Examples of personalized content
- Greeting guests by name, because the site has recognized them on
arrival. Most people find this recognition reassuring, even though it is a
- Displaying the content they asked for, arranged in their own personal
order and format. Picking out the news feeds that interest them,
prioritizing those, gives each person a feeling of control over the
- Offering products that are similar to ones a visitor has just bought, or
bought on earlier visits. Far from offending, these relevant offers smooth
a visitor's path, inform each one of news in areas they care about, and,
generally, lead to sales.
- Wish lists. These help friends and family figure out what to buy
-encouraging them to visit the site.
- Custom pricing. Makes a site very attractive to repeat customers.
- Express transactions, like Amazon's patented, copyrighted, trademarked,
and locked-up One-Click shopping, which makes all sales after the first
one so simple that visitors can hardly resist.
- Access to the guest's own account and profile information. Turns out
people like to see everything they've bought from the site, going back to
the first dinosaur saddle. Using the account, they can check on orders,
see when things will be sent, change their address, express credit card
info. Being allowed to modify their account directly lets them see what
the site sees, and reassures them that it is accurate, and on the level.
Also, because people see all the preferences they checked, they can make
changes, to bring it up-to-date-if they believe that the site is really
acting on their preferences.
- Tailored e-mail alerts. If the consumers have to opt in twice, they are
much more likely to welcome tailored e-mail marketing, particularly if it
really does tell recipients about subjects they care about. What stinks is
e-mail that obviously has no relevance to the topics they ticked on the
What personalization does for your site
If your text is going to stay afloat in this sea of information about
products, prices, positions, and transactions, you need to remember
personalization's larger purposes:
- Making the site easier to use. If the site guesses right about what
people are interested in, they do not have to search, or stumble around
the menu system. Personalization saves time.
- Making content more relevant, so it is easier to understand, think
about, remember. People get it.
- Increasing sales. People are not averse to buying. In fact, they enjoy
it. Making product pitches relevant helps them get to the fun part faster.
- Increasing loyalty. Once a guest has filled out some registration info,
and seen that the site really responds, he or she might as well come back,
to avoid taking the time to fill out the same info at some other site.
Plus, there's a certain satisfaction to being recognized, catered to,
- Giving the consumer control. When guests feel as if they can manipulate
the content on a site, the site itself becomes a little like their own
personal application, a tool they can use.
Don't fake it
A lot of sites pretend to personalize their content, but have no idea what
content to deliver to which visitors.
- If the site doesn't collect much information in the user profile, then
the software will make stupid decisions about what to offer a particular
visitor, providing trivial, generic, or off-the-wall content.
- Some sites ask a lot of questions, developing quite a detailed profile
of each visitor, then fail to act on that information, leaving the
consumer feeling cheated, or disappointed.
The best sites develop a very rich profile, and act quickly, and very
visibly, to show the user the payoff, with intelligent suggestions,
relevant content, and smart services. Paul Hagen, of Forrester Research,
defines the best personalization this way:
Content and services actively tailored to individuals based on rich
knowledge about their preferences and behavior. (Hagen, 1999)
Create custom content for each group
Who is this person?
How can you write to a guy with a Lego truck on his hat?
Who am I
writing for, and, incidentally, who am I? (Full chapter from Hot Text,
in PDF, 566K, or about 10 minutes at 56k)