Website personalization tools are becoming an essential part of the e-commerce marketer’s technology stack. Here’s what to look for when choosing yours…
Website personalization tools have been the hot topic now in marketing for a few years, and the interest shows no signs of waning any time soon. At the end of last year we spoke to 200 marketers about their plans for 2019, and despite the fact many marketers rated website personalization as among the most difficult strategies to implement, it topped the list of priorities for the year ahead, just behind customer feedback and customer journey mapping.
And it’s not just marketers who are demanding website personalization. When users visit your website, they expect content that is engaging and relevant to their needs. In short, they’re looking for a personalized experience that delivers just the right message, at just the right time.
One of the biggest challenges when implementing a website personalization strategy is selecting the right tool for the job. Not only do you have to consider what you want to achieve with website personalization, but new privacy regulations, such as the GDPR are adding to the challenge of which datasets you can actually use.
If you’re choosing a website personalization tool for the first time, or looking to upgrade your existing stack, this blog will cover what what you need to know.
What’s Website Personalization?
Before we delve into the must-have features of a website personalization tool, it’s helpful to define exactly what we mean by personalization. There are a lot of different definitions out there, and these have evolved over time as technology has advanced.
Today, we can define personalization as follows: aiming to deliver a tailored message to a user at a particular point in their journey. This is usually achieved with two things: your data and your website personalization tool.
Here at Yieldify, we see personalization as an evolution of conversion rate optimization (CRO), but not the end of the story. A good website personalization tool will allow you to optimize multiple parts of the onsite experience, applying the concept of personalization to the whole customer journey, rather than just one or two touchpoints.
Now let’s take a look at how to evaluate website personalization tools, before jumping into more on the factors to consider when choosing yours.
How to Evaluate Website Personalization Tools
Personalization has come a long way since the classic Amazon personalized product recommendations, and website personalization tools come in many flavors – which is why it can be so difficult to select the right one for your site! Content Management (CMS) and Marketing Automation tools are also starting to offer some simple forms of personalization, adding further complexity. Here we’ll focus on website personalization software designed specifically for the job.
Before investing in a website personalization tool, you should know what you you’re seeking to accomplish. Do you want to show product recommendations? Collect email addresses? Use contextual data to show social proof? Or segment, and select data to pinpoint the right messaging for the right customer?
Knowing what’s needed prior to purchasing a platform or software saves money, minimizes frustration and maximizes marketing benefits. At this point, your first step should be to make a list:
- Your goals for investing in a website personalization tool
- The tool’s ‘must-have’ features
- What are you prepared to compromise on?
With your specifications in hand, you’re ready to start searching the marketplace. There are few good ways to see what your options might be:
- Use a tag-monitoring plug-in such as BuiltWith to visit sites similar to yours to see which tools they’re using
- Talk to your stack: ask your existing partners which website personalization they integrate with
- Visit third party review platforms such as G2Crowd and Capterra to check out which tools have the best write-ups
Ready to start your search? To make things a little easier, we’ve compiled our top 5 factors to consider when it comes to website personalization tools…
Before you even start looking at website personalization tools, evaluate your internal resources. Marketers cite lack of internal knowledge and expertise as one of the biggest challenges in implementing a successful personalization program. Not only that, but as different tools come with different service models you’ll need to find one that aligns with your needs.
Any technology investment is only as good as the use you’re able to make of it, so having the right people in place is really the key to a successful implementation. You have a few options here…
1. Managing personalization in-house
Having someone internally who will take on the responsibility of driving your website optimization and personalization roadmap is the ideal, but finding this person can be a challenge both from a skills and budget perspective. In fact, 61% of companies report that resources for personalization are limited or not available due to lack of time or budget.
“Marketing’s lack of digital, technology and data analytics skills is often cited as a major impediment to personalization efforts.”Gartner, 2019
Really consider whether your team not only have the insight and expertise to run a personalization project, but the capacity! If it’s going to be a challenge then consider the following option…
2. A managed service from website personalization tools
A partial, or fully managed service can help fill the skills gap often seen with personalization. Additionally, this option opens up the possibility of gaining insights and best practices from across the vendors client-base.
Ensure you’re clear on how much support you think you’ll need – it’s a good idea to ask your vendor for examples of how they service other clients of your size, with similar goals, if you’re unsure, or take a look at case studies showcasing how they’ve worked with other clients, and what they’ve achieved.
This option is probably one of the safest if you’re unsure you’ll be able to manage a personalization project fully internally, as both you and your vendor will be invested in ensuring you get the best value from the technology.
3. Working with an external agency
The third option, and somewhat of a ‘middle ground’ when it comes to the level of expertise it brings to the table, is to work with an agency. Traditionally agencies have been more focused on conversion rate optimization than personalization, so you probably won’t find the level of knowledge you’d get with a vendor services team.
They often have established relationships with preferred providers – so this may also narrow the field, and is of course an additional cost to factor in. As the agency model becomes increasingly complex across marketing as whole, how to select the right agency partner for personalization could fill another blog post entirely!
Whatever option you go with, being honest about your capacity to deliver on the implementation of whatever website personalization tools you choose is an important factor to consider from the outset.
Aside from resources, one of the biggest obstacles to personalization is data. Just take a look at this chart form eMarketer:
Nearly two thirds of marketers in 2019 rate data-driven personalization as difficult to achieve, more-so than any other marketing tactic. But does it have to be so difficult?
Many marketers are hung up on ‘1-to-1’ personalization, but with the vast quantity of data now available, achieving this can seem like finding a needle in a haystack. The important thing then to consider is being able to access the right data that you need to achieve the desired result.
This is where you need to evaluate a few things:
- How accessible is your data – it it siloed across the business or all in one place?
- What’s the quality of the data like?
- Can you use it for the purposes of personalization?
Bringing together data that is siloed across your business, and may not be of the best quality, or even legally usable may not actually be the best option if you’re looking to get a personalization project up and running quickly.
For website personalization, luckily you have other options! You’re able to take advantage of a rich data source (your website) so ensure that the tool you choose has the ability to segment, target and trigger your campaigns based on visitor behaviour. Which brings us nicely on to the next thing to look out for…features and integrations.
Features and Integrations
As we discussed earlier in this blog, personalization means a lot of different things to different people. This is where you again need to go back to your goals for your website personalization project, and think about the functionality you will need to achieve them.
Here are a few features you might want to consider adding to your checklist when it comes to selecting a website personalization tool:
- Behavioural segmentation: the ability to segment and target campaigns based on visitor behaviour
- Targeting and triggering options: how does it actually work when it comes to personalizing your website?
- Real-time data: is the tool able to use real-time data to show things like social proof?
- Product recommendations: does the tool offer these and how does it work?
- Remarketing to reduce cart abandonment: how does this work and is it available for on-site, or via email too?
Depending on your goals you might want to look for other options too, for example if acquisition if a big deal for you, is there a lead capture function? This also raises the question of integrations i.e. how does the tool fit and share data with your existing stack such as:
- Your Email Service Provider (ESP)
- Your CRM
- Your CMS
- Your customer reviews platform
- Payment providers
- And more!
ROI and Time to Value
There has been a lot written on the business case for personalization:
“Personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 percent.”McKinsey, Marketing’s Holy Grail: Digital Personalization at scale
But what about when it comes to proving value for your business?
One of the biggest challenges in demonstrating the success of a personalization project, is not only showing a positive return on investment, but showing this impact in a timely fashion. When speaking with website personalization tools ensure you’re asking how long it takes to get up and running from a technical perspective, but also how long it will take to start seeing value.
This is where working directly with your website personalization tool, rather than an agency or in-house can have huge benefits. The best website personalization tools will come with a tried and tested methodology and should be able to provide you roadmap for success.
For example, here at Yieldfy we are lucky to have data from over 200,000 visitor journeys, and so our services team can apply insights from this data to our new clients, helping ensure they prioritise the right campaigns (we’re so confident in this that we guarantee you’ll have your first journey live within 14 days!). Having a partner that can offer a solid plan for success will save your time and money in the long-run, typically we see an 80% reduction in time clients are spending developing and running personalization tests.
Customer Journey Driven
Finally, we couldn’t finish without mentioning the customer. At the heart of it, personalization is all about putting your visitors and customers at the centre of what you do. Here at Yieldify we believe that successful personalization is part of the wider discipline of Customer Journey Optimization (CJO).
CJO is all about using a data-driven approach to improve the whole customer journey rather than personalizing just one touchpoint. When evaluating website personalization tools, choosing one that can help you do this means finding a partner that can offer:
- Customer journey mapping or analysis: understanding the touchpoints you need to optimize is the first step toward creating a personalization plan that will have real impact
- Benchmark data: so, not only looking at your own customer journeys, but comparing to your peers and competitors to give you a guide to what you can achieve and expect
- Strategic guidance: based on your objectives and goals (long-term and short-term) what are the best tactics to prioritize?
- Continuous optimization: the ability to evolve and improve your personalization strategy over time, based on data
And that’s it! Your 5 factors to consider when choosing a website personalization tool. We hope you’ve found it useful, but if you still have questions then we recommend you check out our free guide to Personalizing the Customer Journey, or take advantage of our free consultation service.