Website Personalization, Customization & How to Do it Right

Improve user experience by personalizing your website based on user actions

One thing website experts agree on is the importance of the customer’s website experience. If customers have a good experience on your website, they are more likely to purchase your products and/or services. One of the ways to improve the customer experience is to tailor that experience to each customer.  Experts use different terms to describe this; the two most common are “personalization” and “customization.”  Although people often use these terms interchangeably, there is an important difference.

Personalization vs. Customization

One of the best explanations of the subtle difference between these two terms arises in the context of purchasing music on the Internet. Customization is buying music that you choose on ITunes. Personalization is what happens when you use Pandora to stream music. Pandora serves up music based on your past behavior. If you originally listened to classical, but then started listening to jazz, Pandora will change what it plays to reflect your new behavior.  In short, customization requires you to say explicitly what you want, while personalization comes from your previous actions on that website, without needing input from you. Personalization just happens.

In general, experts believe that personalization (also called contextualization) provides a better customer experience.  This approach shows customers you actually want to understand and then meet their needs.

7 Key Elements of a Personalized Website

What are the elements of a fully personalized website? While there are many working parts, we find these to be the top elements every business should focus on:

  • It knows who the customer is—the geography, the demographics, and the website behavior
  • It remembers past customer behavior—purchases, abandoned shopping carts, pages visited and responses to special offers
  • It incorporates real-time behavior—device used to access the site, device location, time and other external factors
  • It loads quickly—the longer the load time, the less likely the customer will wait to see what is taking so long to load
  • It works equally well on any type of device—responsive website design is a must for users these days
  • It is short and sweet—it provides only the information needed for someone to decide to make a purchase
  • It is predictive—it recommends items on the website based on previous actions

Get Help Personalizing Your Customers’ Website Experience

Understanding the elements of a personalized website experience is only the beginning. You must then learn how to implement those elements into your site effectively. Many businesses have limited time and money. Small businesses don’t always have the expertise and tools in-house.

The easiest way to implement a personalized website is to start small and get help.  Specialists who work with small and medium-sized businesses already know the tools and software required. They can also tailor programs to your needs and budget, adding more features as the tangible benefit of personalization—more sales—become evident.