The design of a website plays an important role in the conversion/sales process, but what most enterprises get "wrong" about the performance of their businesses’ visual experience is that it doesn’t really speak to their audience (prospective clients and existing customers).
Without being able to do that, what's the point?
The specific area where most digital enterprises fail often comes down to the level of sophistication they have with their website personalization efforts - how the digital design experience is customized for each user.
Defining Website Personalization
Personalization is the means by which businesses meet (and even exceed) their customer’s needs, accelerating the rate of interaction and increasing satisfaction to the point that it encourages repeat visits. Website personalization, as you might guess, focuses on customizing the website for each visitor.
How important is personalization? A survey from customer data platform Segment last year revealed that 71 percent of consumers experience some level of frustration when their experience is impersonal. And when customers are frustrated, it is unlikely they make a purchase.
Website personalization doesn’t really need to be as complex as most businesses, designers and marketers make it out to be - ultimately it comes down to delivering on expectations and starting off an initiative of this nature by focusing on the customer and developing formal user personas.
The Role of Personas in Website Personalization
The reason why user or buyer personas are so relevant to inbound marketing strategy today is because it helps marketers truly understand who is actually purchasing the products or services being offered. And when you know who is purchasing the product, you can start to customize an experience that speaks - often directly - to their conversion triggers - from the visual branding to the individual, situational messaging.
The importance of delivering a personalized digital experience is obvious, of course, but where do you begin? What’s the first step in delivering on the sophisticated expectations of today's consumers?
Developing personas based on thorough and accurate research is certainly the first step, but it is essential that you don’t stop there; it is equally important to extract as much useful data from existing profiles as well as historical performance data concurrently, in order to create an optimized and personal digital experience. What sort of data is necessary? Consider the following as an initial starting point:
Data on popular, effective, and frequently visited pages: A website is often a treasure trove of insights into how to engage in website personalization. By aligning top performing pages (those which lead to conversion at a higher rate for example) in clusters, marketers and designers can recommend content to users they may also be interested in and lead them deeper into the sales funnel and closer to a conversion. The more relevant and useful the data/content/design is that users consume, the more clear the optimal messaging will become and the more it will resonate.
Keep in mind that even our best guesses can often be wrong: when everything looks right but just doesn’t seem to work. Design (and website personalization) is a lot like that. The surest way to confirm page data is ultimately being used effectively is to monitor conversion rate (and the rate of abandonment).
Data on the desired user stage: Once the content has been aggregated and organized in a way that makes sense, it will also need to be grouped in a way that aligns with specific user stages. Informational or educational content, for example, might be positioned in the middle of the funnel (perhaps a user that has visited three or four times in the past month) whereas a customer testimonial in video form might be more appropriate in a later stage. Aligning content to the stages of the buyer journey in this way ensures you're delivering an expected, but still personalized, experience.
Data on referrals: Did visitors come from paid search campaign or an organic social channel? The source of a website’s traffic also has a lot to do with how a website should be personalized. Users that come from paid search advertising campaigns are typically task oriented and intent-driven, whereas users that come from social media channels may often be very “early stage” and hence not exactly willing to convert at first visit. Understanding the source of traffic (on a page level) helps marketers deliver an experience that speaks to users and their place in the conversion process.
In unison, these data sets (there are many more of course that can be leveraged) can reveal an abundance of information useful to delivering a better and more personalized experience and serve as the foundation for strong conversion rate improvement efforts. But how does this relate to design? Remember, the best web design is not one size fits all. It speaks to an individual user and helps motivate them to complete their buyer journey.
What the digital realm has made clear is the realization that users/consumers are not all the same. They are unique and their relationship with brands and businesses is too. Armed with data about your business and its users, it is possible (with some strategic planning) to develop an experience that is personalized to every user - regardless of their stage in the buyer journey.Consider, based on the data we’ve aggregated and analyze how a business might be able to personalize their design for individual interactions on a website:
Location of Contact Details: Web pages in the later stages of the conversion funnel may need greater emphasis on contact information like phone or address. Visitors in the early stage, however, may be more interested in a live chat feature. Determining the optimal location and messaging for these elements is critical in delivering a personalized experience.
Hero & Header Images: The images used on a website are one of the most important design elements - as well as how/where they are positioned. The content of that image, of course, also plays a critical role. Being able to deliver images to individual users based on any number of facts - from age to location - is an amazing opportunity to personalize the digital experience.
CTA Placement: Marketers know that calls-to-action can be tricky, but designers understand even better. The placement of these design elements is critical but if it does not consider where users are in their conversion journey, CTA’s can quickly become useless if not outright annoying.
Sidebar Size & Scope: The prominence of a sidebars, and the content they contain, provides an exceptional opportunity for personalizing a website. New users, for example, may need confidence in the trustworthiness of the company and might be drawn to a sidebar that includes information useful to their journey as a buyer.
Color & Fonts: There’s no easier way to personalize the website experience than through the use of color and fonts. On a generational level, for example, it is obvious that small font sizes aren’t great for people in their 70’s, but fine for those in their early 20’s. Color is another opportunity to personalize the digital experience. While a black background with white text might look cool, it can be difficult to read for some users. Knowing can make all the difference when it comes to how well a website performs.
Website personalization can be complicated. Marketers and designers must constantly look for opportunities to deliver on the expectations of users and satisfy their digital needs. By building comprehensive personas, organizing content in a way that speaks to a users’ position in the sales funnel, and delivering an appealing visual experience that matches how users consume information and messaging on the Web, businesses can see dramatic improvements in revenue.
Engaging in personalization requires an experienced virtual hand and careful planning. If you’re interested in learning more about how to deliver a better user experience through website design, schedule a time to speak with Chicago Digital about starting a Web project.