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The five steps to personalisation

1st Feb 2010
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Less than a quarter of organisations are highly personalising their digital marketing communications, and a quarter aren't personalising at all. Tim Norman provides five steps to ensure your organisation can keep it personal.

Take a look through your email inbox at the marketing communications you have received lately and at websites that you visit regularly. How many of them are personalised to your needs and interests? Have they gone beyond simply adding your name or suggesting recommended purchases based on what someone else may have bought?

Independent research backed up with a recent SDL Tridion survey confirms that only 23% of organisations are highly personalising their digital marketing communications. Worryingly, a quarter (26%) are not personalising at all, which renders their marketing efforts somewhat akin to spam in tone, relevance and success.

Up until now, marketers’ attention has been on attracting customers to the site. This focus must now shift to include conversion. Take the purchase of a family holiday, for example. Visitors will actively think about buying a particular holiday for around seven days and, during this time, they will visit the website on multiple occasions.

If you treat these repeat visitors the same every time they view the website, you’re not helping them toward taking the decision and buying the holiday. Use the collected visitor behaviour information to treat them differently each time and you can take control of the marketing funnel to actively drive visitors onto action and conversion. This is ultimately what personalisation is about.

Five steps to make it personal

  1. Know your audience
    It is vital to address specific customer needs, but content needs to be manageable as well. Segmenting customers into groups with matching characteristics will address both of these requirements. You can match these segments or target audiences with products and services that meet their needs.

    It is important to identify the unique requirements of each target audience. If you want to reach a global audience, for example, the best conversion will be found if content is presented in the right language and relevant local information is served (e.g. customer case studies from the region).

    An effective web content management solution will help with mapping target audiences to a global business model. It will provide a method of organising content and managing multi-lingual variations intelligently and easily.

  2. Profile your visitors
    Marketers recognise that the success of their marketing campaigns depends upon delivering the right messages to the right people. The marketing team must profile its audience according to meaningful criteria and tailor communications to the attributes of this audience in a timely fashion. The most successful profiling is based on rich, detailed demographics of targets, so that recipients feel you are addressing them directly. To serve your target audience with specific content that relates to their interests, you need to identify what these interests are. Building visitor profiles is the basis for personalisation.
  3. Target your content
    Dynamic content is the lifeblood of attracting visitors to a website. However, most websites leave the customer lost, with little sense of navigation, layout or intimacy. Don’t try to be too innovative when designing the layout of your site. For example, people expect to see a ‘Contact Us’ link on the homepage or in the ‘About Us’ section, so this is where you should put it. When people can’t find what they are looking for, they don’t blame the site designer, they blame the company.

    Profile information should be used to provide your website visitors with tailored content that is appealing and persuasive, whether they are registered users or anonymous. You can create content (i.e. landing pages, promotions, banner adverts, campaign pages) for a specific target audience. Cookies can be used to store information about an anonymous user’s interests for future visits. In our holiday example, you can provide content (text, images, videos, audios, etc.) about the same resort with a different spin for each visitor. Previous search preferences, such as whether it is child-friendly or has nightlife, can be used to route relevant information to the visitor.

    If a visitor signs in, you can take advantage of explicit profile information that they have given you directly, such as their contact details, areas of interest, location or demographic information, to present relevant information. But all visitors, even anonymous ones, want information that relates to their interests. If they don’t find it on your website, they will look elsewhere. According to Gartner , by 2012, organisations that lack customer-centric web strategies will soon trail competitors that have them.

  4. Closing the loop
    Closed loop marketing is a form of interactive marketing where customer responses and behaviour are used to direct and refine marketing strategy and tactics. There is a ‘closed loop’ when collected customer data (from surveys, promotional entries, coupon redemptions etc.) and browsing behaviour or a purchase are used to build a customer profile. These profiles provide the basis for further marketing initiatives. The recipient profile is enriched and adjusted, based on responses to the campaign and the campaign is consecutively adjusted to the recipient profile – there is a feedback loop.
  5. Implementation checklist
    Before you rush into implementing a personalisation solution for your online marketing communication, it is wise to consider some related factors:
    * Privacy policy – do you clearly state that you are collecting implicit and/or explicit information about visitors and how you will use this information? Have you complied with the legal requirements for all the geographies in which you operate?
    * Security – do you have security measures in place to protect personal information?
    * Integration – does your website communicate with your CRM and other customer information sources? Do you have a central place that holds a single view of your customers, their interests and their behaviour
    Analytics – do you have an overall view of all your offline and online marketing activities in one place? Can you drill down to uncover what works and what doesn’t, which content is read and which isn’t? Our survey found that only 53% of companies always measure ROI.
    * Infrastructure – a website must be reliable to evolve as the preferred channel for any type of customer centric interaction. Is your platform stable, responsive, convenient, easy to navigate, consistent and proactive?

You are talking to me!

Marketing professionals want full control over their communication channels. The dream is to be able to drive customer interaction, making the website respond to each visitor individually and delivering a memorable and pleasurable experience to anyone who they have identified as being their target audience.

This online utopia is here now. Marketing can take control over how content is delivered to online users, with no help from IT. This is essential to ensure that the system meets marketing needs, rather than being shoe-horned into a convenient time for the IT department. It also allows marketing campaigns and content to be reactive to market conditions. Ultimately, every organisation is feeling the pinch at the moment, so it is wise to use every weapon in your armoury to impress prospects and create sales.

Tim Norman is sales director of northern Europe for SDL Tridion.


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