Which sale is more likely to close?
- The 30 second TV commercial with a "Call Now" theme
- An in-store, 1 on 1 conversation about a product
Obviously, the 1 on 1 interaction is much more likely to produce a sale. Why is that? For starters, you are in a situation that's harder to walk away from. One where the customer is usually uncomfortable. Additionally, the sales associate is talking to YOU. They are speaking directly to YOUR concerns or interests. They aren't speaking to a crowd of uninterested viewers like the 30 second TV spot is.
Small Business Websites Tend To Be More Like #1
Unfortunately, many small business websites are more like the TV Spot than the personalized in-store experience. Website personalization isn't on many small business's radar. Their sites may be completely brochureware. They may not be well-targeted to buyer personas and they may have a one size fits all message. That's mostly like a TV ad. Not very effective. In this scenario you aren't speaking directly to the visitor, taking stock in what their interests are. You're merely a billboard on the web. This doesn't engage the visitor. This doesn't make them want to stay. It actually gives them an easier out.
Personalization Options For Small Business Websites
Going back to the in-store sales experience, we can easily see that the sales associate's ability to work with US directly and tailor their message to OUR needs will help him close a deal easier. Shouldn't we apply this approach to our website? While we can't physically walk through the website with our visitors, we can track and take notice of their behavior to provide a more personalized experience for them as they browse. Here are some examples.
While this is the most common form of personalization, according to a study by Econsultancy and Adobe, it is also the least likely to show a return. This is what we call low hanging fruit personalization. This data consists of things like the visitor's name, location or gender. These bits of data can be derived through content marketing efforts where you ask for it in return for a high value piece of content. Location can be estimated when a visitor first lands on your website, with their permission.
Once you have the information you need you can personalize the visitor's experience quite easily. We've all seen the "Welcome back Your Name Here" line on an ecommerce site. Does seeing that make you buy again? Probably not, but it's nice to know that they recognize you. Using the location information, you tailor your Contact page to show the sales rep. closest to them, or the dealer nearest to them. If you are a multinational company, you may direct them to the appropriate language, etc... All of these data points can be applied to your email marketing as well. The report cited above indicated that email was the most commonly personalized channel, followed by the desktop web experience.
Overall, these simple things make the visitor's life easier and show that you are thinking about them.
These are explicit, user-supplied preferences. These may include which of your email topics the user has subscribed to. Which blogs of yours they follow. Specific interests they supply directly. In this scenario, the key is that the user themselves have explicitly stated their preference. This might include:
- How many articles to show on your blog at a time
- Which categories of your content they'd like to see more of
- How frequently to receive emails from you
Depending on the type of business you have, there are many more options they can explicitly provide. This helps them and you because they are getting the experience they want, and you are learning a lot more about what they are after.
Think Amazon.com or other large retailers here. You know those ultra-personalized emails you get from Amazon about items you might be interested in? Those are based partially on your purchase history. They also tailor their homepage to products you seem to have interest in.
This doesn't just apply to ecommerce or direct online sales. Any business with a content marketing effort can do the same exact thing. If a website visitor downloads an ebook about a specific topic, you can tailor their experience by showing similar content that they might be interested. If you send them a thank you email (and you should) after they download content from you, you should customize the message to them based on their personal information and the interest they have expressed by downloading content.
The reported cited above indicated that personalization based on purchase history yielded the highest ROI of all personaliztion.
User Behavior On Web Properties
We've written repeatedly about the value of data in Inbound Marketing. Inbound is truly the most data-abundant marketing you can employ. With this data you can track a visitor's behavior on your site and tailor the content, calls to action and other aspects of your site to it. For example, if the user spends 10 minutes in a section of your site dedicated to one category of your offering, you know they are highly interested in that category. You can now feature CTAs around that content category. You may also want to feature complimentary categories of content.
Using Amazon.com as an example, they will usually keep a running list of the items you've most recently viewed. They will often make recommendations on other content to view based on your behavior on the site.
This level of personalization yielded the 2nd highest ROI after purchase history according to the Econsulting/Adobe report referenced above.
Everyone Wants To Be Special
We as buyers do not want to be herded through the sales process like a cattle. We want individual attention and our own problems solved. Because buying behavior today leads most people to the web first, your website should provide some level of personalization to add that component of individualized attention.