6 Strategies for Segmenting Website Visitors for Real-Time Personalization

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Sophisticated marketing strategies like real-time website personalization have gone mainstream. More than half (58 percent) of marketers in a survey by Researchscape for Evergage reported they were already using real-time personalization strategies — loosely defined as personalizing the types of web messages and content visitors view based on their location or navigation behavior. Of those who weren’t already using personalization strategies, 80 percent said they planned to do so within the next year.

But just because the concept of real-time website personalization has reached a tipping point doesn’t mean the majority of marketers fully understand the best ways to implement segmentation strategies. “It is important to stress that you don’t need to be a big retailer to effectively implement personalization. With today’s SaaS solutions, any retailer big or small can easily start implementing personalization rules,” explains Abby Bandel of Barilliance, a firm that helps ecommerce sites provide personalized omnichannel shopping experiences.

Here are six strategies from three top industry experts for segmenting website visitors for real-time personalization.

1. Start with a test audience. “Try personalized content on a smaller portion of your audience first, then test and optimize before rolling it out broadly. Testing what the customer actually wants replaces opinions, guesses, and hunches. Using low-cost methodologies and measuring results across different segments lets data be the driver and will lead to clear and dramatic gains.” (Diane Kegley, RichRelevance)

2. Know whom and what you’re after. “Like any marketing initiative, real-time personalization has to begin with defined goals and a clear understanding of your target audience. Personalized digital experiences, by definition, vary based on each visitor’s behavior and identity, so make sure you know who you want to receive personalized content and what you want to happen. For example, if you’ve launched a mobile app and are looking to drive downloads from your most engaged visitors, an effective campaign might be to show a promotional message about the new app only to site visitors who are on mobile devices and who’ve spent a minimum amount of time on the site in the past.” (Andy Zimmerman, Evergage)

3. Try cart abandonment solutions. “Online marketers that have implemented cart abandonment email solutions have managed to retrieve and convert up to 30 percent of potentially lost sales. Implementing a product recommendation engine has shown similar results. An added benefit: Marketers can skip the daunting challenge of acquiring costly, custom-developed solutions and implement cloud-based personalization technologies instead.” (Abby Bandel, Barilliance)

4. Keep the customer at the center. “If you’re requesting your customers to share information with you to better personalize their experience, be explicit about what’s in it for them. Beauty brands offer great examples of this practice. L’Oreal USA’s website allows customers with a particular skin tone or eye color to see articles relevant to them, as well as view top-selling products and promotions that match their beauty profile. Lancôme allows shoppers to select and view products on a model representative of their skin tone. When a shopper adds the product to her cart, she sees the model wearing an expertly curated look that has been personalized for her.” (Diane Kegley, RichRelevance)

5. Be relevant. “Once you’ve gotten someone’s attention, recognize that person’s time is limited and make the most out of it by being relevant. The more relevant the experience you provide, the more likely you are to engage and convert the visitor. Take into account the visitor’s location and referring source, then factor in behavior patterns on your site. Every piece of information you gather can be used to continually enhance the experience with increasingly relevant content, which in turn optimizes the conversion potential.” (Andy Zimmerman, Evergage)

6. Use your assets. “Retailers with brick-and-mortar locations have a distinct advantage. Not only do they have a channel for engagement, but they also can integrate point-of-sale data from this channel into the online experience. Barneys, for example, is bringing POS data into its website through our personalization engine to ensure that consumers get product and content recommendations based on their in-store behavior.” (Diane Kegley, RichRelevance)

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.