Let’s face it, it isn’t 2010 anymore. It’s not enough for businesses to be online and display their products hoping that users will just fall in love. Websites now have to go much deeper and offer their potential customers an experience that is so impressive and engaging, that they will actually take time to go through the funnel and buy in spite of all the distractions.
There seems to be a lot of buzz around the terms “website personalization”, or “personalized UX” but just as the interest grows around these areas, so do the noise and the confusion. There seem to be a lot of different opinions about what it means to personalize the user experience so I’m going to try giving a few suggestions (including website personalization tools and best practices) that are both clear and, more importantly, actionable.
Data, data, and more data…
Let’s start by stating the obvious: you need data. The more you know about your visitor, the more you can personalize their experience on your website. Some of this information is available immediately as soon as they arrive, let’s call it “basic” data, while the rest you will have to learn as you go. Let’s call the latter “behavioral” data.
The basic data can be collected from your analytics software, such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel and similar tools. It includes things like age group, geo-location, device & browser used, referral (i.e. how they arrived on your site) and so on. In addition to that you can implement social login on your site which allows you to see even more information coming from the user’s Facebook or Twitter profile for example.
The behavioral data is collected mostly through cookies, and not only is it the most important one – since it’s based on actual actions – but it will constitute the bulk of what you know about your users. This is very valuable information and you should use it to make sure you give your visitors not only what they want but also what they need. There are a number of very cool tools that make this job easy for you: they collect the information and automatically translate it into actual changes on your website that will allow you to convert and engage more based on your visitors’ behavior & preferences. Examples of this are Personyze, Visitor.js and some others.
What’s in it for me? The benefits of web personalization
Personalizing a website is no joke, so why should we bite the bullet and do it anyway? Well, for starters because it helps sell more. A study by Monetate shows how a personalized website experience can increase sales by up to 19%. Not only that, a personalized web experience can help increase the average sale value, the average revenue per customer and ultimately user retention. Long story short: more, bigger sales and returning customers. Who would say no?
Website Personalization Best Practices
How likely are you to buy from a salesman that speaks a language you don’t understand? Very little, and so are your customers. First and foremost your website has to speak your customers’ language. A study published in Harvard Business Review shows that:
- 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language.
- 72.4% of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.
- 56.2% of consumers said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.
So having local languages on your website is an absolute must. Even better if you can recognize where the visitor is coming from, or what its browser’s language is, and automatically serve the right language on arrival. Localization can be complex and expensive, but there are tools that can simplify the process significantly.
Bablic‘s website translation solution, for example, allows you to localize your whole website by simply pasting a code snippet in your website’s header. It does everything a great localization engine should do, it recognizes where your customer is coming from, remembers what language was chosen during its last session and even lets you customize images and rich media to make your website visually appealing to your target audience.
- Recommendation engines
Isn’t it great when you are shopping online and relevant suggestions come up? That “Oh, I really needed that!” reaction not only makes your customers feel good, but it’s worth a lot of money. Of course recommendations have to be on point, you can’t offer diapers to a single guy or Hermes ties to a teenage girl. Recommendation engines are based on complicated stuff like machine learning, and only large companies like Amazon could afford the resources to pull that off. Fortunately, recently some great tools like Talamoos have been emerging, and they allow small businesses to implement the similar solutions as the big guys at a fraction of the cost, talk about a good website personalization tool!
In an age of automated tools and standardized offerings nothing says “personal” like a cheerful greeting by a real human being. Of course customer support representatives are a very expensive resource and not all companies can afford them. But if they can, it’s a very smart way to employ resources. A live chat session can help your visitors with the exact information they need, exactly when they need it. A live representative can not only provide valuable information, but can also help your customers cut directly through the unnecessary content to get to what they really need, suggest complementary products or services to increase the sale value, save time and effort, smooth out glitches/bugs that may happen and much more. Some popular live chat tools are Tawk (free, unlimited users), Olark, Zopim and others. The representatives are not included, you have to hire your own
Social media offer some very interesting tools that allow you to combine the information on your website with a visitor’s social interaction. The most common example of it is social proof. Conversion rate of friends referred by other friends can be up to 75% higher and, on average, the lifetime value of customers referred by friends is double that of the others. So next time you see an item for sale and there is a picture of your friend saying “Your friend John Doe bought this item” you’ll know why. But it doesn’t end here. A company called Loopit (Acquired by Nanigans) came up with a tool that allows buyers to ask for real-time advice from their friends about specific items they are considering. Going shopping with your friends, does it get more personalized than that?
- Responsive and compatible
Internet users have enough reasons NOT to buy from you. They are busy, short tempered, and you are probably one of the 20 tabs open in their browsers. That is why you should do your best to eliminate as many distractions as you can, and keep everything working smoothly. Make sure your website is responsive and adapts well to the device they are using. Not only that, make sure your site is fully browser-compatible. Features should work well regardless of which browser is loading the page and, as different browsers have small differences (custom animations, effects etc.) make sure your website takes advantages of them on all browsers to ensure that your visitors are fully impressed by what you are showing them. Definitely one of the most basic website personalization best practices.
- Eliminate stuff you don’t need.
Keep your pages clean. Use analytics, cookies, heat-maps and whatever can help you identify the elements that are NOT being used. Get rid of those as soon as possible. Every page is precious real estate, especially above the fold. You can’t afford to waste it on something that doesn’t bring you value. Create smart call to actions through cookies. If you show your customers a button and they don’t click it, there is no reason to show it again. Show another one, and repeat the process until you find the one that gets them to click.
So here are a few pointers that should help you take the first steps towards offering a personalized website experience to your visitors. Needless to say, this is just the beginning and you should start experimenting as soon as possible since website personalization isn’t a trend, it’s here to stay. It’s all about what works best for YOUR visitors and customers. If you know some good website personalization tools or have some tips and tricks that have proven successful feel free to share it in the comment sections.
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