As the audience of your website grows, it becomes more challenging to publish content that is relevant to all readers. Personalization gives you the ability to profile each user’s behavior and capture their preferences, allowing you to display more relevant content and ultimately, keep your audience engaged.
What is personalization?
Personalization can mean different things to different people but it mainly involves providing your audience with a more customized and engaging experience. It could mean that you’re providing content that is more relevant to their geographic location or that you’re providing them more relevant content based on what they’ve viewed or liked in the past. Personalization could also mean that your users are able to share content with each other and follow people or topics that they are interested in.
Before diving into using the most popular plugins for personalization, there are a few items that you would want to keep in mind, regardless of the type of personalization that you’re interested in.
- Serving recommendations from the personalization vendor: As the recommendations for a specific type of user may change, the recommended list of content is typically sent dynamically from the personalization vendor’s systems. Some vendors store the user’s behavior in a cookie so that your users don’t have to rely on their service being online but make sure you understand what features of your site (if any) will be impacted if the service vendor’s systems go offline.
- Limiting the user information that is shared: If you require users to sign in with their account, you have the added advantage of using their historical preferences to personalize. However, this would require you to share additional information with the personalization vendor. It is best to let your personalization vendor know just the username or a separate unique identifier for the user.
- Supporting cross-channel interactions: If you want the flexibility to capture data from your users across various channels (social media, email, mobile apps, website, etc.), you will need a vendor that can unify data from all of these channels to a single user profile (typically based on the email address). Most personalization vendors that support cross-channel data gathering will also let you publish your recommendations through any of these channels.
Types of personalization
There are no limits to how you can personalize your content but the most popular options include:
Customer Identity & Access Management
Personalizations rely heavily on understanding who your customers are. A sophisticated customer identity and access management solution will help you identify your customers regardless of the device or channel they’re engaging from, allowing you to keep your message consistent across a diverse platform.
Janrain, a Featured Partner of VIP, provides a platform that combines your ability to acquire users across multiple digital and marketing channels. In addition to providing a Single Sign-On solution, they provide a hosted user database and provide integration for social sharing.
We have also had VIP clients use Gigya, another popular platform to securely manage and update user profiles, thereby giving you a great starting point to provide personal experiences.
Custom Social Network
If you have built a community, you may be looking to empower your users to share stories, like each other’s’ contributions and have a newsfeed of updates from the people or things that they follow.
The popular BuddyPress plugin built by the WordPress community provides a lot of social network features out of the box. It provides both private messaging and public sharing. However, the vision of some of our clients were better met by using a Featured Partner for custom development.
You might have noticed that some sites have a ‘You might also like’ section, listing content related to what you have been reading. There is another variant of this personalization where content related to the current page is listed. These dynamically shortlisted links are more relevant to your users and have a higher click-through rate.
One of our featured partners: Sailthru, is the leading provider of personalized marketing communications. Their WordPress plugin makes it easy to provide personalized content through their Scout and Concierge modules. Scout provides content relevant to a page whereas Concierge provides content that is recommended for the specific user. Under the covers, both modules use predictive marketing algorithms to determine the best recommendations for your users. We have had multiple VIP clients use Sailthru’s straightforward integration to personalize their content.
If you’re looking to add a simple ‘Related Posts’ section to your website, WordPress.com’s Related Posts feature may be all you need. It’s powered by the popular Jetpack addon, which uses ElasticSearch to analyze your content and understand its relevance to the rest of your website. You can finetune how the recommendations are displayed using the customization options.
As your audience grows, you might find it challenging to provide content that is engaging to your users regardless of where they’re from. WP.com Geo Uniques allows you to target distinct geographic markets with different content. You also have the option of defining custom location groups so that you can target groups smaller than countries.