The "P" Word: Personalization
February 28, 2011
Personalization is a loaded term. It has been used for decades in online marketing, but with no single consistent, comprehensive definition of what this actually means. Consulting the leading online reference sites, you will find abstract definitions along the lines of the following:
- encyclopedia.com - "Enables more intimate relationships between companies and their customers and is an effective tool for building brand loyalty"
- wikipedia - "Using technology to accommodate the differences between individuals"
- dictionary.com - "To have marked with one's initials, name, or monogram"
So, if you put #1 and #2 together, you start to build a definition for what personalization means for websites: using technology to accommodate the difference between visitors in order to develop deeper customer relationships and to build brand loyalty. Sorry dictionary.com, you're coming from an entirely different place on this one...
From this broad, conceptual definition things get even messier when trying to figure out what capabilities solutions actual provide in order to personalize. It is easy to point to examples such as Amazon and MyYahoo!, but personalization comes in many forms and flavors that require much more explicit identification. Too frequently software vendors talk about personalization without providing specific details as to capabilities, leaving it up to the customer's imagination to contemplate what is actually meant by the "P" word.
At Clickability, we ourselves haven't been entirely clear, either. As we have evolved the platform and WMA solutions, we have arrived at the point of generically claiming personalization, but have not explicitly stated what it actually does to personalize the visitor experience. The following list is a summary of the various capabilities we provide that encompass our ability to personalize:
- Demographic - The website can be tailored based on the visitor's demographic information, i.e. "zip code", and rules are configured to apply these rules to segments of visitors
- “Firmographic” - The website can be tailored based on the visitor's company's information, i.e. "size of company", and rules are configured to apply these rules to segments of visitors
- Explicit Data - Our Progressive Profiling engine allows visitor's to answer specific, customizable questions to drive the website experience, meaning the content is different for different visitors based on how a visitor answers a question you ask of them. The differences may be in the content shown on the page, or suggested to visit next through navigation or through modules such as "Might also like" or "suggested content"
- Implicit Data - Information gleaned from observing the visitor's browsing pattern is used to make personalization decisions based on interests and behaviors, meaning the content is different for different visitors based on what they do on the site. The differences may be in the content shown on the page, or suggested to visit next through navigation or through modules such as "Might also like" or "suggested content"
- Context - Anything about the circumstances of the visit is used to adapt the experience, i.e. "time of day" or "referring website". For example, a visitor arriving from a partner's site might receive content highlighting the solutions or case studies supported by that partnership while a visitor arriving from an analyst or industry watering hole might receive content that discusses comparative and competitive reviews.
- Self-selection – Allowing visitors to select their own interests and means for consuming content is always welcome and gives the visitors control over their own experience.
- Selected content - Through our Resource Portfolio feature, individual visitors have content specifically selected and targeted to them. For example, Marketing could deliver a known visitor from a prospect that demonstrates a high level of interest in a particular product area an implementation checklist for that product.
- 3rd Party Data - WMA collects a great deal of data, but there will always be cases where visitor data is in another system, be it CRM, Marketing Automation, ERP, or other. We integrate with such systems to provide additional depth to the personalization, perhaps including information about Products Purchased or Account Status.
Taken together, these capabilities do allow you to do almost anything to personalize websites (or other channels) on our platform. It will be left to individual customers to determine which and how these features will be applied to address their business objectives and website goals.