“I know you, and I know what you like. Try this.”
That used to be something your best friend said to you as he held out his new comic book for your perusal.
Today, all commerce websites are on the lookout for what you, personally, might like to consume. Which blog posts. Which movies. Which products.
Welcome to the Me Generation.
The personalization explosion
Personalization is everywhere. Everywhere. And people – naturally – are responding to the ability of their environment to relate to them as individuals.
In the offline world, this was underscored by the dramatic success of Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign, printing popular names on Coke bottles throughout the world.
One even more extreme example of a personalization experience was West Jet’s Christmas surprise. In the waiting lounge for a West Jet Christmas Eve flight, airline staff erected a Christmas tree and a super-sized wrapped gift displaying a screen. Swiping a boarding pass enabled each customer to speak with Santa (live!) who magically knew the customer’s name and asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Then, West Jet’s destination staff bought every gift on the list, wrapped them, labeled them, and loaded them onto the luggage carousel to be opened by the enthralled holiday travelers.
Personalized marketing: “I’m talking to you.”
Personalized marketing is intuiting what the customer wants and bringing it directly to them. What content do they want to read? What ads do they want to see? What products do they want to buy? Consumers aren’t even aware of the process involved, but they appreciate it – and they’re coming to see it as the norm. Personalization is now an expectation, not an exception.
The bandwagon has come and gone on some types of personalized marketing, as seen in VentureBeat’s research below. For example, if you’re doing email marketing without any personalization, you better run to jump on that wagon before it leaves your efforts in the dust.
In other channels, personalization is just picking up steam.
Either way, marketing personalization delivers results. “Nearly 90% of marketers using personalization tools have seen an uptick of at least 5% in their most important metrics, excluding those who say it’s too early to tell. Two in five (39%) have seen increases of at least 20% in their most important metrics.”
Amazon and Netflix can both speak to the value of the personalized web. Amazon has one of the highest customer values in retail, with an average of 700 US dollars spent yearly on the platform.
What drives Amazon’s business? A significant portion of it comes from their ever-present suggestions of products you might like based on what you’ve looked at, what you’ve bought, what other people bought after they bought what you looked at, and thereby we have algorithm Olympics. A whopping 35% of Amazon purchases come from these personalized product recommendations.
Netflix does even better. Three quarters of what people watch on Netflix comes from their personalized viewing suggestions.
So here’s the million dollar question: how are you personalizing your marketing?
Personalized content: B2B better take a page from B2C’s playbook
Most outstanding personalization efforts so far have had their home in the B2C world. In addition to the Amazon and Netflix successes, take Oreo’s customizable Colorfilled Oreo packages during the 2015 holiday season as an example.
Each customer chooses a black and white package design, colored it in however they liked using a digital paintbrush and received the physical fruits of their individual creativity shipped directly to them.
Here’s the thing: in the B2B world, we as marketers cannot view our audiences as faceless logos or targets. They are not anonymous. B2B consumers are individuals. They have individual goals and appreciate when a business pays attention and caters to their individuality.
You can be that business.
Even if you don’t have products like Amazon, one thing you definitely have is a website.
Your website almost certainly has content. Content that is supposed to escort your visitor on a journey of discovery, answers, and reassurance, a journey that ends with a conversion…. a purchase, a sign-up, or a request for a demo.
In order to keep the visitor from abandoning your site prematurely, content suggestion tools were born.
Current content suggestion tools fall into two main categories:
1. A widget at the end of the article or post that recommends related content.
Some widgets use tags or keywords to decide which articles are the most relevant; some use engagement stats and choose the most popular articles; some use basic algorithms to check what other visitors read after reading this article.
While this kind of widget can work to keep your visitor on your site for longer, it’s not designed to move the visitor closer to a conversion. So unless the only goal of your site is to have the visitor read as many pages as possible (this goal would be reducing bounce rate) before they leave and go elsewhere, this type of content suggestion tool falls short.
2. Web page personalization / Account-based marketing (ABM) solutions
On the other side of the spectrum, web page personalization tools are highly conversion-focused. You segment people who come to your site (based on industry, target company or position) and define specific content to be shown and suggested to each segment.
While this type of personalization can be very effective, it is an incredible amount of work. Creating segments, creating content and graphics, optimizing segments, optimizing content and graphics… web personalization/ABM requires lots of ongoing management.
Fortunately, advances in AI are about to power the next generation of content suggestion tools: content suggestion that leads the visitor on a journey to conversion but doesn’t require ongoing maintenance.
Personalized content marketing: “This is what you need to see.”
Content marketing is about using content to turn a potential customer into an actual customer. For a content suggestion tool to support this goal, it needs to be goal-driven: to further the visitor’s journey down the funnel, not just lengthen it.
Conversion-oriented personalization “consists of three key parts: identity, content and delivery,” explains VentureBeat. “Companies able to align these three components unlock the ability to personalize the customer experience.”
To be most effective, this goal-oriented type of content suggestion needs to happen when they’re on your site, not as an email you send them 24 hours later. It must happen in real time. VentureBeat reports that “Interest, it seems, has a half-life… after 12 hours, 70% of interest is gone. Real-time behavioral data will play an increasingly prominent role in personalization efforts across channels.”
AI-based content marketing: personalization made hands-off
Today, analysts try to find patterns and insights that can help with guidance (after the fact), and then the marketers take those inputs to optimize their marketing efforts. But this optimization process is incredible taxing with regards to both time and resource allocation, in, and it’s all based on the insights from the analyst, which are likely sometimes right and sometimes wrong. The entire process is time-consuming and expensive.
AI changes the game for content marketers who want to treat their website visitors like the individuals they are, giving each one a personalized, conversion-focused content experience.
AI can identify visitor interest based on behavioral points and demographic data:
- How they landed on your website
- How they navigate your website
- What content they consume
- In what order they consume it
- Which actions they take
- What industry they’re from
- How big their company is
AI can reach out to interact with your visitor, asking questions designed to identify visitor goals and guide them with the needed information as directly as possible.
AI can analyze visitor conversion paths and what content led visitors of different interests and identities down those paths.
And it can instantaneously predict the next best piece of content or action to be taken for every visitor to your site, turning every visit into a personalized, conversion-optimized journey.
And the frosting on the AI cake? AI never sleeps, and it doesn’t need Nespresso or Ms. Pacman games in the office to motivate it.
Personalization is a win-win situation
Your customers don’t want to be floundering around on your website, playing a game of hide-and-seek to find the information they need.
You don’t want them to shout “I give up!” and click the exit button.
Both of you want to get your visitor the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible. Both of you want your visitor to feel cared for, understood and provided for.
Personalized content marketing does the job. AI executes the job well – without eating all of your valuable resources.
You might be part of the 80% of marketers who have adopted personalized email campaigns. That’s great! Now it’s time to bring your website on board.
Hook AI up to your content suggestion tools… and let the journey begin.
Have you seen – or performed – successful content marketing personalization? We are eager to learn about and share success stories. Share your experience with us in the comments below.