Website Personalization That Your Customers Actually Want

Adhering to simple best practices around personalization ensures you can help people feel seen without violating privacy.

Designers drawing website

In today's highly social digital world, customers want organizations that help them feel valued rather than just being treated like a number. Part of showing that you appreciate each buyer as an individual is personalized marketing that meets their individual needs. Developing a personalized marketing strategy requires being alert to what consumers want without crossing a line into being too invasive with your data strategy. A few best practices can help you more effectively connect with your customers while potentially closing more sales.

Helpful Is Good — Creepy Is Not

Companies have seen an incredible influx of data from marketing technologies over recent decades. These technologies can empower companies to deliver highly tailored messages at any time. But that potential is not without risks.

If your marketing strategy is too personalized, it reveals that you've been collecting a lot of customer data. To an e-commerce shopper, this level of data tracking can make them feel as though a store employee is following them around and surveilling them as they shop. If you pursue your personalization in ways that make people feel like they're being tracked, the interactions can feel uncomfortable to the individual or group you're targeting and they may choose to walk away.

Generational and other demographic differences can come into play here. If you compare Gen Z and Millenial buyers to Gen X or Boomers, younger generations are more comfortable sharing their personal information with companies and third parties, provided that those businesses reciprocate with a little bit more value for the trouble.

By contrast, the older generations tend to prioritize data privacy and consent over personalized marketing outreach. They like getting guidance from companies, but only after they have given their permission to mine their data.

Because of the different comfort levels for consumer privacy, it's important to keep preferences in mind as you start your personalization efforts. What feels okay to one individual or group might not be acceptable to another, so you have to be willing to adjust the campaign according to the range of preferences you identify.

Keep It Consistent

If there's one bedrock for creating trust with a customer, it's consistency. People will question you if they don't see the same message across the board or if their expectations are dramatically and unrealistically different at different times.

As a general rule, website users demand personalization consistency both by channel and device. In exchange for allowing access to their data, however, they want information, features, or aesthetics to carry over as much as possible from one place to the next — from your marketing emails to your website to your mobile integration. Don't randomly jump ship on the approach or voice you've picked.

Don't Overdo It

Personalization can provide a halo effect: If the customer perceives you favorably, they're probably willing to cut you some slack on the data mining since you treated them as unique persons. But there is such a thing as too much personalization. If your customers see that you are drilling down to the nth degree in what you present, it can feel unnerving and kill whatever halo effect you might have gained. People will not hesitate to block a brand if they aren't comfortable with the way that company is using their data. There's a fine line to draw between making the customer feel seen and violating their expected anonymity.

Let's say you want to do a specific website campaign. If you tailor the website and campaign to reflect known topics of interest across various customer segments, you appeal to many people at once. However, the personalization to that particular customer segment tells the consumer that you see them as being distinct. You also can put more individualistic touches within the site and campaign, such as recommending other products or services based on search or viewer history. Including both broad and narrowed focus in this way can help you achieve a balanced personalization strategy.

The idea of not overdoing it also applies to quantity and roles within your team. If you have a sales representative in contact with someone but that same customer is receiving a barrage of other messages, the customer may become overwhelmed. They might end up blocking the representative because they were flooded with too much other content.

The key is to limit your personalization strategies to those critical moments in the buyer journey. Most people have high expectations and are open to personalized interaction when they're learning or need to understand the product they just bought, so the window just after a transaction is a good opportunity to go deeper with your customers — especially if that interaction helps them get more value out of the product that they just purchased.

Guide People Through The Process

Most people don't like being told they have to do something. They do, however, respect recommendations and advice that is given based on their unique preferences and needs. They like learning — so long as the process isn't stressful or intrusive.

So even though you can tap tools that quietly will collect and analyze opt-in data behind the scenes, enable self-guided discovery, too. When a customer answers a question, direct them to the next topic or area that applies to them within your goods and services. This approach lets them get new information at their own pace while giving the impression that you are not just looking to sell them something but actually are willing to assist.

Caution In A Personalization Strategy Is Worth The Long-Term Relationship Value

Today's customers want marketing that resonates with them on an emotional level, and personalization can support an emotional connection. Customers are open to personalized marketing that stays within certain guardrails, so by embracing it within a few best practices, you can gain the opportunity to establish long-term relationships with significant long-term value.

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