This article will help you:
  • Find inspiration for personalization campaigns
  • Learn about symmetric messaging, behavioral re-targeting, and contextual empathy
  • Use these ideas to brainstorm how to personalize your site

Research shows that more and more customers expect their online experiences to anticipate their needs and preferences. But what exactly does this mean? How do you start personalizing your site for visitors?

Your personalization strategy really depends on your visitors and the expectations they bring to your site. In this article, we provide a few ideas for inspiration. We cover real-world use cases that employ symmetric messaging, behavioral re-targeting, and contextual empathy - three core tactics for delivering personalized experiences to customers.

We hope you'll take these use cases as a starting point when brainstorming your own campaigns. We don't recommend that you implement these ideas without first researching your business needs and your customers' behaviors. 

To learn how to build a comprehensive personalization strategy, read this article on Personalization strategy essentials.

 
Note:

Optimizely Personalization makes it easy to deliver targeted messaging and measure the outcome. 

Many of the use cases in this article were built using third-party data and technical expertise. Despite the simplicity of the tactics that were used, these campaigns were unwieldy to implement and difficult to change. After launch, adding different experiences or delivering messages to additional audiences required significant effort and resources. 

Optimizely Personalization allows you to edit and deliver new experiences at any time. This flexibility and ability to deliver granular campaigns allows you to devote your time to creating, managing, and scaling your symmetric messaging with some of the methods suggested above. Personalization also helps you assess the impact of your campaigns on different audiences, so you can adjust your strategy.

Additionally, Uploaded Audiences and Dynamic Customer Profiles (DCP) allow you to deliver messaging based on your customer data. With this feature and integrations with platforms like Demandbase, Skymosity, and Marketo, you can build data-rich campaigns using behavioral re-targeting and contextual empathy, which we discuss below.

Symmetric Messaging use cases

In online marketing, “symmetry” refers the concept that expectations you set in ad campaigns should match the experiences on your site. So, when a visitor clicks through from an ad hosted on a search engine, social network, or third party site to your landing page, she should have a seamless experience. The CTAs, messaging, and imagery should meet the interest she expressed when she clicked the ad.

PPC landing page headline

In early 2013, Optimizely used its A/B Testing product to test symmetric messaging. Optimizely sends traffic to a PPC landing page from several search engine marketing campaigns. These SEM campaigns use a few different terms to advertise our product; it's a "Split testing tool," an "A/B testing tool," or a "Multivariate testing tool," depending on which ad you see.

The company hypothesized that we could improve form submissions by matching the headline on our landing page to the ad that visitors clicked. This simple test was designed to create an empathetic experience.

The campaign

When a visitor clicked an ad that said “A/B testing tool," she saw a landing page headline announcing "The #1 A/B Testing Tool." If she clicked a "Split testing tool" ad, she saw the matching copy on our site: "The #1 Split Testing Tool." And so on.

Visitors in the control group weren't given a personalized experience. They always landed on a page that read, "Test it Out for Free," no matter which ad they clicked.

Interpreting results

With this simple symmetric messaging campaign, Optimizely lifted its form submission rate from 12.21% to 16.99%. Furthermore, this improvement translated down the funnel. Sales leads increased by 39.1%, all without additional ad spend.

Personalization inspiration

Optimizely's use case speaks to the value of symmetric messaging, but it's a very basic campaign built with A/B Testing. How do you turn that single win into a broader strategy? 

Here are a few suggestions for scaling symmetric messaging beyond the landing page:

  • Scale for SEM campaigns
    • The use case above involves just three SEM queries and one landing page. Your company is probably using many more search terms to drive traffic. Scale your symmetric messaging campaign to capture more of these terms. As you deliver targeted experiences with more granularity, an increasing percentage of your visitors will receive a better experience. By scaling symmetry, you optimize the performance of your media campaigns.
  • Scale for multiple channels
    • Try making your landing page symmetric with display ad, social, and email campaigns. These channels allow for more nuanced messaging and imagery than SEM. Leverage that opportunity to create more compelling experiences.
  • Scale across your site
    • Extend symmetric messaging beyond your landing page. To deepen your visitors' personalized experience, adjust CTAs and keywords across your site. Align value propositions on your Home page, Pricing page, and Product pages to your media campaigns. By weaving symmetric messaging into your visitor's experience, you maximize your site's potential to drive conversions. 

Prioritized product listings

Secret Escapes, a travel site that provides members with exclusive discounts, also tested symmetric messaging. The company sends traffic to its PPC landing page from SEM campaigns that advertise "New York" or "All Inclusive" vacations. They hypothesized that prioritizing listings for visitors who clicked on certain ads would improve conversions.

The campaign

When a visitor clicked an "NYC" ad, she saw a Secret Escapes Home page with NYC listings at the top. When she clicked an "All Inclusive" ad, all-inclusive vacation offers were prioritized instead. 

Other visitors saw Secret Escapes’ default experience: a homepage with vacation listings from all over the world, with no particular organization aside from the timeliness of the deal.

Interpreting results

Showing visitors a product list curated to their preferences increased Secret Escapes' conversions across the funnel. Conversions between the sale page and the detailed listings increased by 24.4% Click-throughs to the purchase page rose by 30%. Completed purchases improved by 210%. 

Symmetric messaging helped Secret Escapes' customers find and buy the vacations they were interested in.

Personalization inspiration

Curating offers based on SEM campaigns is the tip of the iceberg for Secret Escapes. Here are a few ways to expand their strategy:

  • Diversify their SEM symmetry
    • Instead of matching just one paid search term, try targeting multiple. For example, Secret Escapes might curate their Home page offers based on the last three search terms that brought a visitor to their site.
       
  • Build symmetry into a timeline
    • Are certain visitor interests time-sensitive in your business? Limit symmetric messaging to those windows. If Secret Escapes knows that "spa vacation customers" only stay interested for a week after the search, they could target offers based on "spa vacation" clicks for the next 7 number of days. 

The company is also interested in other efforts, such as promoting certain sales based a visitor's browsing behavior on their site. This is an example of behavioral re-targeting, which we discuss below.

Behavioral re-targeting use case

Behavioral re-targeting is the concept of showing visitors content that's similar to what they've browsed in the past. When a visitor to your site shows interest in a certain product, you can immediately adjust the site experience to that interest by showing the same type of product again. 

Optimizely Personalization lets you capture and target customer interests in real time. You can behaviorally re-target for visitor interests in the same browsing session. It gathers historical data to help you build audiences, so you can segment and deliver personalized experiences to these visitors in the future. 

Past purchasers

The Clymb, a daily deal site that focuses on products for an active lifestyle, used behavioral re-targeting to incentivize a certain segment of its customers.

When the company analyzed its data about customer purchases, it discovered a pattern. Customers who had purchased from The Clymb in the past were far more likely to buy again. In fact, these customers were more likely to buy any product - even in different sizes or gender specifications - than new customers were.

Since past purchasers were highly likely to buy again, The Clymb decided to use behavioral re-targeting to engage these customers.

The campaign

The company hypothesized that they could lift sales by targeting a promotion to customers who had purchased before. To test this theory, they delivered an email campaign advertising a desirable product - Oakley sunglasses - to these customers, and paired it with promotions on social media. 

They also created a symmetric experience on their landing page.

Interpreting results

The Clymb saw a 10% lift in sales with this campaign. They increased conversions by behaviorally re-targeting customers based on their past behavior - in this case, a purchase that made them more likely to buy again. 

The company found that this type of outcome was fairly common for their personalization efforts.

Personalization inspiration

The Clymb’s campaign leveraged interesting data to increase sales, but it is just one strategy among many. Here are a few more ideas for behavioral re-targeting:

  • Recent browsing patterns
    • Suggest content based on the concept of: "you recently viewed and might also like ____." In e-commerce, shoppers who display an innate "browsing behavior" - viewing more than one product at a time - are statistically likely to purchase. Indulge your visitors' shopping preferences to encourage them to browse.
       
  • Urgency, discounts, and sales
    • If your business is comfortable with using discounts, promotions, and sales to urge transactions, use urgency messaging or specialized discounted cross-sells (bundles) to increase cart size and conversion rates simultaneously.
    • A few ideas for when to use urgency messaging:
      • A visitor has browsed a product multiple times
      • A visitor who didn't purchase the first time returns to your site
      • A visitor adds products to the cart without purchasing

Contextual empathy use case

Contextual empathy refers to the concept of adjusting the tone, imagery, and navigation on your site based on a visitor's context. The place a visitor is coming from can be literal, such as a particular city or country. It can also be metaphorical, such as a device, a referral site, or a certain set of expectations.

If you know where your visitors are coming from, you know something about their preferences as well. Adjust your site to your visitors' contexts to deliver a high-value, personalized experience.

Visitor expectations

AdRoll, an ad retargeting platform, personalized its site for the different business contexts its visitors were coming from. Small businesses want to be up and running quickly, while enterprise clients are accustomed to long approval and implementation cycles. 

AdRoll presented different CTAs to match the mindsets of SMB versus enterprise customers.

The company drew from several different forms of data to deliver this campaign. They combined internal research about how different user personas consume their content with an IP address identification service (Demandbase) and query parameters.

They used this data to infer whether a visitor was coming from an SMB or enterprise context. Then, they displayed the CTA that was relevant for that context.

The campaign

SMB visitors who viewed the AdRoll homepage saw a CTA suggesting that they “Try it out.” Enterprise visitors were encouraged to “Request a demo.”

Personalization inspiration

AdRoll used the CTA to bring the site closer to the visitor's mindset: her needs and preferences. Here are a few more contextual empathy strategies to try:

  • Mobile
    • Streamline the experience for mobile visitors, who usually have less time to browse. Present suggestions based on past behaviors.
    • Provide social sharing buttons to visitors who like to share or promote content.
    • Make CTA buttons rounder and more finger friendly for sites that are more difficult to navigate on mobile. 
    • Promote phone conversion channels. 
       
  • Location
    • Adjust content and imagery based on your visitor's location. Location-based empathy is especially powerful. Many organizations achieve better performance simply by adjusting for landing page to local preferences.
    • Present content that's particular relevant for certain geographies. For example, a visitor in a foreign country or rural region may be interested in your store's shipping policy.
       
  • New versus returning user
    • Show social proof to new visitors. A visitor who is on your site for the first time may be fundamentally less ready to complete a transaction with you. Consider surfacing validating information to build that visitor's trust.
    • Streamline the funnel for returning users, who may be familiar with your site and its offerings. This is particularly effective if your funnel requires multiple touch-points.
       
  • Visitor cohorts
    • Segment your visitor cohorts to meet different customers' needs. For example, you can present visitors with a new user experience on their first, second, and third visit. Then, present a different experience for the fourth or even 25th visit (if you're accustomed to seeing such loyal visitors!).
       
  • Referral Site
    • Present content that anticipates the needs implied by the site your visitors are coming from. For example, if a visitor arrived from a comparative review of your service versus a competitor's, you might present information that highlights those differences or use language from that review verbatim. 

Symmetric messaging, behavioral re-targeting, and contextual empathy are tactics you can use to greet your visitors with a highly relevant experience. To learn more about Optimizely Personalization, which can help you deliver flexible, data-driven campaigns, check out this blog post.