Achieving the Impossible: Personalization for First-Time and Unknown Visitors
E-commerce marketers, here are two hard truths you’re likely familiar with: Out of 100 visitors to your site at any given time, only one or two make a purchase. This corresponds to the average 1.2 percent conversion rate for e-commerce sites. Moreover, if you try to improve conversion by introducing website personalization, you run into a brick wall. The vast majority of site visitors are anonymous — i.e., they're not logged in or are visiting for the first time. The share of anonymous visitors can be as high as 8,095 percent. Low conversion rates, anonymous visitors. What’s a marketer to do? Here are three strategies to consider, and examples of successful implementations.
1. Use first-party data to personalize the user experience. While you may not know most visitors’ names and home addresses, they're far from being truly anonymous. Each visitor to your site brings with them a wealth of implicit information that you may use to provide them with a more personal and engaging experience. Right off the bat, you may have access to the visitor’s geographic location, the device used to browse your site, and the marketing channel or traffic source that brought this visitor. You can, and should, collect behavioral data using browser cookies. This will allow you to know whether this is a new or returning visitor. The longer and more often they stay, you'll also get to know what previous products they've been interested in. This data will allow you to personalize their experience, even if they haven’t purchased or signed up yet.
Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses have been tailoring their shopper experience since the dawn of shopping. They custom fit their stores to the locales they reside in, and train attentive staff to quickly assess shoppers and provide them with a personal journey. With the data now available, a lot of the same can be achieved online. A few examples:
- A visitor’s location can help determine what language, currency and brand message they should be presented with. For instance, a particular brand may showcase different products based on weather patterns at the visitor’s location (e.g., showing winter clothing to a visitor from a northern U.S. state in October, while showing lighter clothes to a visitor from California at the same time), using different hero images, slogans and sales offers.
- Device type can help determine how to display your content properly. By studying this data, you can understand any correlations between device type and buying patterns. For instance, you may find that iPhone visitors buy items in different price ranges compared to Android visitors, and therefore push your personalized suggestions accordingly.
- Traffic source tells you a lot about what the visitor may be interested in and what type of user they are. Combine this information with their brand new or returning status and their browsing and search history, and you can determine what other products or services need to be presented. For instance, if you knew that a segment of your visitors clicked through ads or sponsored content on a technically oriented site, you could focus on brand messages that highlight product features, while visitors coming from social media may be presented with more educational content. Take, for example, the following airline site, first as it appears to a visitor in the US:
And then as it appears to a visitor in the airline’s native Italy:
Note how the basic design of the site remains identical, while the top marketing message, the default origin airport and the currency used change. Implementing personalization based on first-party data can be done manually or programmatically using personalization tools or features of your e-commerce platform.
2. Leverage third-party data to predict a shopper’s profile. A lot of the personal data collected directly and indirectly from recurring, registered users can also be inferred from data collected by third-party data aggregators on anonymous shoppers. Data collected by such means may include demographics data (gender, education, income) as well as intent- and interest-based data. What are they interested in? What are they searching for? What types of websites are they visiting?
While none of this is personally identifiable information (PII), with such data in your arsenal, you should have a clearer understanding of what makes your visitors tick. You'll have a good idea of which segments this person belongs to, what they're in the market for, and what else they may be interested in. For instance, if you knew the gender of your anonymous visitors, you could offer them different clothing suggestions. If you knew that a segment of your anonymous visitors have read articles about eating healthy, you might suggest workout clothes, and so forth. Implementing personalization based on third-party data providers can be done by purchasing the data directly from the providers. However, leading-edge e-commerce personalization tools are fully integrated with this data, and combine it with other data to produce superior results.
3. Enhance your site with additional tools for anonymous visitors. You've successfully marketed your wares, and traffic on your site is growing. Your online store is a thing of beauty — the graphics pop, navigation is intuitive, the checkout process uses best-in-class tools, etc. And yet, something is still missing. Consider enhancing the shopping experience by adding more interactive and personal touches that will benefit both anonymous visitors and repeat buyers. Adding inline chat (manned by a live agent), for example, will enable talking with anonymous visitors and potentially shorten the distance to sale. For example, if some of your products are customizable, an interactive product builder can increase user engagement. Tools that offer visitors specialized pricing that's revealed after login can incentivize registration and turn casual visitors into signed-up users. Tools that offer personalized pop-ups with unique incentives can drive users to subscribe to email newsletters. This is just a short sample of the myriad third-party tools that you can take advantage of and integrate into your site to help create a better, more personal experience for visitors and convert some of them from completely anonymous to “known.”
If you’re combating both low conversion rates and a high volume of anonymous visitors, don't despair. You're not alone. There are still plenty of ways to improve the user experience for your visitors, converting more of them into customers. Make no mistake, just because a visitor isn't logged in or is visiting for the first time doesn't mean you cannot personalize the experience for them. Using a combination of first- and third-party data and a smart personalization tool can go a long way in converting a first-time anonymous visitor into a longtime fan.
Ohad Shperling is the co-founder and CEO of Personalics, a company that helps retailers increase sales with personalized messaging across channels.
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