Personalized content — what it is, why it’s important, and how to get started
Generic content makes it hard to stand out from the competition and connect with your target audiences. Buyers and shoppers see so much content every day, that savvy brands need to do something unique and memorable.
Personalized content is more likely to grab customers’ attention, engage them in a conversation, and lead them to conversion. Learning how to effectively personalize content is important if you want to attract new customers and bring returning ones back to your brand.
To help you improve your content personalization, this post will cover:
- What is personalized content?
- How to personalize content
- The different types of personalized content
What is personalized content?
Personalized content is any brand messaging that creates a unique, targeted experience using specific data and information about the customer. Audiences expect an increasingly customized experience when interacting with brands — especially brands that they frequently engage with. They want to feel important and valued and not like an anonymous face in the crowd, so marketers use data to create content that is catered directly to individual customers.
A classic example is using a customer’s first name in an email subject line to encourage them to open the message, but this is no longer enough. Customers want more personalization and connection. In fact, a recent Twilio study showed:
- 49% of customers will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a retail brand.
- 1 in 3 consumers say they will shop with a brand they’ve had a good experience with again, even if there are cheaper or more convenient options.
How to personalize content
Determining the best ways to incorporate personalized content into your brand’s marketing strategy will get easier over time and the specifics will depend on your industry and audience. In the meantime, here are a few proven strategies to engage customers, drive conversions, and create repeat buyers.
1. Understand and segment your audience
Before you personalize content, it’s important to know who you’re personalizing it for. Segment your audience by separating them into different categories and serving each group the content that is best suited to their demographic and need.
Some common examples of audience segments include:
- Location. This is an easy place to begin understanding your audience, since you can use their location to provide relevant content. This can be as simple as delivering climate-specific content depending on where a customer lives.
- Age. Use your customers’ ages to understand what kinds of shoppers they are and how to serve them better. For example, if you’re targeting older shoppers, you may encourage them to visit you in-store, whereas content targeting younger shoppers might focus on an online checkout process.
- Position in the customer journey. Speak to potential customers differently than you do to repeat customers. The language you use plays a large role in their personalized shopping experience.
Be careful not to over-categorize your audience. Being too specific is actually counterproductive and makes it harder to provide personalized content. For example, segmenting by age ranges can be useful but trying to use exact numbers is complicated and unnecessary.
2. Provide value
Figure out what customers want from their online experiences so you can offer value they appreciate. You can:
- Get marketing and customer service teams together. Let your content team learn about pain points and common questions from those who have direct contact with customers.
- Listen to your audience. Customer focus groups let you gather feedback on brand messaging, content, and campaigns. You can also use surveys, reviews and ratings, support tickets, and social media comments to learn what your audience needs.
- Study analytics. Look at engagement metrics to determine which content users interact with most, which content doesn’t get attention, which channels are used during different stages of the buyer’s journey, and more.
Provide value by customizing content for each of your channels, understanding your customer’s journey, knowing how they flow through your website, and what types of content they use to get from one stage to another. Learning how your audience interacts with your brand by looking at website analytics and getting insights from UX and CX teams will ensure you’re providing customers with value throughout their journey.
3. Collect necessary data
The more data you can collect, the more personalized and effective your content can be. Important data points include:
- Purchase history. Knowing if they’ve bought a product or service from your business in the past can offer insights about what they may be interested in next.
- Traffic history. Understanding how a customer arrived at your website provides insight about their interests. This includes touch points such as keyword searches, whether they landed on your page from social media or another website, and more.
- Customer behavior. When customers arrive on your site, look at what pages they navigate to first, what they click on, and what they seem to be interested in. This helps you personalize content along the buyer journey in general, and it provides specific data about what each contact might need next.
- Interests. Ask the customer directly what they’re interested in via email surveys, pop-up quizzes, and social media posts. This direct feedback will ensure your personalization efforts are accurate.
- Demographics. To collect even more information about your consumer, you’ll need specific data from them. The information you get will depend on your customers’ willingness to share with you. A 2018 report by Accenture showed that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience. You can even streamline this data collection process by using a CRM or personalization platform.
4. Plan a strategy and begin creating content
After you’ve done your research and collected data about your audience, it's time to plan your personalized content strategy.
- Map each persona’s customer journey across various channels. Identify which types of content they’re most engaged with at each stage of the process.
- Design content for each persona at each stage of their journeys. Make sure it’s customized to the channel and the distinct need each user has at that step.
- Plan for personalization. Leave opportunities to individualize each piece of content — a name, a birthday message, recommendations, and more.
Remember not to go overboard. Certain types of personalization — like an emailed discount code on a customer’s birthday — will always be appreciated. However, showing your customer that you know too much about them probably won’t be. There’s no need to present your customer with every single piece of data you have about them all at once. Ultimately, the type of personalization you choose will depend on your business, audience and industry.
Types of personalized content
An effective content strategy uses many types of content and almost all of them can benefit from personalization.
One of the most effective forms of personalized content is tailored product recommendations. This is a great way to personalize content to your audience and enhance their online shopping experiences. Using the customers’ previous search or purchase history, you can provide relevant recommendations that are similar to what the customer is already interested in.
For example, jewelry brand Catbird provides personalized product recommendations for shoppers who regularly browse the website.
Personalized emails are a great way of creating content that feels customized to each recipient. Use subscriber data, like name, age, location and more, to send emails that are relevant and valuable to customers. This will strengthen your brand’s relationship with its customers, and increase open rates, engagement, and revenue. A 2019 Bluecore report showed that personalized emails result in a 139% increase in click rate compared to static one-time sends.
A common type of personalized email is one that gets a former customer back onto your site by emailing them about a sale in a department they’ve shopped before. You can also re-engage a customer who may have left your site with items still in their cart, and encourage them to return to complete the purchase.
Social media ads
There are two main ways of personalizing social media ads to your customers.
- Target particular ads to certain segments of your audience. You can serve different social media ads to the audience groups that would find them most relevant. This can be based on data like age, location, or browsing history.
- Re-target customers who may have previously visited your site. This is a strategy for getting a potential customer to make a purchase, especially if the ad features a product they were previously looking at.
You can personalize your brand’s CTAs depending on who the customer is and where they’ve come from. This allows you to cater particular features to the customers who are most likely to engage with them. A common example is displaying a CTA related to redeeming points to users who are logged into a loyalty account. This strategy is also easily and effectively executed in emails. For example, a customer who regularly shops your brand is more likely to engage with an email alerting them of a members-only discount.
Clothing retailer Old Navy features a digital countdown for members who collect rewards to remind them to redeem their points.
Adjusting your site’s main header image is a great way to create a personalized experience. You might choose a photo featuring items relevant to the customer or a photo related to the customer’s geographic location. You can even personalize the text on the image. These details all play a role in creating a connection with a customer.
You can recommend specific blog posts by using customer data to draw conclusions about the post topics that visitors will likely click on. Use behavioral data to recommend blog posts and other resourceful content on the site that users might be interested in. This provides users with a unique online experience that is tailored to their interests, which will keep them on your site and reading your content.
For example, if a user spent time on an introductory post during a previous visit, you might email them a download link to a more in-depth PDF. This is also a great way to encourage users to visit multiple pages on your website. This provides users with a unique online experience that is tailored to their interests, which will keep them on your site and engaged with your content.
Homepage and featured content
If you have the information, you can start a customer’s experience on your website by greeting them by name. You can also curate your homepage so that the content they’ll be interested in is at the forefront when they arrive.
For example, you can prominently feature a sale on pet items on the homepage if you know the user has purchased pet items in the past.
Personalized landing pages that feature content that appeals to your customers’ needs will keep them engaged. Even if you’ve sent an amazing personalized email, you’ll need an equally great landing page to actually keep them on your site. Landing pages are an opportunity to get a user to click through to different pages of your site, so if a user feels like a landing page has been curated for them, they will be more likely to stay and explore.
For example, if you send an email about a back-to-school promotion to a customer who has purchased kids’ items from your brand in the past, ensure that the customer lands on a page that features products tailored to their kids’ ages, local school guidelines, and character or design preferences.
Games and apps
Interactive games and quizzes keep audiences immersed in your content while providing them with a personalized experience. There are two key ways to personalize games and apps.
- Gathering information. Quizzes and games are great data collection tools, as they offer further insights about customers’ habits. You can create a simple quiz to learn about customers’ lifestyles, needs and interests, and then use that information to deliver personalized content to them in different areas of your brand messaging going forward.
- Promotions, sales and discounts. Apps are a great place to offer members-only perks or discounts. This will encourage customers to use the app instead of a web browser, which increases downloads and requires customers to sign in to a member account. Customers who download a brand’s app are likely already repeat customers and are solidifying their loyalty to your brand, and creating a personalized experience will further strengthen your relationship with your most loyal audience.
Getting started with personalized content
Personalized content builds stronger relationships with your customers and increases the likelihood of them engaging with your brand, returning to your site, and re-purchasing from your company.
When you’re ready to get started with personalized content, begin by analyzing your audience. Make sure you understand them and their needs so you can begin creating content that is specific and useful.
Using a combination of A/B and multivariate testing, Adobe Target works as an optimization engine across screens and channels and makes it easy to perform testing, measurement, and optimization — all without writing code.
Watch the Adobe Target overview video to learn how this personalization tool delivers a personalized online experience to every customer at scale.