A Wake Up Call For Brands Trying To Personalise Their Sites

If you’re in the business of better understanding your users, then listen up, because this mindset will help your users love you more and earn you a higher conversion rate


What you don’t know won’t hurt you.

Unfortunately, this statement is wrong when it comes to website personalization.

If you’re in the business of better understanding your users, then listen up, because this mindset will help your users to love you more, and earn you a higher conversion rate.

Once upon a time, websites were designed for visitors, and it just happened to be that we assumed all these visitors were the same. They came from the same city, had the same goals, earned the same money, and would love us for the same reasons.

Fortunately, our understanding of the web has progressed from a static web to a dynamic place where our actions are not met with limitations, but adaptability.

It’s curious to think that, in a world where we know users demand freshness every time they visit our website, we’re only seeing 51% of eCommerce marketers implement personalizations and recommendations into their sites.

I’m sure the other 49% will be more than willing to focus their efforts on personalization once they understand how big the demand and payoffs are.

Here are some refreshing stats I’ve collected:

  • 59% of online shoppers believe that it is easier to find more interesting products on a personalized online retail store
  • 56% are more likely to return to a site that recommends products
  • 53% believe that retailers who personalize the shopping experience provide a valuable service
  • 45% are more likely to shop on a site that offers personalized recommendations

Don’t worry. The lack of personalization is not your fault.

You’ve most likely got a beast of a website, which requires retrofitting apps, plugins, API’s, and other ghastly technobabble for it to ping, pop, and poke your visitors at the right time.

This is where website personalization efforts should meet evolutionary website redesign methodologies – similar to agile methods (apologies in advance for all the buzz words).

Evolutionary website redesign assumes that your site is never perfect, and your customers are always changing. Although, it’s a long and daunting process of testing, measuring, and learning on every assumption and hypothesis you have. It’s validated learning, which is good!

In contrast, you might assume a beautiful new website design, following the industry-accepted 'best practices' will increase customer trust, and therefore, your sales. That’s a false hope. And that’s the problem with a revolutionary mentality of website optimization.

The great thing is, you can make your site better for your visitors, increase your conversion rate, and decrease risks of any substantial changes not working as you planned.

What’s the process?

Once you’ve defined your goals clearly, you can start to test and optimize to improve on them. This works by implementing a series of continuous A/B split tests throughout your website and communication funnel. Rather than relying on the gut feeling and potentially flawed intuition or assumptions of the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion), your website decisions are made against the reactions of your customers.

Trying to understand what I mean?

Let’s see if you can answer this question – when was the last time Amazon redesigned their website? Finding it hard to think of an answer? That’s because they don’t redesign in a traditional sense. Instead, they’re constantly tweaking areas, adding new concepts, removing what’s not working and overtime developing an in-depth understanding of their customers.

Gone are the days where you expect anything but continuous website improvement.

Let’s imagine you are going down this path and trying to identify what should be personalized, and where to get the data to personalize it. Unfortunately, eCommerce users don’t usually hand over their likes, dislikes, goals, budgets, and spending habits – although, they do leave hints floating around, we call this usage patterns.

We’re going to start by breaking the experience into logged in users, and unknown visitors.

Logged in users typically have a user account which can help you identify their purchase habits, demographics, and media consumption, both prior to a new purchase, and at the time 'the add to cart' occurs. This gives you an opportunity to provide some relevant, targeted information, and that monthly comes in the form of:

Image source – https://conversionxl.com/non-creepy-personalization/

Unknown visitors offer a slightly more difficult challenge, especially due to privacy concerns of users that haven’t opted in or purchase something before, for example. Simple personalization opportunities can be found in user behaviours, location, and even weather.

When landing on a site, the browser will know where the user was previously, such as clicking on your social ad which had a UTM link, or coming from an email campaign. In this situation, it’s easy to relate that the same content and messaging through in-line dynamic text insertion, pop-ups, or even re-arranging the homepage.

Beyond the technical implementation, chosen triggers and communication strategy, today’s marketers that attempt personalization on their site, or even in their digital advertising campaigns are faced with the question: 'How do I make personalization Non-creepy?'

Here are some basic guidelines to ensure you’re not a creepy big brother:

Don’t surprise a user with what you know about them, that’s not fun and won’t end well. If you’re doing personalization, don’t make it too personal. If it feels like you’re only talking to them, and that person alone, in your highly polished copy, it’s too much.

Don’t personalize without adding value to their experience. Don’t jump on the buzzword train just because everyone else is doing it. It needs to fit within your strategy and add value for your visitors.

Following these three simple rules will ensure you’re going deeper than, 'you’re a woman, and shop for women’s clothes' and not as far as, 'last night at 11:28 pm you used your mobile to search for a Leather iPhone Case while connected to the Sydney Airport WiFi, so here are some travel-related iPhone accessory products with Sydney motifs on them.'

We all need some inspiration, and ways to ‘convince our boss’ that personalization is the way to optimize your site. So here are some examples of eCommerce doing it well.


As mentioned previously, Amazon doesn’t redesign their site in the true sense but is largely based on optimizing and personalizing their site for individual users. This way, your Amazon is different to my Amazon. You can see this through a list of recommended products, bundled products and wish lists on the surface level, but even more, personalization occurs in their email communication – but email communication and dynamic campaigns are for another blog post.

We’ve shown personalization through the use of my first name 'Joel, Get $10 off instantly' and via data of frequently combined purchases, and commonly grouped purchases.

Naked Wines

When new visitors see Naked Wines site for the first time, their experience is directed at the aggressive sign-up process, and as such, the user experience of the entire site changes.

This level of personalization is intended for focusing new customers on the on-boarding process, and can also adapt based on unique codes a user can key-in from physical coupon cards received via partnerships with other brands.

We also see that signed in visitors are greeted by their first name, and provided with personalised offers, along with a richer navigational experience.

Personalization goes beyond the eCommerce platform, and will as such, the best players treat personalisation far beyond something that you sprinkle on top of your website. Personalization is a business strategy that takes into account all touch points, all persona types and manages to increase positive brand experiences that ultimately result in purchase and loyalty.

If you’re considering personalizing your eCommerce experience, but have a barrier at the top level of your organization or can’t get buy-in, I’ll leave you with one important stat. Brands that lead in the customer experience space see a 43% increase in cumulative stock performance, compared to laggards that see a 33.9% drop over that same period.



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