An introduction to Personalised Content

It has been around for a while now, but is this the year that Personalised Content finally reaches the marketing mainstream?

Over the years the web has become a lot more personal. We have become used to personalised advertising - or contextual advertising as it is more commonly known - which serves ads based on our search history. We also expect each email we receive to address us personally with our own name. However Personalised Content has yet to really become significant in the content marketing sphere. There are signs though that this might be about to change.

Firstly though we need to clarify terms. What exactly do we mean by Personalised Content? On a basic level it describes a process where a person visiting a website is served content that the site’s owners feel is most appropriate for them. This calculation is based on a number of factors. For example, people with  different occupations or browsing histories could type in the same URL and be given completely different pages.

Does this sound familiar? Well if you shop online you have almost certainly been offered Personalised Content in one form or another especially as Amazon bases the content it serves you on what you have bought, browsed or rated in the past.

Pages based on data
On a very basic level Personalised Content has been around for a long time in that multinational sites have tried to serve the page of the website that is most relevant to the country of origin of the browser. More recently adaptive designs have delivered content optimised for different devices like mobiles or tablets.

The current iterations of Personalised Content go much further. A dynamic website could assess your profile based on a number of parameters and not just location or device. Firstly it will look at your data. If you have cookies enabled and you visit a site over a period of time then it will already have logged some basic information about you. It may know what type of pages you visits, and from that it could make judgements about you, such as what type of job you have, or what interests you have if you have been referred to the site by a search term.

The site can then dynamically use this data to deliver a page that it has worked out is most appropriate to you. Some sites go deeper than this in finding more out about its readers, for example asking you to fill in a short survey, and the pages you then see are based on how you respond to that survey.

Personalised Content can certainly yield very significant results, especially in business to business content marketing. The ability to optimise the content a person sees in theory could take them much closer to a sale than if they see more generic content. According to a survey by Janrain, nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests. That is a lot of potential sales lost.

Personalised Content could also work in consumer focused content marketing too, especially for retailers. Say you run a website for a large supermarket. If you know the type of products a person buys online from that site then you could optimise the content to include recipes for meals that feature the ingredients that they regularly buy. The potential opportunities to personalise content really are endless, if you can harness the data or get your readers to full in a quick survey before they start browsing.

So who is offering Personalised Content services? You may already have access to a system depending on what type of content management system you are using. Even basic services like Wordpress are compatible with a Personalized Content engine in the guise of Personyze. Then there are more sophisticated systems like Open Text , Smart Content and Gravity.

One company that is clearly a leader in Personalised Content is marketing platform Hubspot. You can see range of the ways that brands are using its services here. Take a look at the way Sales Benchmark Index delivers a mini survey before its customers start their browsing journey.

Ultimately though we suspect that really savvy brands that have requirements for delivering Personalised Content will integrate their own systems into content management platforms they have created. It will be fascinating to watch how this concept develops.

Commissioned by The CMA

Posted in CMA blog
15thMay 2014

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