Web Personalization: Why Showing Less Can Gain You More

When was the last time you needed to buy something and couldn’t find it on the web? It happened to me three times last week:  

  • On Monday, I was looking for a computer replacement, and after a day of confusing search results, I got distracted—and didn’t buy.
  • On Wednesday, I was trying to decide on a getaway weekend, and after discovering too many choices, I got overwhelmed—and didn’t book. 
  • On Friday, I was trying to order from a nearby restaurant, got frustrated navigating their menu, and called another restaurant instead.
Three times I had the impulse to spend and three businesses missed the chance to take the money out of my hands.

Too many websites frustrate their visitors. We are bamboozled by the sheer amount of content.  If websites showed less (but more relevant) content, the sites would perform better and conversions would increase.

Help visitors find what they want 

As consumers, we are fully aware of why web or mobile experiences are frustrating, but as marketers we sometimes forget how this feels. We keep inventing ways to push new content and offers, without truly considering what it is our buyers want, and how we can help them find it quickly and easily.

Helping each site visitor find what he or she is looking for should be top of the agenda for today’s web designers. Every time we design a web or mobile experience, we should imagine a customer staring at the page and saying, 'show me something I want to buy.'

How might we help our site visitors find what they are looking for more quickly? A simple approach is to show them less of what they are not looking for. In other words, filter out the wrong stuff.

When I was looking for computers, if I had not been confused with the clutter of desktop models and add-on accessories, I may have discovered a laptop for my needs before losing patience and closing the browser.

Filter out the 'wrong stuff'

Filtering out the 'wrong stuff' is a design goal, but it’s not a prescription. How do we filter it out? Which content is right or wrong per visitor? The answer is website personalization.

Personalization is a chief concern for digital marketers; according to a May 2014
eMarketer study, 53% of marketers are trying to apply analytics to personalization.

In Building Blocks’ recent eBook Making Digital Human, our co-founder Jonathan Whiteside explains that personalization requires marketers to 'remember, observe and imagine'.

These steps help implement the design goal of filtering out the wrong stuff, and advance the consumer goal of 'show me something I want to buy.'

  • Remember: By remembering which pages similar customers have clicked on in the past, we can define interest profiles per customer segment.
  • Observe: By observing how a visior reaches our site, what they search for, or which links they click first, we get an idea of a visitor’s intent. 

  • Imagine: By imagining what content visitors want at each combination of interest + intent, we can guess what they do not need to see and filter it out. With less clutter, the remaining content or links lead their eyes and mouse along a satisfying path to purchase.

Getting it wrong

As an example, recall the restaurant that lost my business. Would it have been hard for them to show me what I wanted to buy, based on analytics or a designer’s intuition?

I was on a mobile browser in my car. It was dinner time. It would be safe to presume that I was looking for a dinner menu of the top ten most ordered items and a phone number. Instead, I arrived at a not mobile-optimized site with a big pdf download of their six-page print menu. Nowhere was their phone number clickable. There was far too much content. The wrong content.

A simple personalization business rule could have known my intent on a mobile browser was likely to include 'call the restaurant', and that my interest at that time of day was the dinner menu.

Getting it right

I visited a big-box retailer site to look for a camera. I navigated to 'cameras and electronics', then clicked the filter buttons on the left nav to restrict to DSLR cameras. I then used the product comparator to see what features were missing in the $450 camera versus the $750 camera.

It helped me find what I wanted to buy, and left me feeling inclined to visit the store. The site allowed me to reveal my interests and intent through the useful product selectors and on-site search. The site could go further by applying these filters in advance on my return visit, or by changing the order of presentation to start with DSLRs, which I’ve now expressed an interest in buying.

Drinking from a fire hydrant

Finding relevant information on the internet has been likened to 'taking a drink from a fire hydrant'. As internet users, we are staurated with information. This has made us fickle, impatient, demanding.

Personlization can help marketers maximise the opportunity presented by those precious few seconds when someone lands on their site. It can help filter out the 'wrong stuff', to ensure the fickle, impatient and demanding stick around long enough to purchase.   

By implementing the R.O.I principle, personalization becomes the art of filtering what’s on your site to match the visitor’s intent and interests.

In our latest web personalization eBook, Making Digital Human, we explain in greater detail what web personalization is, how it can benefit your organization, and what you need to do to achieve it. 

Download your free copy today!

Free eBook: Making Digital Human

Making Digital Human  download your free 70-page eBook that explores how to transform the online experience with web personalisation

Any questions?

If you need more information or have any questions just get in touch and we'd be happy to answer them for you.