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We're getting personal

While personalising first names in emails has become commonplace, there is a wider world of personalisation to be explored. For the final principle of the Powers of Persuasion series, we take a look at how your organisation can build trust online by personalising the user’s experience.

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Dale Carnegie wrote that:

"A person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

While personalising first names in emails has become commonplace, there is a wider world of personalisation to be explored. For the final principle of the Powers of Persuasion series, we take a look at how your organisation can build trust online by personalising the user’s experience.

Why personalisation works

A study from the University of Texas explains that we love personalised experiences for two reasons:

  1. Having a sense of control—when you know it is happening, personalisation can satisfy your desire to be in control. When something it being tailored towards your interests, you gain a sense of control from what you are engaging with. Even if it is just an illusion, this sense of control is powerful, and leaves you with a positive impression from the site you’ve chosen to engage with.
  2. Being overloaded with information—we all know first hand about the masses of information that follows us online and offline. When you reduce the amount of information a person has to crawl through online, they’re more willing to spend more time on your site.

Here's where the psychology gets strange—even if you’re not aware the information is personalised, it still works.

Why? Because the content is more relevant.

Of course for personalised, relevant content, we need to do personalisation well. Not like those spam emails you get with the wrong name or demographic!

How do we get personal?

Let's go behind the scenes for a minute. The main two types of personalisation that you're likely to see working on websites have their roots in one of the following:

  1. Rule based targeting to segments 
  2. Machine learning/algorithmic

Most clients SilverStripe works with are looking at rule-based segmentation as a first step. There are different ways to deliver this type of segmenting—a common one is to use a marketing automation system that integrates with your website.

Rule-based Segmentation

Here are some tips and advice on how to do personalisation well when you’re taking a rule-based segmentation approach.

Know your audience

Good personalisation and relevant content is about knowing your audience—it is the backbone of any personalisation strategy.

If you're operating within a niche market, understanding your segments using the basics of research, personas, and testing will set you up for segmentation success. If you're operating across large markets, or internationally, there are a few interesting considerations to factor in.

In practice, we see many of our clients who have regionalised web content that communicate their message in a slightly different way, depending on their audience. Even one word translated incorrectly can have a disastrous consequences. For a bit of a laugh, and motivation to get personalisation right, check out these 11 Foreign Marketing Translation fails.

Don't be creepy

As the technology behind personalisation advances, things can sometimes get a bit too personal. As your segmenting and targeting grows more advanced, you'll want to ensure that you don't get too personal. Remember back to our key reasons on why personalisation works — it's all about control. If the user suddenly feels like they’re not in control, or like their privacy has been invaded, then personalisation can backfire.

In Webs of Influence, Nathalie Nahai calls this "psychology reactance" which is a negative emotional state we get in response to a threat against our freedom and autonomy. To avoid becoming creepy, testing is essential, so we recommend beginning with larger segments.

Where do we begin?

Understanding your audience and their expectations is vital. In today's world, a high level of personalisation in an email is typically expected. On a website, you will need to be a little more understanding.

Here are a couple of helpful tips to get your segmentation journey started:

  1. Know your audience, do your research and solidify what you want to achieve. 
  2. Consider how you want to begin segmenting as a starter experiment. Some common ones you could base personalisation on are:
  • Location 
  • Demographics 
  • Pages or content/viewed 
  • Campaigns or source
  • Previous visits or behaviour 
  • Persona 
  • Stage of customer journey 

If you are looking for more ways to influence your audience, download the Powers of Persuasion eBook today!

About the author
Claire Hodds

With qualifications in marketing, communications and journalism, Claire has more than 10 years experience across a range of industries. She is passionate about continuous improvement and applying insights from behavioural economics to marketing strategies.

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