Personalization is About The Person

By Jeannie Walters

Since about the early part of this decade, it’s been all about personalization, right? How can we personalize the user experience for the visitor? If they are a returning customer, can we greet them by name?

But while business owners and web designers have long touted the importance of personalizing the digital experience, few have considered the person as a whole. Greeting a returning user by name is nice, but names don’t help the user really achieve more.hello

Follow the leaders. . .

The best sites personalize in ways that help the user achieve the personal mission of why he or she is there. The person’s mission – not yours.

Consider ecommerce. The driving mission of the site should be to convert as many visitors as possible. But the visitor might be someone who wants advice or education. Perhaps she is visiting from her mobile device to find the nearest location. Or maybe he is looking for the best way to upgrade a product he already owns.

The best sites are designed to greet the visitor as a person with personal needs. So instead of just designing a site, design an experience for each person. While not everyone can invest in the technology to do so, it’s critical to at least think of the most likely use cases for each visitor.

The American Red Cross, a well-recognized and respected non-profit, understood this issue as a key part of the success of the 132-year old relief organization. Investing in ways to update technology, the digital presence is now a robust component to raising money through donations, educating the public, and responding to those in need using digital channels to seek help in times of crisis. (Those $10 text donations raised millions for Haiti and other disasters!)

Part of this initiative was recognizing how and where a user is accessing the site so the right message at the right time can be presented. As Craig Oldham, Vice President of Marketing at the American Red Cross, explained in a recent presentation at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition, The Red Cross truly doesn’t know what they will have to deal with next. Punctuated by the recent examples of Super Storm Sandy, the tornadoes in Oklahoma and the wildfires of California, Oldham explained the Red Cross must continue their mission in the midst of everything going on at once. As the provider for 70% of the world’s blood, they continue to hold blood drives in less affected parts of the country.

So depending on where you are visiting from as a user, you will see different messages. The way he put this was what inspired this post. I may be paraphrasing a bit here, but the message was:

Personalization means the person can fulfill his or her part of the mission for the Red Cross.

How can you ensure personalization for each person?

  • Create a user journey map and consider why each visitor would be there in the first place. Step into your user’s shoes and present what he or she is seeking, not what you are necessarily presenting.
  • Offer options where they are most appropriate. In the Red Cross example, they could consider the visitor’s actual location and what option was most appropriate for the personal mission. If all you have is great navigation, use it!
  • Ask for feedback. No matter how much we think we know about the visitor’s personal mission, it never hurts to ask. What brings you here? How can we help you? The answers can help direct how you design a more personalized experience.

The world is moving at a very fast pace and this means those microchips in our brains can’t be too far off. Instead of thinking along the lines of advertisements that yell at you as we witnessed Tom Cruise endure in Minority Report, why not think of the power of personalization based on what’s best for the person?

The whole discussion could change and empower both web sites and the people who use them to – quite literally – change the world.

There is more where this came from…

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