Updating your Website, from Optimization to Personalization

Your brand website is the virtual face of your company and the experience it provides affects the behavior of your visitors, your potential customers. Because of this, it is important to continually change and evolve your site to keep up with your visitors - their needs and wants are continually changing and so should your site. If you have ever noticed visitor volume slipping or usage of certain aspects of your site dwindling, then perhaps it is time (or past time) to think about updating the way your site operates. 
When thinking about how visitors interact with your site, a baseline practice is to only track the features of the site itself and when the feature is being used. While that is important, it is also important to think about tracking the other side of the screen. Your visitors are arguably a more lucrative data source, knowing who your visitors are, what their behavior on your site means and what their interests entail can provide significant insight into how your brand is performing.
Optimization, Personalization, or both?
Gone are the days of simply putting content on your site and reaping the rewards of digital traffic to your site. In fact, with over 876,000,000 websites in existence, according to the January 2015 Web Server Survey by NetCraft, the internet has become a highly competitive marketplace. One way to ensure your website is meeting the demands of online users is to look at optimization strategies; another way is to implement personalization strategies for one-on-one marketing to your customers. 
It is time to consider optimizing your site if aspects of your site have started to look out of date or don’t function as intuitively as compared to other sites. Or perhaps your descriptions are confusing to the uninformed visitors or to search engines. Then it may be time to consider optimizing your site.
If you have a site that offers products or services based on visitor logins, or if you have a travel site and want to find new ways to entice visitors to travel to faraway places, then you may want to personalize your visitor's experience.  
When thinking of either solution, or if you are concerned with both areas, an important step is choosing a vendor who can support your needs. At Stratigent, we have a framework referred to as Intelligent SolverTM that helps organizations build a blend of client-side optimization with server-side personalization.  
Regardless of your approach, you need to ensure you have the right technology. So, what do you need to consider when choosing a vendor? Below are some key areas to think about as you choose the best vendor for your needs.
Determine what changes you need to make
Do you plan to change verbiage only? Changing out CTA text, description wordings, etc. can have an impact and is fairly simple to implement. Changes to styling (colors, fonts, buttons, etc.) can make quite an impact with only a little effort. Swapping generic images for detailed ones or utilizing personalized images based on prior visits\experiences, etc. can be quite impactful.  Or, are you changing your entire layout? Altering headers, footers and body within or perhaps adjusting to move certain content above the "fold", etc. can be useful for unifying the site's overall theme\message.
Perhaps you plan to use a combination of these types of changes? You might consider changing verbiage and swapping out images, or changing the button styles and swapping the text on them, or even changing the colors and images based on personal preferences.
In some cases, it might be beneficial to change ALL of the above. Combining these changes, such as changing the layout to move items above the fold, utilizing smaller images to allow for more space above the fold, changing the font and button styles to appear more sleek, and cutting down on the verbiage to get right to the point, can help increase the usability of your site. 
Choosing a Vendor for Optimization & Personalization

Ask #1: Do you offer personalization options?
An important question to ask is if personalization options are available. Once you’ve determined this, then ask what types of options are there for you to utilize and what solutions do you actually want to use. One valuable aspect of personalization is the option to learn more about a visitor over time to provide predictions for audience preference on content, promotions and other marketing initiatives. With geographical location (state and zip code) you can use them to show local deals, etc. Local weather can be used to show pertinent options - if it is raining, show enticing pictures of the sun; if it is snowing, suggest traveling to somewhere warm or a sale on cold weather products, and so on. Day and time can be used to show different options over the weekend vs during the work week at rush hour, or to adjust for peak times, etc.  
Other personalization data can be tracked and used to make decisions, such as visitor's online behavior (other types of sites visited, products purchased, etc. through the use of cookies) can be used to show similar items to what they may have searched for on other sites. Site interactions (scrolling, time spent sitting on a page, frequently visited pages, etc.) can be used to trigger options to entice them to make a purchase. Their device type (desktop, mobile, browser, OS, etc.) can be used to enhance their experience by optimizing certain portions of the page for their specific device specifications. Taking it a step further, your offline CRM data, data you already have about visitors, can be used to provide a more rounded picture.
If personalization options are not offered and you need to personalize based on anything other than typical user entry, then this may mean that you will need to either choose a different vendor for personalization, or build your own methods via a TMS or other internal options. 
Ask #2: Do you offer content management?
If the vendor offers content management, then your alternate content can be housed within the tool and does not require IT involvement. If it is not available, then your new content would need to be housed on your own servers and would require IT to house and provide location for referencing in the tool.
Ask #3: Do you offer data analytics integration, have your own built-in analytics tool, or neither?
An integration usually only requires minimal setup within the tool to provide analytics account information, with all other steps handled by the vendor's predetermined methods. A built-in tool typically requires no extra steps to setup (small ones may be necessary based on campaign type) and is specifically designed for how the tool was meant to function during a test; having neither available would require a custom setup via a TMS or IT deployment.
Ask #4: Are your services within our budget?
Some vendors may charge differently depending on expected number of visitors to the page(s) being tested. Some vendor tools may offer all of the bells and whistles, but that may be more than you need. On the other hand, some vendors may offer smaller tool sets, or less features, so be sure that the tool fits your needs AND your budget.
Here are some of our relevant partners from our Multi-Channel Partner Network of 75+ vendors (in no particular order):
  • Maxymiser
  • Optimizely
  • Adobe Target
  • Monetate
  • SimpleRelevance
  • Tealium AudienceStream
  • HP Optimost
  • Rich Relevance
  • Ensighten Activate
If you would like more information on our Intelligent SolverTM solution or help in determining the best optimization/ personalization fit for your needs, please contact us at info@stratigent.com or leave a comment below!
By Jeremy Banks
About the Author:

Jeremy Banks is the Quality Assurance Practice Lead at Stratigent.

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