In this guest post, Ben Rogers, Head of Marketing and Creative at Digital Paint, describes how creating personalized user journeys on your website can improve the experience for your customers.
Imagine this if you can.
There’s a client with a £1 million project up for grabs and your company is in the running for it. You score a meeting with the European Projects Director and Global Planning Director to tell them about you and your business so they can decide if you’re the right company for the job.
Rather than turn up in person with your most trusted and specialist team members, you decide to just leave a letter with an attached picture that you downloaded from Google of a cliche businessman/woman in an office environment, smiling painfully and photoshopped so much that they look like the Pillsbury Doughboy in a suit. Perfect huh?
If you’ve said yes, please see me after.
Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t stand a chance of getting near that £1 mill.
This is obviously a gross hyperbole, but it actually demonstrates a common approach that companies take with their website presence. They choose a faceless, unpersonalized web presence, filled with stock images from Google (other search engines are available) with little to no personalization or appreciation for the customer, their plight or their requirements. Why?
Before we delve any deeper on this, think back (if you’re wizened enough) to the days before the global village and super brands. Local businesses who relied on their local community for custom knew their customers names, knew their families and took the time to build relationships.
This wasn’t because it was smart marketing with the most innovative CRM, POS systems or contextualized advertising, but more because they gave a damn.
As a result, the customer relied on the business, arguably stayed loyal, and had a high lifetime value as a result. Whilst the economical, technological and social landscape has changed dramatically since those bygone days, our human desires and need to feel valued and to build relationships with those we buy from and work with in some respects have not changed.
They have in fact traveled a full circle back to where we as consumers demand the personalization of our experiences (which led to the emergence of Youtube, Co-creation and User-generated content strategies whereby the users co-create their own brand experiences and augment a brand message to fit their image, needs and requirements.)
What these examples demonstrate intrinsically are two things:
- People buy from people
- The need for website personalization
It’s an old adage, but still stands true to this day that people buy from people, and faceless companies or at least those that don’t build a real brand personality and equity behind them, will suffer.
It’s also an anomaly of business, but the micro-businesses that have the flexibility, need and reason to focus on their people within the business and the story of why they started that business, nearly always opt for trying to look like a faceless big organization, which clearly they are not.
Customers/consumers/audiences/people/you/me (whatever you want to call them) want to see and hear about your plight and therefore develop an emotional connection to your brand, in the process becoming advocates and even friends.
People also want to see some kind of representation of themselves and their kin within your online presence. It’s the same effect as when we walk into a restaurant and it’s empty and we feel concerned as to why it is empty. We have a need to see others who are similar to us in order for us to feel comfortable committing ourselves socially to a situation and to avoid awkwardness and negative experiences. Our business presence also needs to be helpful and serve a purpose.
Websites are nearly always the top 3 brand touch-points that consumers experience before committing to a purchasing decision, so personalizing your digital presence, and giving your audiences an engaging and remarkable experience with the right level of information is absolutely mandatory.
To understand how personalization can improve the customer experience, it is worth noting now, that you must must must have an unhealthy knowledge of your customers and what’s important to them. Stalk them, groom them, research them and yes….the biggest one…talk to them! Your best insights will always come from listening.
When we know who they are, why they are on the website and what they require, we can plan the user-journey and personalize the experience to optimize the journey from landing to conversion.
I could rattle on for hours about this using words which would put you to sleep, but I’m not that cruel. So here’s some top tips of things to consider for personalizing your website to improve your customer’s experience.
We need to assume that you have a marketing direction. If you don’t have one, you really need to get it sorted. That isn’t just the classic 4 P’s of marketing, but rather the marketing communications direction. You’re talking directly to your market…now what are you going to be saying, how are you going to say it and what behavior do you want to evoke?
It’s standard practice these days to understand who our ideal avatar is, building a demographic profile. “Wendy, 45, C1 earning £35,000 pa as a mid level manager and shops at Waitrose” What we often fail to do is answer why they buy. Search psychographics for more.
So assuming that we have a marketing angle and we know everything about our customers, we now need a creative concept to personalize the website. Don’t think that because everyone else has a rectangular page with headers and footers, about us and contact us, that you need to do the same. Think outside the box to create a website experience which is personalized to your market.
Defined user journey
We’ve all done it. You’re on a last minute mission to find a present for a loved one’s birthday, you want to find the gift quickly by a relevant search category, get some info, click add to cart, enter delivery details, see the final cost, then hit buy. This whole process needs to be simple, purposeful and use-friendly, and when it isn’t, we really do blow our lid!
Define what the journey is (i.e. starting point is arriving to search for an alloy wheel, and ends in purchase) and break down the essential steps needed to get to that point. Refine, refine again and always test with your avatar. They will tell you what’s working and what isn’t.
When we’ve nailed all these elements and created a digital experience which is relevant, specific, meaningful, useful, engaging, strategic and creative, then we’ve created a website that is personalized for the intended market and in its purest form, what a website should be.