Personalization of websites has been “the next big thing” on web trends lists for about a decade now. Major B2C sites like amazon.com are heavily personalized and provide recommendations based on visitor behaviour and have achieved major success in doing so. B2B websites are more reluctant to apply a similar model. Why is that?
According to Forrester Research, only 25% of interactive marketers use personalization. [1. Forrester Research, “Five Ways to Improve the ROI of Your Behavioral Targeting Campaigns,” April 28, 2009.] Aberdeen Group reports that almost 9 out of 10 of best-in-class companies say they’ll realize ROI from personalization, and 3 of 4 agree that economic gains from personalization outweigh investment costs. [2. Tekrati Research News, “Online Personalization Increases Conversion Rates, Says Aberbeen Group,” September 27, 2007; DemandGenReport.com, “Aberdeen Study Shows Email Personalization Driving Higher Open and Conversion Rates,” August 25, 2008.]
With such validation of personalization implementation success, how come so few are doing it?
When trying to appeal to a first-time visitor to a B2B website, we can only have a rough idea about why they came – they are interested in some aspect of the site’s products and/or service offerings, but we don’t know what specifically.
But as soon as they start clicking around and exploring, we can learn about their goals and interests from their behaviour,and personalize their experience based on their activity. The tailored website content becomes more relevant, which improves the likelihood of the user getting engaged.
So why does this seem like such a horror story to B2B websites? Why isn’t this put to use to a greater extent in the B2B world?
A main concern about personalization is the Big Brother Syndrome. Visitors want to feel anonymous, and any indication that their behaviour is being tracked could be met with an uneasy sense of being monitored. This is not acceptable in B2B relationships that are generally more delicate than ones in the B2C world.
The B2B prospect nurturing process is more intricate and complex than the simpler B2C “you bought this product before so you might like this one too” concept that often seems to be hit-and-miss.
That philosophy should stay intact. Personalization wouldn’t start on page one, visit one. But the tracking of behaviour would. Set criteria determines the content, such as “three visits to either of page X, Y or Z”, “downloaded two of the files A, B, C or D”, etc. When strategically determined criteria are met is when instances of personalization begin to replace or complement default content.
So what benefits would B2B websites gain from personalization?
Personalization can turn a kicking-the-tires visitor into a marketable prospect faster.
Providing a higher level of relevant information to the user as determined by their behaviour makes it more likely for the user to give up their identity in order to obtain high value information. Once you have their profile information from a registration or form submission, the wealth of information they provided gives you an even better opportunity to feed them information that speaks directly to their situation. The more relevant information they’re provided, the higher the likelihood is for them to increase their level of engagement, and the faster they can (in conjunction with email nurturing and lead scoring programs) become a lead that is qualified to be passed on to your sales team.
Why do you think that B2B businesses are more careful to adopt personalization on their websites?
I would be interested in finding out your opinion. Please use the comments box below to let me know what your theories are.