What is Content Personalization?

This article is the first in our series of posts focusing on content personalization: What is it, what are the benefits, and how can you implement it into your current marketing strategy? Make sure the figurative submarine is tightly secured, because we’re about to go on a deep topic dive!

Items are more enjoyable when they align with our tastes, beliefs, goals, and interests. It’s like going to a frozen yogurt bar: You can choose any flavor or flavor combination (Hello, strawberry and cheesecake!) and add a variety of toppings and syrups or sauces (I recommend putting on all fruit options and drizzling with chocolate sauce). Delicious and exactly what you want. It’s like it was made for you by you because, well, it was.

And that’s pretty much the idea of content personalization: Marketers try to customize messages as much as possible to pique your interest and get you to sign up for a newsletter, buy a product, or try a demo. But it’s not only messages: Content personalization is about personalizing a customer’s whole experience.

Creating a personalized experience for your audience is a key to unlocking more: more sales, more trust, and more LTV. If you know your audience, you can better relate to them with your digital marketing efforts. When you do, you’re well on the way to seeing a higher ROI. Content personalization is not just a smart marketing strategy; it is slowly becoming the norm. Yes, there are still challenges in successfully executing personalization (which we will discuss later), but it’s not impossible. And as marketing automation tools improve, it will be even easier to find out what type of personalization (and through what mediums and channels) our audience responds.

According to Evergage, Inc.’s 2018 report on trends in personalization, 88% of marketers claim that their customers and prospects expect a customized experience. That being said, the real question becomes, “How are we supposed to pull personalization off?” But that’s not all:

  • How has content personalization changed the way we market digitally, if at all?
  • What benefits can I anticipate from all this effort I am putting into personalization?
  • How are we supposed to customize the experiences to the point where we’re not being creepy? Where do we “draw the line”?
  • How can we make sure we increase ROI?
  • Is there any easy way to implement content personalization?

We’ll explore these questions and offer insight in later blog posts, but for now, know that proper audience segmentation is key to successful content personalization. Trying to personalize for all of your audience at once and in the same way is a fruitless, time-wasting endeavor.

Because with our ability to collect data, it’s possible to get a well-rounded picture of everyone who comes to visit our site. Based on that information, we have the ability to tailor information and experiences toward those site viewers. Basically, we can help our site’s visitors by providing them with the information that we believe is most relevant to them.

What is Content Personalization?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content personalization is described as, “a strategy that relies on visitor data to deliver relevant content based on audience interests and motivations… It’s a user experience shortcut that connects your audience with the information it needs more quickly, enhancing the chance of converting the lead.”

Up until recently, personalizing that content and delivering that experience to the customers has been difficult. While many do make an effort to offer personalized content and experiences, the 2018 Evergage, Inc. Trends in Personalization research reports that only 31% of marketers believe that it is being done correctly. The research also shows that 55% of marketers do not believe that they have the information available to effectively personalize their content in the first place.

Part of this idea that there is a lack of information likely stems from the fact that consumers have different ideas as to what personalization is and can be. Sometimes, it can be customization so that the offer is suited exactly to the consumer’s whims, but other situations call for tracking surfing patterns and noticing shopping patterns. Each customer responds differently to different types and degrees of customization, so it is the burden of the marketer to find out what these are so their customization hits a bullseye.

In their 2018 presentation “The Power of Me: The Impact of Personalization on Marketing Performance,” Epsilon Marketing details the findings of their research to “understand how personalization can enhance the relationship between a brand and a consumer.”

The following chart shows what customers interpret “personalization” to be:

As you can see, customization and service are tied for what consumers think “personalization” is. Essentially, they feel that:

  • Companies need to modify something (a message, a video, a social post, etc.) to pique consumer interest and make it more relatable and
  • Companies need to know how to address consumer wants and needs by providing something (content, products, services, etc.) to specifically fill those particular voices

But remember that these survey respondents aren’t your target audience (some may be!). Therefore, you need to find out what your audience thinks personalization is and use that to your advantage by offering such types of personalization.

If you want to get more insight from the survey, you can scroll through Epsilon Marketing’s entire Slideshare presentation.

How can you personalize your content?

The answer to this question varies, because there is a unique answer for each company. So, to correctly answer it, you need to segment your audience. With your analytics, you have many options in terms of dividing your customers into groups—none of which is better than the other, of courses, but rather wholly dependent on your brand, the type of content that you’re delivering to your audience, and what resonates the most with that particular segment.

5 Ways to Segment your Audience

Here are five examples of the potential ways you can segment your audience.

For instance, you can deliver your content according to where they are in the sales process. If your visitor is at the top of the funnel, they’ll be more likely to respond to blog posts and articles that flutter around the topic of your brand. Middle of the funnel might respond to content such as white papers, and those at the bottom of the funnel will relate to content that focuses on your goods and services.

For those who are at the top of the funnel, they might not respond well to the customized content for those who are absolutely ready to buy.

Deliver according to their interests and the industry. Arby’s ran a social media campaign that was focused on small, geeky niches… and achieved a lot of success with it because their content used humor and was spot on. They wouldn’t have had so much success with their campaigns had they gone with the traditional route of, “Buy our X because X” like many brands do.  

Deliver content according to what source they came from. If you know that the visitor came from a specific social media source, why not acknowledge that for the page that they land on? It will also give you the opportunity to know what types of content on your social media channels with which your audience is engaging.

Deliver content according to where they’re from – Most digital marketers have access to where the visitor is from, and that information can be used to personalize the content that they are able to see. As discussed previously, custom landing pages can be created or special notes can be made just for those individuals. The point here is to focus on the particular segments and customize to each.

Deliver content according to audience behavior – Has your visitor been to your site before? Have they done specific actions on your site, like download a white paper? What do you believe would be the next greatest change or opportunity to see from the customer’s standpoint? This is where prediction engines become ever more important.

Knowing how to segment your audience for personalization is absolutely imperative to deliver the customer experiences that they’re looking for. You won’t be able to achieve 100% unique personalization, but you will be able to be more accurate the more you segment your groups.