Best Website Personalization Tools – Pros, Cons, & Truth Revealed
At the time of this writing, website personalization is irrefutably the number one way an eCommerce marketer can build enormous value for their brands. At the individual visit level, the best website personalization tools reduce friction at every stage of the customer’s journey from the moment they land on your website by tailoring the visit to them. The big picture effect, however, is where the effects get especially exciting. Personalized, assisted visits drive faster time to the first sale, higher average cart value and increase customer lifetime value. The trouble is that many organizations are thinking about personalization all wrong.
Many brands take a purely tactical approach to website personalization, such as implementing an AI-driven chatbot on their site (more on this below!) and find themselves disappointed that they’re not seeing results comparable to some of the amazing benchmark data being published. We want to challenge you to think deeply about your org’s approach to website personalization: think beyond the tactical and think of personalization as a strategy that is baked into every aspect of the digital experiences you serve to your visitors and customers. It’s super important to get this idea down the hatch at the organizational level, so much so that our next article will be about selling personalization in at the org level.
For now, however, we’re going to assume you’re looking for the best website personalization tools or maybe looking to compare the different types of website personalization.
Tactical Examination: The Full Website Personalization Stack
Assuming you have the organizational support you need, and now it’s time to start shopping for the best website personalization solution for your brand. What’s it going to be? A quiz? A chatbot? A recommendation engine? Let’s do a quick overview of each of these to help frame the decision-making process:
Pros: Implementing a quiz on your eCommerce site is a great way to deliver an elementary level of personalization. Any time in a sales process that you are asking a prospective customer about their needs and they are giving you honest answers, you have the makings of a sale that is sure to benefit both parties.
Cons: Implementing a quiz as a standalone tactic does not deliver true personalization, and it has some other limitations we’ll get into a bit later. The main thing to consider here is that a quiz implemented as a standalone piece of personalization tech can often create more friction than it resolves, shoe-horning people into the wrong product due to limitations of logic or even convincing people that there is only one perfect solution for them, only to have them find out that the product is not currently available on the site.
Pros: With the proper implementation, chatbots can be the fastest way for a website visitor to find what they want, product or information-wise on a website. That access to speedy answers feels fantastic to a lot of consumers. Also, chatbots are a great way to load up and serve answers to your site’s most frequently asked questions, which is a great way to reduce the burden on your customer support folks plus, it’s so much faster than email.
Cons: This is a big problem that surprisingly few people talk about: most of the top tools in the chatbot game will significantly increase the load time of the pages on your site and page load time is a bigger deal than you might think. Here’s why page load time matters, among other reasons: mobile sites with page load times of 2 seconds or less see a 15% higher conversion rate than other sites. Speaking of speed, while chatbots can be great for delivering quick answers, the quickest answer isn’t always the best answer, and the more complex the sale, the truer this becomes.
Another big issue with chatbots is that the technology currently is not yet delivering on the promise of a genuinely independent automated attendant. We know that it’s going to get there, but for now, a chatbot can inadvertently serve to drive a lot of negative sentiment with web visitors.
The introduction of friction works like this: The visitor sees that the site has a chatbot, which gives them hope that they can quickly get some personalized help. Suppose they reach the limit of the chatbot’s functionality, and they haven’t been able to get what they want. In that case, that’s now two unmet needs from the site visit, instead of the one they arrived with, as their expectation (quick, tailored help) collides with their reality of no help available. There is a workaround to implement a chatbot that will pass the visitor to a live operator if the automation reaches the point where it can’t help. The downside of this solution is that you’re right back to delivering unscalable help and driving more inbound for your customer support team.
Pros: A recommendation engine is the quick and dirty way to introduce an element of website personalization where you may previously have had none. A recommendation engine can help you drive add-on sales or suggest relevant or essential items that would help consumers better enjoy their initial selections. The implementation is usually relatively simple, and most eCommerce platforms such as Shopify or Woo Commerce have plenty of solutions in their marketplaces.
Cons: The main flaw with a recommendation engine is its reliance on past behavioural data (or third-party data – gross!) for it to work. For the engine to have a decent chance of offering a recommendation that is relevant to a particular visitor, it relies on potentially irrelevant data from the behaviour of other buyers, or it requires the consumer first to make some selections of their own. A recommendation engine does little to drive the visitor’s first conversion on a site, making relevant and practical recommendations challenging to successfully serve to each particular user.
Pros: End-to-end personalization, meaning website personalization as a strategic approach to your visitors’ entire buying journey on your site, is by far the most effective way to increase sales and profitability. It demonstrates to the visitor that brands care about the consumer getting the right products to suit their needs. It works by “listening” like a friend (not a spy!) or a helpful sales associate would listen, then tailoring the rest of the website experience to suit the visitor, driving all the desired outcomes we discussed in the previous sections.
Cons: Using a disparate set of solutions to tactically deliver your end-to-end personalization strategy can have the opposite of the desired effect, creating friction and reducing consumer trust. Like a solution such as a standalone quiz implementation, your brand can inadvertently lead the customer to a solution that isn’t currently available or may be tough to pinpoint for them due to limited interconnectivity between your solutions. You can avoid this “channel conflict” by implementing an end-to-end website personalization “suite” solution such as ours where all elements work together to deliver the most integrated possible experience for the customer.
The Best Website Personalization Tools
By now, we’re hoping that we’ve made it clear that the best website personalization solution by far is an end-to-end solution. Holistic website personalization as a strategy may sound like a big undertaking, but it can be implemented much quicker than you may think, especially with the help of a friendly and knowledgeable vendor. Any of the above tools implemented on their own are at least a good start but be warned that they will fail to deliver results on par with the end-to-end approach and most often will present your brand with a new set of operational or customer satisfaction problems.
Look for a single suite that effectively does the work of a chatbot, quiz, and recommendation engine “in a box.” It should also interact with your inventory system, email/marketing automation, analytics, and other tools to deliver scalable 1:1 personalization tailored to each of your customers. Implementing a comprehensive website personalization solution empowers your team to employ personalization as a strategy rather than a set of clumsy standalone tactics.
Still have questions? We’re fired up to help as many brands as possible to raise the bar of user and customer experience in eCommerce. If you need help implementing website engagement tools for your brand or want to talk further about any of the tactics in this article, we should talk ASAP!