Every good marketer or conversion optimization specialist knows that segmenting customers is the key to get your message across more efficiently (and make more sales).
I'm sure you know this as well.
Segmentation is universally recognized as a necessary prerequisite for sales to happen.
Segmentation just works.
What if you take segmentation to the extreme? ...what if you start hyper-segmenting your users?
Tools mentioned in this article
Personalization tool. Collects user data and allows dynamic customization of pages.
Email automation software with conditional content capabilities (from the built-in visual editor).
Email automation software with conditional content capabilities (in developer mode).
Why segmentation works
Segmentation works because it allows you to deliver a very targeted message to a small group of users.
It works because the users in a segment (or bucket) have similar characteristics and similar needs. Consequently, a message especially crafted for them resonates better.
When you do this right, you can make a user feel as you are reading her mind. It creates a real bond and increases trust (big time).
Crafting a message for a specific segment is a form of personalization, albeit a very simple one.
Hyper-personalization is basically taking this concept to the extreme.
Hyper-personalization is possible only if you are able to do hyper-segmentation.
Hyper -segmentation is possible only if you collect enough relevant data from your users.
If we were to draw a simple flowchart, we’d have:
Collect data > hyper-segment > hyper-personalize
Going beyond segmentation
Many marketers buy into segmentation and they implement some sort of grouping or “buckets” for their users.
However, most of the time, this effort is very superficial.
Having 3 buckets is better than treating everyone the same but it is not nearly enough to make advanced personalization.
Most people stop here because they recognize they don’t have the resources or the skills to handle more than 3 customer personas.
The truth is that proper segmentation is hard work.
Ideally, you want to segment your users over multiple metrics at different stages of the user journey.
You are a veterinary offering online courses and you know a few key pieces of information about your potential customers (visitors of your website).
1) you know they may own:
- a dog;
- a cat;
- a cat and a dog.
2) you know they may value:
- pet’s health;
- pet’s fitness;
- pet’s looks.
3) you know their pets may be:
4) you know they may:
- live with young kids;
- have no kids in the house;
- want to have kids.
This example has 4 different metrics, each one with 3 options (buckets).
If you use a similar structure for your segmentation, you create yourself a set of 81 different customer personas:
3 buckets x
3 buckets x
3 buckets x
3 buckets =
Congratulations, you now have enough personas to start micro-targeting your users/customers.
SIDENOTE: so far, the highest number of customer personas we have handled on one hyper-personalized page is 576.
With 81 customer personas, you can deliver highly personalized messages to a very small group of individuals. If you are able to do this consistently throughout your website, your chances of converting those users into paying customers increase massively.
To reach this level of hyper-personalization, you have to face two major challenges:
- you need data;
- you need to create more content.
For your hyper-personalization effort to give any result, you need to solve both issues.
In the example above, you need to get your website visitors to answer 4 different questions.
It might seem easy BUT - before you make up your mind on how easy or difficult that is - I urge you to consider a couple of things…
Open your Google Analytics and set the time frame to 30 days. Then do this:
- look at how many unique visitors you get in one month;
- look at your bounce rate. Write it down;
- look at how many people visit at least 3 pages. Write it down as a percentage of the total unique visitors.
For most websites, less than 50% of people browse more than 3 pages.
This means that, for 50% of your users, you have just 2 clicks to collect the information you need to show them a hyper-personalized page.
Does it still sound easy?
SIDENOTE: we spend tens of thousands of $$$ to build beautiful websites and we spend even more to create countless pages of content… all to end up with more than 50% of visitors taking just a quick look and browsing at most 3 pages.
This is nonsense. And yet, nobody is doing anything to fix it.
I truly believe our primary goal should be to extend the user journey. Today, I don’t have a solution to recommend but we are running a research program that hopefully will give us the answer to crack this challenge.
Getting data from your customers is far from easy.
There are basically 4 ways to do that:
- use an application;
- track their usage of your website;
- collect data with your email automation system;
- ask them.
1. Use an application
There are applications like RightMessage that promise to collect user data to enrich their profile and allow you making better segmentation.
RightMessage works by popping up one-question micro-surveys on your site. The idea is brilliant.
However, if you need answers to 4 questions and 50% of people see just 3 pages… you understand how RightMessage is gonna fail you miserably.
2. Track the user journey
A good (and cheaper) alternative to RightMessage is just to track which pages people browse on your website and get an idea of what they are interested in.
You are basically tracking their user journey.
While this approach is effective, there are a few problems with it:
- they way they move on your site depends on how good your website architecture is;
- it also depends on the user interface, usability and content.
In other words, they might not find a page they’d be really interested in simply because the site sucks.
On top of that, if 50% of users see just 3 pages, you are again stuck with missing data.
3. Use emails
Collecting data with your email automation system might work better.
You can give people links to click based on their preference for each of the 4 metrics. Clicking one link will put them into one of the three buckets for that metric.
While this approach works in theory, in practice is subject to two severe limitations:
- it works only on people who subscribed to your email list, which are a small subset of your total visitors;
- one user has to open 4 different emails and to click on 4 different links. This reduces a LOT the number of users you’ll be able to profile correctly and it extends the time for profiling.
The result is that you’ll be probably able to profile correctly only about 1% of your traffic.
4. Survey them
In my experience with several clients, asking them to take a questionnaire is the most efficient and effective way to get data from people.
The success of this operation depends on how good you are to frame your request.
Using the word “assessment” or “quiz” generally works better than talking about “survey”.
The key is in leading users to believe they get something out of spending time filling this questionnaire.
If they feel you are just hunting for information, you’ll lose them.
Here is an example of a questionnaire with a personalized report:
IMPORTANT: you need to save the data you collected with the survey.
Ideally, you want to save the information in the database of your website (MySQL if you are on a CMS like Wordpress or Joomla).
Saving the data to a database allows you to retrieve it once the user comes back to the site, so you can continue to offer her a personalized experience.
Let’s say you successfully collected data on the metrics you want to use for your hyper-personalization program.
If you are the veterinary of our example, do you have to create 81 different variations of your site?
That would be impossible (or at least VERY expensive).
So what can you do instead?
The best approach to hyper-personalize your pages is to divide the content into blocks and make use of conditional content.
This way you have to create just 3 variations of the content for each of the 4 metrics.
This makes 12 segments of content in total, for each page you want to display to the user.
So, we go from 81 different pages to 12 different blocks of content you can assemble together to create 81 variations.
It is still a lot more content than a non-personalized website. However, the possible gain is worth the effort.
The goal is to deliver a page of personalized content the user can really connect with.
IMPORTANT: I am not suggesting to do this for every page of your site.
Ideally, you want to create one hyper-personalized page (or short funnel) that your visitor can use as a "hub" to explore your site.
Due to the way they are built, hyper-personalized pages are extremely relevant to every website visitor.
Trust is instantly boosted because each user believes you understand her unique situation.
On your hyper-personalized pages, you want to list your content resources that are most relevant to the user (blog posts, videos, ...). The aim is to give the user the opportunity and the reason to:
- engage with your brand as much as possible;
- extend the session time;
- increase the number of pageviews
- return to your site.
Your first attempt at hyper-personalization
When you start, it is easier to focus on hyper-personalizing just one page.
The result page of your assessment/questionnaire is the easiest page to hyper-personalize.
You can then give the user the opportunity to save that page and return to it on the next visit.
This unique page can act as a sort of hyper-personalized homepage.
Hyper-personalize any page
There is no one-size-fits-all solution here.
As a matter of fact, there is even no tool that does personalization at this level.
If you want to hyper-personalize, you have to do custom development. The good news is that you can start small with a very simple tool like Google Tag Manager.
Here are the steps to take:
- define the structure of the page in blocks, making sure each block addresses the user touching only one of the aspects of her unique situation (one of the 4 metrics).
On a long page, you can have several blocks of conditional content that add a personalized touch here and there;
- for each conditional block, write the content in all its variations;
- make sure all the conditional blocks are hidden by default (style = "display: none");
- when generating the page, retrieve from the database the user data relevant to the personalization;
- save the data on the page (in some hidden div);
- once the page is loaded, use GTM to read the personalization info from the hidden div;
- use GTM to unhide the conditional blocks relevant to the user personalization data.
...voilà, your page is now available in N different variations (81 variations if you look at our example).
Hyper-personalize your emails
Hyper-personalization can easily be done by email if you use ActiveCampaign.
To my knowledge, ActiveCampaign is the only email automation software offering conditional content in the body of the email and making it possible for that content to be edited directly in the built-in editor.
GetResponse also offers conditional content but only in “developer” mode, which requires coding skills and makes the entire thing borderline unfeasible (too complicated).
With ActiveCampaign, you can easily create blocks of content that will be seen by a user only if she has a specific tag or custom field.
From a practical point of view, in the veterinary example you would write content for all 12 buckets, organizing it in 12 different sections.
ActiveCampaign would then handle the visibility of those conditional blocks of content and each user will be able to see only the 4 blocks that are relevant to her.
Hyper-personalization is an effective technique to:
- boost engagement;
- increase trust;
- make users spend more time on your site and visit more pages;
- drive more sales.
Hyper-personalization requires (almost always) custom development... unless you do it via email, then you can do easily implement it with an email automation software like ActiveCampaign.
To hyper-personalize you need to be able to hyper-segment.
To hyper-segment you need to collect relevant data from the user.
The best way to collect data is through assessments or surveys.
Do NOT rely on data collection methods that require the user to browse several pages!
Unfortunately, most users don't browse more than 3 pages... unless you can put in front of them a page that is crafted especially for them (hyper-personalized).
Hyper-personalization changes the game.
[CASE STUDY COMING SOON...]
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