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Get personal: making the online user experience as unique as the customer

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online user experience article

Robert Yardy tells how to create a tailored online user experience for every individual.

The ‘household name’ websites admired by marketers across the digital industry have managed to apply a perfect formula that keeps users engaged for longer and creates a tailored user experience for each and every visitor.

The art of only showing users what they want to see, and making the content relevant, lies in tracking user habits and applying those findings to create an entirely individual online world. However, to capture user intelligence the customer has to be attracted to the brand in the first instance and stay engaged for long enough to make a personal footprint.

Websites such as Facebook and Amazon are so adept at these methods, customers are left with the impression that the websites can read their minds. Even the smallest elements of online activity are analysed to build a complete personal picture and then interpreted to shape the overall individual customer experience. Obviously, those websites that attract billions of users may have high levels of customer intelligence. However, we have to remember that any brand with an online presence can benefit from offering a personalised user experience for their site visitors.

So how can marketers create a tailored user experience for every individual and use methods such as customer personalisation to ensure their businesses grow and prosper? Particularly in targeting the huge category of users who frequently visit websites without the intention of making a purchase, it becomes even more important to maximise these opportunities through a range of online and digital customer touchpoints.

Make the online user experience personal

Customised content is a well-established trend in the online arena and is a way of exposing users to content that is served up based on their site behaviour. The importance of personalisation was highlighted in the 2014 Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs report, showing that at least 91% of B2B companies use some aspect of customisation in the websites — 65% tailor content based on industry trends, while 59% target individual decision makers with customised content.

Content personalisation is not only based on an individual’s browsing behaviour (visited pages, campaign clicks, searched keywords), it is also dictated by a user’s demographics (age, gender and job) and customer context (time of day, device/browser used, location). This insightful and detailed data can then be used to create user personas and the content tailored for each individual visitor.

Fortunately, the days of personalisation being based largely on geography are long gone. Today, it requires a multi-pronged approach and provides a summary of customers’ interests, motivations and behaviours. It also needs to be supported and enabled by the right tools, such as an enterprise level CMS solution.

Marketing automation

In essence, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell. If we take Amazon as an example, it’s about nurturing prospects with highly personalised, useful content to help convert prospects to customers and encourage existing customers to spend more. It may not be the easiest marketing initiative to execute, but using marketing automation can help companies convert more leads — 53% more, according to recent research by Aberdeen Group.

A customer journey is typically made up of various touchpoints along the experience journey and automation is extremely useful in creating these touchpoints, whether it is emails and newsletters or special offers and competitions. Marketing automation enables companies to customise their approach, be it as part of marketing campaigns or the company’s overall digital strategy, and to develop and deliver perfectly timed, bespoke messages to different customer segments.50bn of ads face block by 2016

User personas

The purpose of user personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of the company’s key audience segments for reference. These representations should be based on qualitative and some quantitative user research and web analytics. The most effective personas don’t need to represent all audiences or address every need of the website, but instead should focus on the major needs of the most important user groups. User personas will also give a clear picture of how customers are likely to use the site and describe customers’ backgrounds, goals and values.

User personas are developed and iterated on in the back end of the company’s CMS system, based on the user data gathered from onsite behaviour. This data can then be used to tailor the customer journey and overall experience by implementing content personalisation and marketing automation.

While there isn’t a set formula for marketers, crafting a successful online presence is all about creating the best overall customer experience. Focusing on personalised user experiences is one of the most proven routes to achieve those marketing and business objectives.

Author: Robert Yardy
MMT Digital | www.the-gma.com

Robert Yardy is head of new business and marketing, MMT Digital

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