Industry Insights

Why Content Personalization Matters

With the dawn of email and websites, a strange thing happened; marketers began relying on mass marketing techniques that allowed the delivery of a single message across these new digital channels. This initial evolution of technology made personalized messages obsolete. Today, that’s not the case. We expect our websites to act intelligently and to maintain our privacy, just like the best sales people. In this article we will look at why personalization matters and then look at some best practices that can be used when developing personalized digital engagements.

For marketers, personalization is a strategy for delivering a customer experience that is personal, relevant and convenient. Technology for personalization enables this strategy by providing services like dynamic insertion, customization or suggestions of relevant content. The advancement and simplicity of technology today has made it easier than ever to provide a personalized digital experience. For companies implementing these technologies they can automate the discovery of key customer segments, generate retargeting campaigns, moving beyond the basics and providing a truly unified and personalized channel experience. This includes email campaigns that allow the delivery of relevant messages targeted to a user’s behavior and situation such as, location, purchase history, time of day and even current weather conditions. Finally device optimized websites that deliver relevant context based user experiences across all digital touch points.

Personalization 101

Personalization is the process of deciding within a large set what the highest value choice is to an individual. These choices can range from a customized home page look and feel, product recommendations, and banner advertisements to news content. As you can imagine personalization is a broad topic. At a more practical level personalization is an overloaded term. There are many mechanisms and approaches where content can be focused to a specific audience at an individual level. From a business standpoint personalization contributes to a variety of business goals as shown in the following table.

Business Goal


Increase site usability

Limiting navigation options and providing direct links to personalized content automatically makes a site more navigable. This allows users to find the most desirable information and services quickly.

Replicate familiar experience

Replicating familiar experiences is a key goal of personalization. Ideally personalization acts as a stand in for the friendly sales clerk. This is the person behind the counter who remembers you, suggests purchases and helps your solve problems.

Increased conversions and sales

Consistent research has shown that converting browsers to buyers has a significant impact on site revenues. Personalization brings targeted, high value purchase opportunities directly to the user. By positioning desired content in front of a user, personalization increases the odds that a browser will become a buyer.


As the internet matures and success becomes measured in traffic, retaining customers is crucial for a sites success. Personalization enhances a site’s stickiness. This means an increased likelihood that a customer will bookmark and return to your site. Customers return more frequently to sites where they receive value like personalized experiences.


Many times a customer will shop or consume information from a number of sites. Re-engagement is the process of reaching back out to a customer via email or other means to let them know you may have something that interests them. When these types of things are personalized the customer will learn to trust and interact with re-engagements attempts.

Increased loyalty

Usable sites invariable attract more users, as word of mouth spreads about the site.

Types of personalization

A non-personalized website typically presents the same content regardless of the user’s profile, personal preferences, clicking behavior and it is typically a static experience in that all users get the same content. Typically navigation and search are the main ways for users to extract information from the site. A personalized website in many ways is the exact opposite experience. It will still have a navigation structure and search facility but the main difference is that the experience can be changed based on a number of factors. The best personalization tools rely upon a multitude of technologies to help companies personalize interactions and hone their marketing offers. Let’s examine some of the ways that personalization can be implemented. The two main types of personalization available today are 'Prescriptive Personalization' and 'Adaptive Personalization'.

Prescriptive Personalization

Prescriptive personalization is rule based and triggered by interactions with a user. Insight into a user comes from a variety of areas. This includes preferences, recent activity, history, current clicking behavior, context, time of day, and many others. Prescriptive personalization is based on a set of business logic that is triggered when a user performs an activity and changes the static display of content to one that matches their preferences. To simplify the process of building business rules, visitors are often broken down into segments and this type of personalization may be referred to as segmentation. Business rules are used to filter out inappropriate offers. For example, don't offer a discount on a CD player to a customer who has already bought one. Prescriptive personalization can be broken down into two main types; explicit and implicit personalization.



Explicit personalization

Explicit personalization is where a visitor’s profile determines what content they will see.

Implicit personalization

Implicit personalization is where the behavior of the user as they navigate a website is monitored and tracked and content is presented to them based on business logic that interprets their clicking pattern into the most appropriate delivery of content.


Adaptive Personalization

Adaptive personalization is a relatively new type of personalization that predicts the content and experience a customer is looking for before and during an interaction. Rather than defining segments and then applying a set of business rules, adaptive personalization continually applies an evolving self- managed set of business rules. Traditionally one weakness of segmentation is that that you have to set up business logic for every segment or block of users you wish to target. Adaptive personalization allows a site to move away from content for the majority to content for the minority. It’s important to keep in mind that this type of technology is in its infancy but it has a great amount of possibilities.

Getting started with Personalization

Like anything with modern marketing, personalization means you focus on understanding your customer intent through engagement. This also includes focusing on context and letting context help to drive relevance for visitors. Here are several things to keep in mind as you develop your personalization strategy.

  • Make sense of your customer data first. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand your customer. Let marketing technology assist with personalization.
  • Create interactions that capitalize on what is known about customers through data. Target segments with relevant content, and learn from wins and losses for a more engaged customer.
  • Demand a customer centric approach to marketing. Think customer first and not channel first. Ignore the buzz about multichannel and first focus on your customer.
  • Think long term. Single transactions don’t build sustainable business, loyalty does. True personalization puts the customer in its lens and allows marketers to present relevant offers and messages that develop a relationship throughout the customer lifecycle.


Nobody should argue that consumers today demand a great online experience that is relevant and personal, regardless of communication channel. However, many companies continue to struggle on delivering this because of a few simple reasons.

  • A failure to define a personalization strategy, by default everyone receives the same experience regardless of their needs.
  • A flawed personalization strategy that doesn’t account for critical customer touch points like e-mail, mobile, video and social media.
  • An attempt at creating the ultimate personalization strategy which was abandoned because it wasn’t effective or sustainable.

Personalization is an important part of modern marketing. It’s a great way to increase conversion, engagement, revenue, and gain customer insight. Allowing sites to present a consistent face and offer consistent treatment across all the channels a customer may choose. Personalization is a key contributor to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Personalization provides a website with a compelling user experience that makes the difference between a website that is simply there and a website that that get bookmarked and revisited. It can help your visitors maximize their experience while on your site and ensure they re-visit in a way that is not possible with a non-personalized website.

Jade Carter

Jade Carter

Jade is a content writer for CMS-Connected, facilitating the needs of the company blog. Bringing 10 years of Search and Digital Marketing to the table, he strives to build informative, relevant and fun editorial posts for the blog feed. Jade is an ultra distance (26.2 miles+) trail runner and lives to run trails in and around his home town of Victoria, BC.

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