Companies devote a lot of time and effort to developing recognizable online personas and messaging, but the strategy for converting audiences into customers starts with their web experience. Being able to deliver a personalized experience with rich content and advanced functionality that brings unique value to each visitor has the potential to help you gain and keep a customer for life. In fact, Gartner reports that 81% of executives believe that they’ll compete on experience alone in the future.
A great user experience isn’t the only benefit of dynamic, personalized web sites. Research shows that personalization does more than create a great user experience. Companies that are personalizing their web experiences see, on average, a 19% lift in sales and nearly all marketers (96%) feel that personalization helps advance customer relationships. In addition, when a consumer has a personalized shopping experience, they are 44% more likely to become repeat buyers.
Personalization Is No Longer A Maybe — It’s A Must-Have
Over 20 years ago, Jeff Bezos shared his thoughts on the future of the web, “If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store. We should have 4.5 million stores.”
Today, this is no longer a vision — it’s a reality. And thanks to companies like Amazon, or Netflix, Facebook and Google, this is the standard that companies must try to meet in order to stay competitive.
Consumers have come to expect contextualized experiences that reflect that a company truly knows them, whether it’s browsing an online magazine or making a purchase on their favorite e-Commerce site. More than half say that tailored engagement based on past behavior is key to winning their business, and 74% feel frustrated when web site content is not personalized. In order to achieve this, businesses must rely on new technologies to provide dynamic content, media, or product recommendations based on browsing behavior, purchase history data, demographics and various other factors.
Don’t Lose Sight Of Performance
While you want the experience to be as rich and personalized as possible, there are also performance pitfalls you should keep in mind as you build the digital experience of your web site. Today’s consumers expect great online experiences as well as extremely fast web performance — nearly half of all visitors expect a page to load in two seconds or less.
According to a study by Retail Systems Research (RSR), e-Commerce web sites suffer a 7% loss in conversion for every second of web latency. The main problem was the use of third-party services to improve the web site experience, including live chat, personalization and customer recommendations. Retailers had an average of 70 third-party applications on their sites with serious performance impact — 50% to 70% of the page loading time was spent waiting for third parties.
The good news? You can achieve both a personalized experience and strong web site performance. The key is making sure you know what your customer is looking for and delivering the most necessary pieces as quickly as possible. For example, Sephora uses personalization to lighten the load of its mobile site — it uses geolocation to find a visitor’s nearest branch, prioritizing opening hours and contact details. It also enables new users to filter the site experience to show only relevant products and services.
Audit, Budget And Stay In Control
While reducing page weight to help speed up your web site is helpful, it’s also essential to consider how and where you’re delivering content. Digital experiences must be consistent, fast and personalized regardless of how a person accesses a web site or what device they are using to browse the Internet — there is no such thing as a single point of origin or a single delivery path anymore.
Here are three things to do when implementing personalization to reduce any potential impact on web performance:
- Audit your third-party services. Conduct regular audits of what third-party scripts or tags you may be using on your web site to ensure you are still using them and they are updated.
- Use a web performance budget to strike a balance. Set a “budget” based on performance that your web site can’t exceed, as a way to ensure you can deliver a unique experience without slowing down your pages.
- Stay in control. Choose the right technology solutions that provide you with real-time insights and contextual controls for all the content on your site — whether it is first-party or third-party.
These tips can help you maintain a healthy balance that enables you to employ personalization while still delivering the best possible digital experiences to your customers.
Natalie Lambert, Chief Marketing Officer at Instart, has 15 years of enterprise technology marketing experience. Her career began at Forrester Research where she was the leading expert on end-user computing. In that role, she advised clients on technology investments and best practices surrounding the enterprise computing environment. Most recently, she was the Chief Marketing Officer at Sapho, an enterprise software company that was acquired by Citrix. Prior to Sapho, Lambert spent seven years at Citrix, where she held multiple product marketing leadership positions, including having responsibility for the company’s multi-product solutions, thought leadership efforts, and positioning of Citrix as a leader in digital workplace technologies. Lambert has been widely quoted in the press, including outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and has written for Wired, Forbes and CIO.com.