How to take your personalization to the next level

The power of website personalization

Digital personalization has come a long way in the last few years and now goes far beyond addressing customers by name in your email campaigns.

Today, website personalization is table stakes for companies that want to stand out in a crowded online marketplace and to provide the kind of personalized experience that customers expect and love.

What is website personalization?

Website personalization is the process of creating customized experiences for website visitors. It involves understanding the emotions, motivations, and intent of website visitors so you can create more humanized digital experiences.

70%

of attendees at CX Circle, said their companies saw website personalization as a company-wide priority.

Brands are aware of how important personalization is becoming to their bottom line. However, only 24% said that they had the right resources in place to run personalization, meaning that knowing how to make personalization a reality remains challenging, even for those companies that understand how important it is.

Most companies know that personalization is the future and what they should be striving to achieve. Not every brand is there yet, but certainly, the majority is working towards that level.

Harry Hanson-Smith, Regional VP

Nordics, APAC & UK, Dynamic Yield

This ebook aims to explain website personalization, outline the key benefits, and offer practical answers to the following questions using real-world examples and insights from leading brands, such as John Lewis, Ocado, Dynamic Yield and many more.

  • How to take your web personalization to the next level?
  • Why is personalization best thought of as a company-wide initiative?
  • How can you create a more human, personalized customer journey?
  • What does the future of personalization look like?

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The benefits of website personalization

Online shopping has become a way of life for most people since the pandemic, and most of us now expect a personalized online experience.

According to Salesforce, 66% of customers expect companies to “understand their unique needs and expectations”, while 52% of customers expect offers to always be personalized A study by Accenture shows that 91% of customers are more likely to shop with “brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.”

“Consumers expect to be recognized across devices whether that’s on the web or apps. They also expect to be able to interact 24/7, whenever it best suits them. Brands that are already doing this well have raised the level of expectation among consumers.”

Veronica Saha

Head of Analytics, Zoopla

Top 6 benefits of website personalization

  1. Increased user sessions on-site

    The more relevant the website experience is for users, the longer they will stay on the site, which in turn leads to more product views and, ultimately, sales. This was the experience for Office Shoes when they personalized recommendations for their paid search traffic. As the company’s eCommerce Trading Optimisation Manager Hiral Patel explains: “We have recommendations live for any paid search traffic that lands on PDP [a product detail page]. That helped us reduce our bounce rate by 29% for that specific group.”

  2. Higher conversion rate

    Easier customer journeys, repeat visits, and more time on site tend, in turn, to lead to higher conversions. That is, more of your website visitors will become customers and make a purchase.

    According to Statista, 63% of marketers have seen increased conversion rates as a result of personalization. Hiral Patel of Office Shoes backs up this statistic with her company’s experience:
    “Last calendar year, our recommendations campaign drove a 28% y-o-y uplift in direct revenue.”

  3. Repeat eCommerce sales

    When you tailor your online experience to reflect what your customers want to achieve, you make that customer journey easier. This leads to longer time on site as well as more repeat visits, which, in turn, leads to repeat sales. As Zoopla’s Head of Analytics Veronica Saha puts it:

    “As a user, if you experience a product that’s delightful, easy-to-use, and tailored to you, you’re more likely to come back.”

    McKinsey has found that “78% of customers will make repeat purchases from companies that personalize effectively.”

  4. Cross sales and up-selling

    Stimulating cross-sales and up-selling is another way that personalization leads to increased revenue. BCG has found that personalization can drive an average revenue uplift of 6% – 10%.

    Increasing cross-selling is often the first direct impact of successful web personalization. According to Adriana Scala, Optimization Manager at Now TV:
    “We started our personalization journey by focusing on existing customers and building home pages for them, so if they had purchased an Entertainment membership we could try to cross-sell them a Cinema membership, and so on.”

    Vivienne Yong, Senior eCommerce Product Manager at Made.com, tells the same story:

    “We’ve been implementing cross-sell on baskets, recommending other products that are complementary to an item that you’ve added to your basket. And again on the cart page, recommending complementary products.”

  5. Increased trust and loyalty

    The underlying impact of an easier customer journey is to increase customer trust and loyalty. One example of this is John Lewis, which has tested loyalty offers for specific customers in the health and beauty space. When the company started offering high-end beauty brands at a discount as a loyalty reward, the brands sold out in 10 days. After testing, the discounted high-end products now sell out within two days of a campaign launch.

    “This is a huge growth opportunity for all firms if you want to inspire loyalty,” says Jamie Levrant, Product Owner, John Lewis.

  6. Increased customer lifetime value

    Ultimately, increased trust, higher conversions, repeat sales and more cross-selling all add up to a higher customer lifetime value. As Vivienne Yong of Made.com explained at a recent Contentsquare-hosted event, her company started a personalization proof of concept which saw a “significant percentage uplift in revenue per user” as well as an increased average order value and increased page views.

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Tactics to take your personalization to the next level

We’ve seen the many potential benefits of personalizing and humanizing the digital experience for your customers. This chapter takes you through how you can achieve this in your organization, using practical examples from major brands in the UK and beyond.

  • Gather customer data

  • Segment your audience

  • Map out your customer journey

  • Test

  • Automate interactions

  • Communicate

  • Get senior leadership buy-in

Using data and customer behavior insights

Using and analyzing user data enables you to examine the changing needs and behaviors that visitors exhibit as they interact with your site. This is key to really understanding your customer behavior and being able to react accordingly.

For example, a customer may have their needs met the first time they visit a website or app. Yet they could require a completely different experience when they return to your site a week later. They are likely to feel disappointed if the brand fails to adjust quickly enough to this new expectation and they may leave the site never to return.

Monitoring visitors’ micro-signals – including mouse moves, scrolls and taps – helps brands to draw patterns and uncover anomalies to better understand behavior. Using rich data from experience analytics brands can quantify customer experience at multiple touchpoints and personalize individual users’ site experiences.

 

Customer segmentation

One very powerful tip from Jessica Bartlett, CRM Manager EMEA at New Balance, is to use your existing customer data to segment your website visitors:

“It’s possible to create segments in your CRM on the data that you already have based on previous shoppers, but you can also go on to your website and create segments.”

Segmenting is a crucial step in understanding customers and personalizing their experience: “Building segments is important because you’re really understanding the journey that your customers are taking.”

 

Customer journey mapping

The digital customer journey is the path followed by a website visitor from the awareness stage right through to the purchase stage. Understanding how your visitors move through your website, where they linger, what they look at, and where they go is essential. If you don’t know what your visitors are doing, you cannot improve your customer journey.

This means you need to map your customer journey. According to HubSpot, a customer journey map is “a visual representation of a customer’s experience with a company. It provides an understanding into the needs and concerns of potential customers which directly motivate or inhibit their actions.”

Here are some examples of customer journey maps to help you in mapping out your own digital experience.

 

Customer experience testing

Website personalization is an iterative process of constant improvement. Most optimization and CX experts agree on the importance of continuous testing as part of this process.

Hiral Patel of Office Shoes gave the example of testing a static asset versus a gif on certain product detail pages. The gif drove an uplift in clicks and three times the revenue when compared with the static asset.
Using a gif on PDPs drove an uplift in clicks and 3X the revenue when compared with the static asset. (Office shoes)

Matthew Wilson, Digital Development Manager at online supermarket Ocado, advises incorporating user studies into the testing process: “Where I’ve seen tests be most successful is where they’ve incorporated user studies into the process. It might add some time to the process, but the end results speak volumes.”

Jamie Levrant of John Lewis described how he prioritized what to test for personalizing the online shopping experience at his company:

“Say you’re seeing x amount of bounces on the page, or less AOV in certain places, then you test around that. You have the problem, and the problem is the strategy, and then we tactically build around that, so no matter what you’re doing, you’re on the path to getting somewhere.”

“If the teams know their priorities then testing is a doddle, because you will know exactly what you need to hit and what constitutes success,” he added.

Process automation

Once you have tested a proof of concept, it makes sense to automate the process of analysis, testing and interaction. 25% of the experimentation John Lewis is doing on its website is machine-learning driven, for example.

Veronica Saha says that using machine learning is on the cards for the next phase of Zoopla’s personalization journey.

“We need to learn how to use data in better ways, like with machine learning,” she says.

 

Good internal communication

Internal communication is essential for effective website personalization because successful personalization needs to be practiced by multiple teams within an organization, from Marketing and CX to product teams and more.

As James Levrant from John Lewis puts it: “Teach and share with other people how to do this stuff. One of the reasons we’re seeing such success with this is the incredible uptake of this new method of experimentation from our product teams. No change happens alone. You can drive it, but it does take adoption and adaptation from your teams in order to find that success.”

 

Senior leadership sponsorship

All of the steps above are important to upping your personalization game and taking it to the next level. However, nothing happens without the support of your senior leaders.

As Harry Hanson-Smith of Dynamic Yield makes clear:

“The first thing is to make sure you have C-suite buy-in, and that is then passed down. Our most successful clients have the strategic side set – people with ideas – and also front-end developer resources. Once that’s there and you’ve got the exec sponsor that can bring in other teams and other channels, that’s when we see real growth in these program types.” – Harry Hanson-Smith at Dynamic Yield

Future of customer experience

Talking to Contentsquare client companies, partners, and other website personalization pioneers, we get a clear picture of how personalization is likely to develop over the next 18-24 months:

  • Mobile app personalization. App personalization aims to present user experiences that are customized to their specific needs rather than a broad, one-size-fits-all experience for all users. Most companies have begun their journey with their website and are looking to move into app personalization next.
  • True omni-channel customer journeys – across web, app, telephony, email, etc. According to this blog by Dynamic Yield:“From email to mobile app, call centers, digital kiosks, and more, brands are discovering the key to acquiring and maintaining customers requires delivering a tailored experience, regardless of whether they are interacting on-site, or off.” – Dynamic Yield.
  • Connecting online and offline experiences. As part of the drive towards omni-channel personalization, companies with eCommerce sites and physical stores want to replicate the same 1-2-1 customer experience across both. Examples of this include health and beauty retailer Avon and diamond company De Beers.
  • Being able to be more reactive.Companies will also benefit from being able to respond to customer needs more proactively, which depends on having the right data available alongside a strong understanding of what customers want. One example of this is Ocado, whose Digital Development Manager recently spoke about the benefits of being able to offer potential delivery slots to customers at certain prices, based on their previous habits and the availability at nearby delivery centers.
  • Knowing where to focus effort to get the best ROI.In a world where data volumes are increasing all the time, it is important to maintain focus and “pinpoint what’s useful”, according to Now Optimization Manager Adriana Scala. “It’s a really good point; making sure you’ve got the data, you know where to focus, where to spend your time that’s going to see results,” adds Harry Hanson-Smith of Dynamic Yield
  • Moving towards cookieless analytics. Although digital intelligence is critical, the global internet standard is moving towards removing cookies (see Google’s recent announcement to stop supporting third-party cookies in Chrome, and Apple’s earlier action to limit first-party cookie retention in Safari to seven days). Using Contentsquare, companies can turn first-party cookies on or off when using digital experience analytics, deepening trust with consumers.

Real-world examples of successful personalization

It’s much easier to picture how you could apply personalization to your brand, your website, and your customers when you look at some real-world examples. What the following case studies show is an increasing appetite from brands to offer an equally responsive browsing and shopping experience in-store and online. 

Just as an art gallery owner asks your preferences before showing you some pieces for sale, or a tailor gets a sense of your preferred style before taking your measurements, successful website personalization is about being able to ‘listen’ online and react in real-time. 

Example 1: De Beers

How personalizing the customer experience led to a +27% conversion to in-store

The challenge: Redesigning the digital experience 

In 2018, De Beers recognized the need to rethink and redesign their digital experience to reflect their in-store customer experience. 

Solution: Personalizing the experience for engagement ring customers 

Using customer journey analysis, the company compared jewelry customers vs bridal customers looking for engagement rings. They noticed on engagement rings that people were browsing a lot more and spending a lot more time on the pages, so they launched a test to direct these customers to book an appointment once they had been browsing for a certain amount of time.

Results:

Testing appointment pop-ups personalized for engagement ring customers resulted in a +27% average conversion to in-store appointment requests from bridal product pages.

Example 2: Rakuten

Leveraging data to learn exactly what customers want

The challenge: Users weren’t adding items to their carts 

eCommerce company Rakuten noticed that, despite 11.3% of website visitors viewing their shopping cart pages, conversions were way lower than expected. They didn’t know why this was, so they set out to uncover and remove any friction in the user journey.

Solution: Changing the checkout process 

Rakuten analyzed the in-page behavior of new visitors and returning customers. They found that non-buyers were spending 15 seconds longer on the page than converting users. 

The team decided to split the existing single long checkout page into four quick steps: 

  1. Initiate checkout
  2. Shipping
  3. Payment
  4. Order confirmation

Results:

  • Breaking the process into multiple steps helped new customer segments to more easily understand and navigate their way through the process. 
  • This increased conversions from Initiate checkout to Shipping by 10%. 

Example 3: Avon

Multichannel personalization

The challenge: Replicating Avon’s 1-2-1 customer experience digitally  

British multinational cosmetics, skincare, fragrance, and personal care company Avon wanted to replicate its 1-2-1 customer experience via its digital channels and provide a seamless multichannel experience. 

Solution: Testing a personalization proof of concept 

Avon worked with Dynamic Yield to deploy a personalization proof of concept on its UK. Czech, and Polish websites. They began by:

  • Identifying important audience behavior by segment 
  • Breaking departmental silos in CX delivery
  • Targeting their most profitable customers according to recency, frequency and the monetary value of purchases 

From there, the team tested product recommendation campaigns targeting visitors in the UK, Czechia, and Poland on product listing pages and product detail pages, experimenting with “Recently Viewed” and “Similarity” algorithms to determine the most relevant strategy per location at these key stages in the customer journey.

Results:

  • Incremental uplifts in cart value and revenue generated from products bought after clicking and buying an item from the widgets.
  • Looking to launch recommendations to operations in over 26 countries.

Example 4: ASOS

Automated product recommendations

The challenge: Generating relevant product recommendations to website visitors  

eCommerce giant ASOS wanted to be able to ensure its website visitors were recommended suitable products from a selection of over 85,000 products. 

Solution: Deploying machine learning

To make relevant recommendations to web visitors, ASOS quickly realized they would need to deploy a machine learning solution that was capable of making systemic and quantitative data-driven decisions across thousands of products.

They deployed a machine learning model capable of completing an outfit based on a given seed product. The technology and marketing teams focused their efforts on analyzing how customers interacted with their products to create truly accurate and relevant personalized recommendations based on image and text recognition of visitors’ searches. 

Results:

  • More accurate personalized product recommendations, higher conversions, and significant revenue uplift. 

Example 5: Waitrose

AI automated personalization

The challenge: Replicating the immersive and personalized in-store experience online

With a reputation for offering an immersive and enjoyable in-store grocery shopping experience, high-end supermarket company Waitrose wanted to find ways to replicate this for digital customers. 

Solution: Testing automated personalization on recipe pages

The company wanted to test personalized recipe recommendations on its popular recipe web pages. The marketing team began exploring which contextual factors would be most influential in determining the best recipe to display to each customer. 

They decided to apply Kibo’s Automated Personalization to automate testing these factors. The experience was targeted to the entire audience using default context and additional CRM data, with a goal metric of driving clicks.

Results:

  • In its initial test, the Automated Personalization Experience drove a click-through lift of +6.21%.
  • When scaled to the homepage, the recipes experience drove a click-through lift of +66.8%.

Recommended personalization tools for your website

Companies increasingly seek the benefits of personalization at scale and have several options to choose from, including building their own data and analytics platforms and using marketing cloud solutions such as those offered by Adobe, Salesforce, and Oracle. However, those solutions don’t necessarily offer the same functionality as the best-of-breed solutions, which include customer data platforms and personalization tools. 

Highly targeted personalization tools that are designed to help customize online customer journeys can also be highly effective and simple to use. Let’s explore some of these tools in more detail:  

Optimizely

Optimizely is a digital experience optimization platform that allows companies to deploy AI-powered personalization and experimentation encompassing A/B testing, multivariate testing, and server-side testing. Companies can work out what hypotheses to test, analyze results more effectively, and optimize the customer journey through more rapid, impactful testing.

AB Tasty

AB Tasty is a comprehensive brand and product experience optimization platform for marketing, product, and technical teams. AB Tasty offers feature management, experimentation, and personalization solutions that help businesses to develop and launch new products faster.

Kibo

Kibo is an eCommerce platform that combines AI-driven personalization, omnichannel commerce, and enterprise-grade order management to support a wide range of commerce strategies. Global clients include Office Depot, Taco Bell, and Patagonia.

Dynamic Yield

Dynamic Yield helps companies quickly deliver and test personalized, optimized, and synchronized digital customer interactions. Marketing, Product, Development, and Digital teams from more than 400 global brands use Dynamic Yield’s experience optimization platform as the technology layer that works alongside existing CMS, commerce, and ESP solutions to iterate faster and algorithmically match content, products, and offers to each individual for the acceleration of long-term business value.

Kameleoon

Kameleoon is an A/B testing and optimization platform that uses real-time data signals from Contentsquare to trigger experiments and personalization campaigns. Thanks to their two-way integration, brands using Kameleoon and Contentsquare can trigger personalized promotional campaigns and directly engage with users when error signals or repetition actions are observed – both in real-time – while also refining purchase intention predictions.

Webtrends Optimize

Webtrends Optimize offers brands a range of testing, analysis, and personalization tools to enable extensive experimentation and enhance digital experiences. The company’s solutions empower their clients to analyze and consolidate the results of their personalization campaigns across their digital portfolio so they can deliver experiences that create happy customers and drive better results.

Insider

Insider is a personalization and AI-powered optimization platform. Its deep learning recommendation algorithms increase average order value, conversion rates, and lifetime value to help generate fast results for global brands across all major industry sectors. 

Contentsquare

Contentsquare is a digital experience analytics platform powered by AI. It provides rich and contextual insight into customer behaviors, feelings and intent — at every touchpoint in their journey — enabling businesses to build empathy and create lasting impact. 

Contentsquare integrates with personalization, testing, and customer engagement solutions (like the ones listed above) to help scale the use of behavioral insights in your personalization efforts. Watch a 6-minute product tour!

Key takeaways

To summarize, website personalization is the process of creating customized experiences for website visitors. It involves understanding the intent, emotions and motivations of website visitors, so you can create more human and immersive digital experiences. 

While many eCommerce companies are currently focused on transforming their website experience to make it more personalized – and some are already extending this process to include web applications – the future will see complete omni-channel personalization across all digital and offline channels. Customers now expect the same level of service whether in-store or online, and organizations will need to leverage customer data effectively in order to achieve that. 

There are many potential benefits to increasing personalization. By better understanding customers’ needs and motivations, you can build digital journeys that build trust and increase loyalty. This will result in more time spent on-site, leading to higher conversions, higher spend, and a marked increase in lifetime customer value. 

According to the industry experts quoted in this ebook, there are 7 key steps you can take towards elevating your web personalization:

  1. Get senior leadership sponsorship. Nothing will happen with personalization unless you have someone on the senior team to drive the change.
  2. Communicate effectively. This is true at all levels. Effective personalization is a multi-team and multi-disciplinary effort. Make sure to communicate your reasons for personalizing, as well as communicating well between teams.  
  3. Analyze customer data. Gather and analyze data from your existing customers as a starting point for your personalization efforts. 
  4. Segment your customer data. This is a crucial step in understanding customers and personalizing their experience
  5. Map your customer journey. This will help you understand the needs and concerns of potential customers, as well as where you can potentially personalize the experience.
  6. Test. Optimization and CX experts agree on the importance of continuous testing for optimizing your website personalization. 
  7. Automate. Using machine learning and other forms of automation allows you to scale your testing and optimization process, thereby increasing the speed and effectiveness of your personalization efforts. 

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