on it.
Because the Fun Factory knew where I came from they offered me a voucher for their grand opening, asked me to join their mailing list, included a quick survey with questions about my nephews’ interests and ages. The moral of the story is that customers are special, they are unique, and they’ve become accustomed to feeling as such. Marketers have to digitally roll out the red carpet in order to be taken seriously and create the illusion of a meaningful customer experience with each interaction. 
From the flat file to the three-dimensional construct
The idea of personalised landing pages must be extended across traffic sources. Any traffic driven back to your website presents an opportunity to personalise that experience. In the case of our aforementioned QR code, the marketer combined a preference centre with a landing page delivering information and collecting it at the same time. Landing page personalisation can take a number of unique forms such as:
  • Personalise landing pages according to the device viewing them. Today’s landing pages are viewed and visited by mobile users, laptops, tablets, desktops and even television sets. Each of these devices is likely to render a landing page differently because they all use different rendering engines and have different resolutions. Learn your customer’s landing page preferences and track the devices reading your pages. Narrow down your offers and use intelligent single column designs that are most likely to render similarly across devices and deliver a clear call to action. 
  • Create relevance through time sensitive personalisation. Assume that a customer will read the same email twice. It’s not uncommon to see people scanning email on a smart phone in the morning and then returning to it on a laptop or desktop email client in the evening. By providing customers unique landing pages based on the time of day they visit, mornings on a mobile device or evenings on a desktop, you’re advertising your knowledge of their browsing habits, making the experience relevant every single time. In the process you get a better sense of when to launch campaigns based on browsing/landing page viewing habits and patterns.
  • Take into account traffic sources for personalisation. Someone clicks through to your site with a QR code is definitely worth knowing because it takes extra time and effort to scan a code and wait for the page to download. Additionally, it’s a safe bet this person uses a smart phone (further data for your customer profile), and might be a good candidate for an extra reward considering their level of engagement. The same landing page for a mobile audience might receive high conversions with a social group but lower than expected if sent out via direct mail or if on a poster. Refine your landing pages to be relevant to the audience who will arrive there!
  • Consider the links you use to bring your customers to your landing pages. Click-happy users can be very engaged, or, more likely, unsure where to go in order to follow the call to action. Your calls to action should be clear and lead to a landing page that reinforces the link that brought the customer there. If you advertise one thing and your landing page delivers a different experience, you’ll lose your audience.
  • Refine your landing pages for sharing on social networks. A compelling offer is too good to keep to yourself, so why not share it? Well that’s exactly what consumers are doing, and by sharing offers, they become spokespeople for your brand. You want to work with your biggest fans and make your landing pages easy to share; offer sharing links while tracking the networks that engage with your brand socially and promote to them. Make sure your landing pages don’t require a cookie on the user’s local device in order to see the page, otherwise you risk losing a new fan or transaction.
  • Don’t be afraid to incentivise your customers and ask questions. Offering a deeper discount or other incentive for more information about your customer has become standard. If you’re planning on soliciting their feedback be prepared to offer them something in return. A conversation is bi-directional: if your customers are going to spend their precious time working to enhance your understanding of them, you should reward them for their time.
  • Personalise for the lowest common denominator. Thanks to IP Geo-Location we have a pretty good sense of global traffic by origin to our site. This is probably the lowest common denominator and offers marketers the ability to make the content on their sites relative to the physical source from where the customer originates. Do some research; get to know your customers and where they are from; make the pages locally engaging.
Your landing pages are destinations, small atolls in the digital ocean that rise and fall beneath the waves; what you need is a sextant, a mariner’s tool chest like IBM Email Optimisation to navigate the waters. If you design and optimise landing pages across devices and create compelling content for unique segments, you’re certain to reap the rewards of viral sharing.

Previous features in this series

Len Shneyder is product marketing manager at IBM Enterprise Marketing Management Group.

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