“The message must connect powerfully on a human level —
even if it’s found sketched on the back of
a cocktail napkin on the floor under a subway seat.”
Jeff Olsen

I don’t know (yet) whether you got here from a Social Media website, or maybe your friend forwarded you an email with a direct link. But the funny thing is that by the time you’ve finished reading the quote, our app would already collect enough information about you to show you a personalized pop-up form when you entered our site. If you came from @Twitter, you would see a fully personalized pop-up form “Hi, we want to reward our Twitter followers with a 10% discount”.

On top of that, by opening certain blog posts, for example those focused on Marketing Automation, the app would be able to predict what kinds of posts you might like in the nearest future. So, when you open your email inbox in a few days, you could notice a message stating “Hi, I see that you read a few posts on Marketing Automation. Here’s something you may like”.

What is personalization?

To start with, I won’t overwhelm you with tonnes of unnecessary definitions and cold facts. I’d rather provide you with practical examples to clearly illustrate the phenomenon of personalization which is the key to success of every company in increasing the conversion rate.

Personalization should be understood as adjusting the website and messages according to a user’s browsing behavior and his/her preferences, interests on the basis of the Social Media accounts. What’s more, the system recognizes a type of device and operation system to provide the user with a well-suited version of the website. Not to mention the IP address, country and a referral. A lot of elements are taken into consideration to provide the user with the most personalized view.

Be human!

However, I am going to start with the Jeff Olsen’s quote.

To cut the long story short, a couple of years ago I read a very interesting article on personalization in Forbes and while preparing this post, I decided to analyze it further. It’s an interview with above mentioned Jeff Olsen, who is a senior marketing executive at ThomasArts and has an extraordinary ability to predict upcoming events in the marketing field.

Being aware of the persona he is, I actually expected some revolutionary ideas about marketing that would blow my mind. I couldn’t have been mistaken more because he refers to real human characteristics, which is simple and genius at the same time.
He starts with discussing the need people have always had to gather and be around others to explain how marketing strategies should work to be effective.

His comparison of posting information by users on Social Media websites to the drawings of the first cave people made it clear to me that our desires to be heard haven’t changed - but the technologies have. Not only do we have a need to share our feelings but we also want to know that there is a reaction to them. This natural psychological aspect of the human nature is what marketers use to attract the attention to a given product or service.

Let me give you an example.
Imagine that you were struggling with finding the very best pair of shoes for a wedding that is organized next month. While randomly looking through some Facebook posts, you were intrigued by a short post that one of your friends liked about a new online shoe store that gives 10% discount to each customer coming from Facebook. You thought “What I have to lose? Let’s check it out”. You checked the website and absolutely loved the shoes. On top of that, you were PERSONALLY offered a 10% discount. Of course, you bought the shoes. They were just waiting there for you.

You know what I mean?
Looking for shoes wasn’t based on awful advertising but it came with a sort of reward in a place where you actually didn’t notice you were personally targeted.

Moreover, Olsen gives one very important piece of advice - “humanize your brand”. What does it refer to? It’s all about communication between people, not a potential customer and a machine. Such an interaction triggers a feeling of being treated the same like others, nothing special. So, if there is nothing special about the interaction, why should the person decide to buy something?

A great way to send personalized and automated messages is a live chat. You are familiar with the idea, I am sure about that. However, only few offers a solution of in-app predefined messages that are automatically sent to each user, which is based on the gathered information about his/her page views and actions on the page. So that, a visitor using a company email address would see an in-app message on a live chat “Hi, happy to see that XYZ Company knows about us! How can I help you?”.

OK. You are right. But how to personalize the messages?

The importance of a big data

First step: Collect the data about each user.

More specifically, complete and comprehensive data that reflects the entire customer lifecycle and customer interactions from all touchpoints. This means companies need to track every interaction a customer has with them, such as:

  • How the customer uses the product
  • Which emails a customer opens
  • When a customer contacts support
  • If a customer engages in a live chat

In other words, a given software collects the information about page views of every single user, which is a clear signal what he/she is looking for. It’s very individual. Nothing general. For example, if the user has checked ten different pages with a red teapot, the system recognizes the problem and suggests solution. So that, a person would see a form on the screen “Hi, I see you are interested in buying a red teapot. Maybe I can suggest looking at … ?”.

The system can recognize the IP address that was used while visiting the page so that the information about the person’s country, language of the browser is transferred to the system. So that, a user from Sweden would be welcomed with a pop-up form with a Swedish greeting.

We don’t have to stop here, because by having a person’s company email address, the system can directly analyze the information on certain Social Media websites to find out what kind of profession he/she performs. In that way, the system estimates a probable revenue and ranks the user’s potential to become a paying customer.

Pretty powerful, right?

I remember an article on Target, which is one of the biggest retailers in the US, having applied such an effective software gathering the data about the users’ that it recognized a lady to have been pregnant before she knew it by sending her some promotion marketing materials of baby clothes. You can read more here.

However, you can have the world’s greatest data and still not be able to use it.

Step two: One place to store the data.

“I don’t want to have many customers” said no seller ever.

Nor do you. Having a company that produces something of a great value, you want to sell as much as possible. It’s logical, huh?

So, why to waste so much money and time on leads that are have no potential in turning into customers? Or on ignoring leads with an amazing potential because they disappear in the mess of data about everybody?

The key is to store all the data in one single place.

Not only does it help to organize the entire databases but it also enables to rank the potential of the users.

For example, by having all the conversations with one particular user in a single place helps to notice certain tendencies he/she might have. All chat conversations as well as emails exchanged would be stored in a particular location to make it faster to find the relevant information.

Ok. I hope that I was able to emphasis how important the data is in personalizing the content of a website.

Case study 1: Endomondo


Phase I: Lead Generation

Tom is a marathoner who was running with a smartwatch that enabled him to monitor his progress. However, one day he saw a post of one of his friends about a running app that received a great positive feedback from many users. Tom decides to log in and try it out.

Phase II: Lead Nurturing and Lead Scoring

After 3 months, Tom is super happy about the app because it provides him with a full statistics about his runs. He wants to know the times he achieves, the summary of the distances and how much kcal burnt. On top of that, he shares his successes online so that his friends can comment his activity.

The app provides him with the basic features completely for free. That’s also very cool.

However, Tom has a great potential to become a customer and Endomondo knows about that.

What’s more, he gets updates about events he might be interested in. The app recognizes what he is interested in and suggests him taking part in “Run the extra mile” event which he assigns for.

After each month of using the app, he receives a mail stating about his progress. He feels more and more attached to it and gets used to measuring his runs according to the app.

One day he enters the website and sees a pop-out form that he’s been awarded a free trail of the premium plan because he’s been with Endomondo for 3 months.

Tom thinks “OK. I’m not going to lose anything anyways. Let’s try it out”.

Tom has received a constant follow-up from the app, which was very personalized - it was all about his personal sport goals and results. Each mail or pop-out form included something about him individually.

Phase III: Customer’s retention and loyalty

He’s been feeling special as a user of the app, which eventually led him to signing up for the free trial. And eventually, he became a happy customer because after trying the paid options, he didn’t want to limit himself to the basic ones.

Case study 2: Airbnb


Phase I: Lead Generation

Mary is a sweet 23-year old Canadian girl that once searched for an alternative for a hotel when she was traveling alone in Europe. She started googling and she noticed Airbnb at the top of the search. It wasn’t a coincidence that it appeared so high.

She came across Airbnb, which provides users with many options of accommodation. She started looking for a good bargain but she was too sceptical so she closed it.

Phase II: Lead Nurturing and Lead Scoring

Next day, she received a mail with (the system recognizes that it was her first visit so this particular offer was sent)


She thought it would be actually a nice thing to save some extra money on her trip so she decided to give it another try and signed up. Mary asked people on Quora about Airbnb and she was surprised how much people are willing to share their opinions.
Overall, she signed in and decided on a cozy little room in the heart of Paris.

Airbnb scored a new customer!

Phase III: Customer’s retention and loyalty

Her Europtrip was a real blast and after 6 months, Mary wants to go back. Over the entire period of time, she has received follow-up mails with other offers, for example “It’s Mother’s Day! Reward somebody you love with a 10% discount” and one day Airbnb has chosen some specific offers for her:


What’s more, Airbnb tracks her e-mail address and connects it to different social media websites which results in the information that she’s taken part in one of the half marathons in New York. Little did she expect such a personalized offer to see:


Not only does Airbnb cooperate with different companies and organization but it also integrates multiple tools to provide the users with as much personalized offers as possible.

Case study 3: Bicycling magazine


Rebecca loves cycling and she’s a huge fan of one of the magazines. She reads that they offer a 10% discount on an annual subscription if it’s an online edition. She decides to register and finds out more before she buys the subscription.
In other words, she wouldn’t have decided to register online if she hadn’t found out about the discount.

She’s been looking for some articles connected with a weightloss and a diet to be followed. She receives an email after a few days. Let’s analyze it.


Personalization of messages sent to the users as well as what they see on the website is crucial in turning leads into happy customers. It all starts with gathering the information about each particular user in order to create an entire base of the data which enables the system to personalize the materials presented to a user.

Don’t stop here! See how websites like TripAdvisor use personalization to increase the rate conversation!

Marta Debska Saas Implementation Project Manager

Posted on June 17th, 2016