The other day, I was browsing Amazon.com’s homepage, when something caught my eye.
I don’t remember what exactly drew me in, but all of a sudden, I had been pulled through to a page asking me to personalize my fashion tastes. I started happily selecting the styles I would wear, until something caught my attention.
In small letters near the top, was something like “Make sure it fits! Enter in your size here.”
That’s when I stopped looking at Amazon as a happy consumer and started viewing it as a marketer.
Amazon is arguably the leader in personalization. It’s known for remembering not only everything you buy, but everything you view.
Although Amazon is the very definition of B2C, being in the ecommerce realm, there is plenty that those in the B2B realm can learn from the Amazon marketplace’s personalization efforts.
1. Viewing History Without an Account
This is something that Amazon has been doing for as long as I can remember. Instead of letting you passively scroll through the hundreds of thousands of items displayed through its market, Amazon tracks your viewing behavior using cookies and your IP address to not only make you aware of what you viewed during your last session, but also what else you may like based on those results.
By picking up on these perceived interests, Amazon is able to recapture potential buyers who may have not been ready to buy at the time. So what does this mean for B2B sellers? It means that if you want your customers to be able to easily come back to a product they were considering, it may be worth your while to ensure that when they return to your homepage, the product they were viewing will be readily accessible.
Even if they were just browsing your blog and you don’t actually fulfill orders online, it could be worthwhile to have a “You Recently Read” section.
“But what’s the point of doing this if they aren’t buying anything?” you may ask. How many times have you read something online, then ended up trying to tell someone about what you read, only to realize that you don’t know the full story? So you end up going back to the website to find the article. You either have to dig through your computer’s history or just hope that you remember enough of the article name to locate it. But what if it didn’t have to be that hard?
That’s the brilliant thing with personalization. You’re able to make people happier, allowing them to share more and therefore give you brand more exposure.
An issue with this might arise when your potential customers aren’t actually potential customers, like what sometimes happens with Amazon.
If they are personalizing based on IP address, that can mean an entire company will get the same results if they are all operating off the same IP address. That means that HR is getting the same advertisements as sales, etc. This can be solved using cookies, an identifier stored in a browser, but these are always at risk of getting cleared. Visitor tracking does the best job of this, combining these two methods for the most accurate tracking.
But maybe your friend saw an advertisement for a product that they thought would help you with your job. They send you a link for the product and it turns out that it isn’t anything you want or need.
Now, not only does the misinformed friend have the product in their viewing history but you do as well. But neither of you wants the product, which means that the product can show up on your page time and time again, but it is mistargeted and therefore rendered practically useless.
This is the main issue with personalization, one that can be tricky to avoid.
Another thing that Amazon has been doing for years is giving recommendations based on your purchase history and viewing history. This is another thing that B2B content marketers and others marketers could utilize more, recommending articles based on what you’ve already viewed. There is something like it on some websites, but nothing personalized to the same depth as Amazon.
It would be interesting to see a blog that does this well, that has enough content to tailor articles to the reading habits of a particular user. This would best be done with an account, like inc.com uses to gate access to its content.
If your recommendations are off, usually because of outliers in the viewer’s history, then these users will see things that they aren’t interested in as recommendations, hurting their trust in your recommendations in the future.
This is solved by the following step that Amazon has recently taken.
3. Personalization Management
One of the best features I’ve noticed recently from Amazon was the ability of users to go into their own personalization settings and mark off things that might be irrelevant to them. It allows you to mark off something as either a gift or as something you don’t want to affect your personalization results.
A lot of what makes users so uncomfortable with personalization is their lack of control in the personalization process. It’s weird to have the product you were researching show up as a display ad somewhere else on the internet.
What Amazon is doing and what many B2B businesses could do is give the consumer a bit more control of their data and how it is used to personalize their experience. This makes users feel like they gave consent to companies to use their data, instead of it happening without any of their input.
Giving users control over their data doesn’t mean you show them your whole hand, the amount of data you have collected on a specific person may be pretty alarming to them. But if you keep it simple and allow them to control parts of their personalization experience, you make their experience better while making your data better.
This means happier viewers, which makes it easier to convert them to actual customers.
Personalization either makes customers delighted with their experience or uncomfortable with how much information you keep on them. While you can’t exactly predict their reaction, you can tip the scales in your favor by making sure that your personalization efforts are actually working. Amazon is a model of personalization done right. Follow their example and you may find your own B2B marketing efforts are better than ever.
Share with us! What do you do to personalize your user experience? What sort of data do you gather? How do you use it?