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The 3-Step Approach to Personalizing Experiences

You’ve seen the numbers. You’ve read the articles. Personalization is top of mind for marketing professionals around the globe, and for good reason. Delivering customized experiences based on a visitors unique characteristics and browsing behavior has been shown -- time and time again -- to improve website engagement metrics and increase conversion rates.

Although it’s great that marketers are embracing and getting excited about personalization, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, I’ve got some bad news for you. Personalization. Isn’t. Easy.

We can all agree it would be amazing if there was an automatic, turnkey, personalize-with-the-flip-of-a-switch solution out there, but sadly, that’s simply not the case.

Doing personalization the right way is an investment in time, resources, content, and technology.

And doing it right is the only way to deliver results that drive your customer experience, and your business, forward.

I want to briefly highlight the most important aspect of personalization: data.

It’s at the core of everything you do and every personalization flows through it. It’s the first step to any effective personalization strategy and having good data is a requirement to doing personalization well. You can not do personalization without good data.

The 3-Step Approach to Personalizing Experiences

The secret sauce to help turn personalization from theory into reality is a three-step methodology we’ve taken to calling the “crawl, walk, run” approach.

Below is a brief overview of each of the three stages of personalization and some generalized use cases; what personalization looks like in reality.


The Crawl, Walk, Run ApproachCrawl” personalizations are ones you can start with immediately from a content and data standpoint. These are generally low effort (meaning general, easily collected data and personalizations that can be ongoing), of varying impact, and with fast results.

Some examples of crawl personalizations are:  

  • Geolocation: For those visiting the site from a specific city, personalize a section of the homepage with information or registration for a local event that you are sponsoring or attending in that city.
  • Marketing campaigns: For those who received an email with a specific UTM code, if they click on the link to the email create a consistent experience across channels by personalizing the homepage to match the content in the email.
  • Visit frequency: First-time visitors will see the “about us” image and link prominently displayed above the fold, while visitors who have been to the site before will not see any “about us” information above the fold. For visitors who have returned to the site multiple times in a short window you could offer an opportunity sign up to a newsletter or to receive a piece of popular content.
  • Device Type: For mobile users, you could evaluate your analytics to see which content is most popular with mobile users and provide them with that content on the homepage.

The Crawl, Walk, Run ApproachWalk” personalizations will usually require additional content and more data collection for further defined segments.

These are medium to high effort (data that may require multiple visits and additional content creation), with medium to high impact.

Some examples of walk personalizations are:

  • Browsing behavior: Tag content for certain sections of the site like the blog, videos, and other webpages that align to a specific segment you want to track. Then when visitors interact with that content more than others, deliver that same relevant content to them on sections the homepage and interior pages no matter where they browse.
  • Pages viewed: Here you can contextualize the site based on multiple views. If a visitor has looked at awareness type content multiple times in a 30-day period, you could serve them conversion content on their next visit. Or if someone has visited a page about a specific topic several times, you could serve then new content that’s been created on that topic when they visit the homepage.
  • Completed events: For visitors who have taken an action (could be signing up for a webinar, attending an event, event, or joining a newsletter), you can serve them reminders about that event, content or information about a similar or related event, or show them an action/ask related to the next stage of the marketing funnel.

The Crawl, Walk, Run Approach“Run” personalizations will require additional content, more personalization events, and more data for further defined segments.

They are high effort (requiring data collection and integration from other systems, moderate to extensive content creation, and more research and manpower to build and execute rules) with high impact during an extended period of time.

Some examples of run personalizations are:

  • Integration with CRM: Leverage data from tools like Marketo or Eloqua and personalize content on sites or mobile apps based on their segment ids or other identifiers in those systems.
  • Cross-channel: Fulfilling an order on a mobile website and then receiving a discount or free delivery coupon via e-mail or next time you log onto the mobile app.
  • Combination of multiple crawl personalizations: Show regional content to visitors from that region who arrived at the site by clicking on a PPC online ad.

So there you have it -- the crawl, walk, run methodology for successful personalization, served with a side of example tactics that we’ve seen organizations deploy. In the following posts of these series, I’ll take a deep dive into data and also offer some more prescriptive and vertical specific personalization use cases.

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