How to Design Low-Tech Content Personalization

Personalization. The very word strikes fear in the hearts of content strategy teams everywhere. Everyone wants it, but it seems like an awful lot of work.

In a recent article on the Adobe blog by Senior & Strategic Editor Giselle Abramovich, she states:

“Indeed, 67% of respondents said it’s important for brands to automatically adjust content based on their current context. And when they don’t? A whopping 42% of respondents said they get annoyed when their content isn’t personalized. That’s followed by 33% who get annoyed when content is poorly designed, and 29% when content isn’t optimized for their devices. What’s more, an alarming 66% of consumers said encountering any of these situations would stop them from making a purchase.” –Consumer Demand For Personalized Content Reaches All-Time High

But what does all of this mean?

What is Content Personalization?

Most definitions of content personalization seem fairly straight-forward. Personalized content is content written specifically for the person reading it. As one article describes it:

“Presenting a visitor to your website with content that is not in line with their needs will leave them feeling disgruntled and ultimately cause them to leave your site. In contrast, by presenting personalized content to each of your website visitors according to their likes and dislikes, you create the advantage of having on-hand a community of people that faithfully represent you as your brand cheerleaders.” –7 Benefits of Personalized Website Content and a Dynamic Website [bolding added by me]

For most people, this is where the fear begins. It sounds as though every single visitor will receive different content. That means there must be a complex algorithm to pull data points such as to location, interests, and behaviors.

Guess what? There can be… but there are other ways to personalize content.

How To Create Low-Tech Personalization

First things first: take a deep breath. Then, consider some of these low-tech options for personalization. None require intensive development work or crazy algorithms!

Personalize by Audience

When you identify your target audience, you are on your way to personalization. No, really! When studies come out saying people prefer content from websites that speak to them, the details are often fluffy. But in the more detailed examples, people see statements that connect to them as personalization.

Take, for example, the statement from “7 Benefits of Personalized Website Content and a Dynamic Website.” People wanted content for their current “context.” That might mean mobile-friendly, or it might mean knowing if they’ve visited before (cookies). It might mean using the right microcopy, or it might mean changing the websites imagery with the season.

That doesn’t mean your clothing store should say: “You’ve bought 3 pairs of pants here before. Do you want another pair?” It may just mean saying: “You don’t want to spend your time shopping. We’re here to help. Check out this season’s top styles!”

If your target audience is people who don’t like shopping and live in the Northeast, sharing autumn styles will feel highly personalized.

User-Driven Personalization

User-driven personalization is highly underrated. Think about it: for every study on the value of personalization, there’s also a study on personalization getting “creepy.”

The best way to solve for “creepiness” is to communicate why something is personalized, and how.

User-driven personalization means asking someone what they want, and remembering what they said. Ask what topics they care about for future emails. Let them choose what size shoe they wear. Ask what article topics they want to see on the homepage.

There’s no harm in asking, and even less harm in allowing them to update their preferences.

Behavior-driven Personalization

For every piece of content you want to personalize, there must be an action to trigger it. When it comes to algorithms, these are data points. But there’s another option.

Behavior-driven personalization (while often a high-tech tactic) can be low-tech. There are just three steps:

  1. List the content you want to personalize. For example, “congratulate on their recent purchase.”
  2. Identify the action/trigger for each piece of content. For example, “they made a recent purchase.”
  3. Determine how you can learn that the action has occurred. For example, “purchase entered in POS.”

This can take many forms. On one healthcare app we identified “ask if patient needs to find a new doctor” as a possible content element. The action: “patient moved.” We don’t know when patients move, but we do know if they update their address. So #3 – the determining factor – is “patient updated address.”

UX Still Comes First

The sheer number of data points can overwhelm anyone considering personalization. It’s tough to make choices. So keep in mind, personalization should be in this order:

  1. Build the User Experience
  2. Choose your data points

Remember, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Rather than trying to choose whether to personalize by interests, demographics, or one of a million past behaviors, first figure out the ideal user experience.

As you craft that experience you’ll note opportunities for personalization. Flag them to discuss with the development team. Personalization should support the experience. It’s not vice versa!

Give your audience what they want. Personalize your content, without breaking the bank.

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