Have you ever walked into your usual morning stop, where you have a scone with jam and a coffee, and the barista you’ve gotten to know has your items ready before you reach the counter? But on an unusually warm day, when you rush in late and obviously harried, she asks if you’d like a cold brew and breakfast bar to go. How did she know you didn’t have time to linger, and you weren’t feeling a hot beverage?
She might be trying to unload those granola bars, but chances are, she’s personalizing your experience. She’s basing her interactions and recommendations on the current context surrounding the location, environment, your known and inferred habits and your observable behavior. That data, combined with her product, people and industry knowledge, allowed her to delight you by preemptively tuning into your needs, pain points and mindset. And that is why she is your favorite barista.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your company’s website – your 24/7, 365-days-a-year sales representative – could have similar Spidey-senses? Such a site would be super-charged to deliver a delightful user experience with minimal friction from start to finish. That would be a terrific way to interact with website visitors, wouldn’t it? And you can – by using data (along with intuition and know-how) to personalize your website with smart content.
Smart (or dynamic) content is website content that adjusts or changes to every user based on their interests or past behavior. Such content is also used in apps, marketing emails, chatbots and social media. On a website, smart content can be in the form of text, forms or calls-to-Action (CTAs) … and it can help your site stand out among the more than 2 billion websites currently on the internet.
Tailoring content to the person reading it is not only beneficial to the reader (they’re receiving information relevant to their own buyer’s journey instead of a generalized approach), but it helps marketers as well. Here’s how:
It allows companies to target certain audience segments and even automate not only their onsite experience but later communication as well. For example, when a website visitor clicks on a CTA about buying house plan software, it would trigger a series of emails containing pertinent information about choosing a building site, hiring a contractor or other topics relevant to someone in the planning stages of home construction.
Dynamic content also helps brands convert users into customers. According to a study by Accenture, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations. People like being recognized, remembered and treated, well … like a person.
Not only does it increase conversions, but you also get the bonus of being able to easily track the efficacy of your efforts – and repeat similar strategies elsewhere for even more conversions.
How it works
By collecting data they have consent to collect, companies can present tailored, personalized content. To make this work easily and effectively on your website, you’ll need to use your Content Management System (CMS).
There are many options available, with varying features, options, costs and levels of support. But to implement smart content effectively, you need a CMS that’s truly integrated with your marketing, sales, service and operations tools.
That’s why we are big fans of HubSpot’s CMS Hub. Since it’s built atop the HubSpot CRM platform, all your marketing, sales, service and operations tools are right there, making it easy to access the data and automation you’ll need to support and optimize your smart website.
You can tailor content to each user based on several parameters. Let’s look at some examples:
Personas: Use what you know about your visitor to present relevant product or service information. For example, if you sell parts for electronic circuit boards to businesses for various applications, you will probably want different verbiage, tone, and information presented to someone sourcing parts for an enterprise manufacturing operation than you would for a regional computer repair shop. They’re looking for your product for distinct reasons, so it makes sense to personalize the content they see with copy, imagery, etc. that addresses their unique concerns.
Geolocation: This sounds creepier than it is. Geolocation works by using cell towers and Wi-Fi nodes near a visitor to detect their location. (That’s how Google knows where you are to show you things like, “Nail salons near me.”) But it works for website visits, too.
You can use geolocation for many types of personalization, including showing different info to visitors based on the country of their ISP (Internet Service Provider). For example, your site may appear in a different language, based on their preferred language. If you do business in Canada and the United States, currency can be displayed accordingly depending on your visitor’s country. Or your business may have different offers that apply only to specific regions.
Device Type: The device your visitor is using affects their experience and can provide insights about them, like what type of buyer they may be based on whether it’s iOS or Android, and if they’re on a phone, tablet or desktop. According to a Pew Research study, half of online purchases are made on a phone, so using smart content to show more relevant product offerings to those users is a wise move
On site behavior: Time spent on your site and pages visited are great indicators of visitors’ interest in your products or services. Tailor content to individual visitors based on how they’ve interacted with the rest of your content: referral sources, search terms, lead scores, page visits, form submissions, time on site, etc. (You can also incorporate list membership and lifecycle stage.) The key is to use the data you’ve collected to assess where they are in the buying process and present information that coincides with that stage.
For example, if you’ve been looking at commercial property in a Chicago suburb on a real estate website, you may be presented with more properties in that area or the adjacent community. Or if you’ve requested information about a service to streamline your processes, you may be presented with related or add-on services to complement it.
Personalized Site Components
You can personalize a user’s experience in several ways in HubSpot CMS Hub: Rich text modules, forms or calls-to-action (CTAs).
In text sections, you can use personalization tokens based on property values for CRM objects like companies or contacts. Provided the user is a tracked visitor with a record in your CRM, you can, for example, personalize the text to greet them by name or mention their company. It can also show earlier interactions that the user has had or have them pick up where they left off.
Forms are another way to personalize your site – and help increase conversions as well as segment your contacts. For example, you can swap out form fields based on whether they are known or not and instead of asking visitors to repeat info, use that instance to capture more information from that contact.
The less work it is for a visitor to fill out a form, the more likely they are to do so. According to Quicksprout, limiting your number of form fields increases conversion rates, and three is the sweet spot, supplying a 25% conversion rate. Adding one or two more fields resulted in a 5% drop and piling on more saw a 10% reduction.
Further, a HubSpot study found eliminating just one form field increased conversions by 50%! Why waste your limited chances to collect valuable info on data you already have? Ask for data that helps qualify your prospect. Bonus: You won’t annoy your return visitors by asking them to enter repeat info.
Implement mobile-specific forms by setting a smart rule so mobile visitors see a different (shorter, easier to view and fill) form than visitors using desktop computers. Using field formats that are less work for the user is a great idea as well: use drop-downs or checkboxes as opposed to text boxes that require a lot of typing.
Personalization is possible with CTAs as well. Using smart rules in HubSpot, you can show different versions of your CTAs to visitors based on varied data points. Your CTA to a first-time visitor to your software site could be an invitation to view some cursory (but pertinent and intriguing) information about your offering.
But for a repeat visitor who is further along in their decision-making process, your CTA could be asking them to book a demo. It doesn’t make sense to ask a new visitor who is barely familiar with a product to sit through a demonstration – but giving them a little more information to pique their interest does.
Gathering Your Data: To implement smart content, you need data. It’s easiest if all the data were in the same place, and being synced in real-time. Depending on your tech stack, this could pose a challenge since often our data is here, there and everywhere.
For instance, if your customer demographic information is in a CRM but purchase history is in a point-of-sale system and website activity is in yet another place, you have work to do. Gathering your data into one platform can be daunting, but it helps create a better customer experience throughout your company. That’s a win for everyone.
Performability: How smoothly a site operates affects how much visitors interact with it. Nobody likes to wait for images or other content to load. When using smart content on your site, you need to strike a balance between keeping it running seamlessly for general traffic and quickly presenting the dynamic content to individual users. When a visitor returns to a site, they see the cached version which loads quickly.
But caching a dynamic page on a personalized site is more difficult, so you need to be careful and remember it’s a trade-off. A content delivery network (CDN) can help perfect your site by keeping image load times in check and decreasing the use of extra features that decrease website performance.
Website personalization takes time and effort, but it can pay off with increased revenue, brand awareness and customer loyalty. Customers appreciate being treated like individuals instead of just one of the masses. If you’re interested in giving website personalization a try, let us know. We’d be happy to help you help.
Christine is a Marketing Technologist at Simple Machines Marketing. She has a background in marketing, sales & journalism – and likes to blend them together to help clients expand their business. Outside of work, you'll find Christine whipping things up in the kitchen, hanging with family & friends or exploring all the fabulous things Minneapolis has to offer.