Personalised content for each visitor

Writer: Michiel Ooms

In this digital era we need to offer the right content within the right context.

This might sound obvious, but it’s easier said than done. How can organisations know what the right context is? And how can you ensure your content is relevant for your customer, and offered at the right time?

Data is key here. And we’re not just talking classic web stats such as number of visitors and visit duration. More and more, customers are shown content that matches their personal profile. We develop online platforms for different target audiences, showing content based on data. Data tells us where users have been, what they’ve done and what their preferences are. After all, data is there to make life easier for the consumer and to provide companies with optimal efficiency.

Context-aware design

So, we focus on the user and the context they’re in to provide the right data. Imagine you’ve booked a flight to Barcelona: you’ll most certainly get prompted to find out more about the Catalan city. However, that’s not particularly personal. If your trip were in June, you’d like to know that it’d be about twenty degrees there. But truly relevant information is receiving a message two days before your departure that informs you about the upcoming heat wave - saving you the hassle of lugging around a jumper. This means we need to design using data sources, whether this is our own data or data provided by external sources. If a user also checks in a golf bag, he or she will most likely spend ample time walking the green – and we can suggest golf clubs and restaurants with a more up-market feel.

All of these variables can direct content focus to what we know about the user. We create a platform that deploys different user profiles to offer a relevant user experience: to show relevant content – in the right place, at the right time.

Data source synergy

To anticipate users’ behaviour and needs, all kinds of data from different sources need to be connected: data from a customer database, the call centre and web analytics. In order to connect all these sources properly, separate departments within organisations have to look beyond their own responsibilities, website or app. The customer journey is rarely a straight line from A to B: customers use apps, websites, social platforms and switch between online and offline.

Understanding all channels and means

KPIs - (Key Performance Indicators) - are the only means to objectively compare the efficiency of online channels with offline ones such as shops and call centres. Translating business goals like sales, cost reduction and customer satisfaction into KPIs is a solid starting point for optimisation and channel direction. However, in order to really change direction, success factors need to be translated into monetary value so that the investment return can be calculated. After all, a comparison is only useful when you can attach an objective worth to a new app user, for example. Now we can easily compare 1,000 new app users with 2,000 newsletter subscribers.

Crush the column, focus on customer journey

Once we have clarified our goals, we need to define the customer journey and user goals. Mapping out a customer journey provides focus and inspiration. And – equally important – it promotes thinking outside of the column. Booking a seat on a flight can be done through the website, the app or at a service point in the airport. Users expect both consistency and relevance; if you were at home, you’d probably want to know how to get to the airport; but if you’re at the airport, you need to know where the baggage drop-off and customs are. Taking the customer journey and context as a starting point clarifies which data is needed to provide an optimal customer experience, such as real-time weather reports to provide relevant travel advice. This is one of the key parts of dynamic design.

Dynamic design – the end of one-size-fits-all

Digital design is less and less about a good-looking yet static image. What we offer customers nowadays is defined by time, profile, clicking and buying behaviour, device, screen size and sensor information. In short, not just content, but even design needs to adapt to the user context.

Hypotheses and testing

So, should everything be displayed dynamically? Certainly not. Instead, we focus on information that improves conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Ultimately, what counts is insight into which factors influence buying and service processes. And insight, like money, doesn’t grow on trees. Start by formulating a hypothesis, for example: ‘If we remove the carrousel and replace it with a personalised offer based on a previous purchase, the conversion rate should improve by 0.1%’. Or, ‘if we communicate real-time weather data, customer satisfaction will improve from 7.8 to 8.’ Then, test this hypothesis in a live situation with real users and scale up if successful. Rinse, repeat. An important rule of thumb is to start small when it comes to personalisation and tackle areas first where improvement of KPIs is most likely.