Best Practices for Personalizing Experiences: A Guide for Digital Publishers

Personalization is crucial for enhancing user engagement and retention. A recent survey suggests that 90% of customers find personalization appealing, and 80% are more likely to purchase from brands that offer personalized experiences.
With the accelerated rise of digital subscriptions in recent years, customer expectations for relevant, contextual, and convenient experiences have reached unprecedented heights. Creating personalised customer experiences is now mandatory in the competitive marketplace. To help understand how publishers can best implement personalisation, this article will explore the best practices from industry leaders, exploring the ways in which publishers personalise experiences to improve user engagement, retention, and revenue.
Let’s dive in…

Why Personalize Customer Experiences At All?

With publishers establishing strategies to personalize the user journey, many find themselves asking the question: what does personalization actually achieve apart from surfacing relevant content based on user interests?
Personalization is multifaceted and goes beyond content. Let’s explore two of the key reasons why personalized customer experiences are essential for thriving digital publishing businesses:
Boosts customer retention and drives customer loyalty:
Back in 2020, a lack of personalization was reported as being frustrating for over 70% of online customers. In 2021, this figure reached 76%, and today, that number is only likely to have increased, highlighting just how important customized experiences are to customer satisfaction. Put simply, when experiences are relevant to users, they find more value in the interaction.
Personalization makes users feel valued and appreciated. When users feel like a company is taking the time to understand their individual needs and preferences, they are more likely to feel part of a community and to develop an emotional connection with a brand that lasts. For example, personalized newsletters with user names, relevant locational articles, ads targeted to the right demographics, and recommended articles that make sense can all lead to users feeling valued and appreciated.
This results in more satisfaction over the long run, and ultimately an increased likelihood that they will recommend a service to their friends and family.
Higher conversion rates and increased order value (AOV):
In a similar vein to retention, when users feel they’re gaining more value from interacting with a brand, they’re likely to pursue deeper interactions and feel that a premium service is justified. For example, a study by McKinsey found that a positive customer experience is hugely meaningful to a business’ success, yielding 20 percent higher customer satisfaction rates, and a 10 to 15 percent boost in sales conversion rates.
If publishers only serve a set package with one price point, users can easily lose interest. By using data points on their users, publishers can unbundle one-size-fits-all subscriptions and dynamically create targeted offerings and unique content groupings based on user attributes. This creates a higher value for packages/services in the eyes of the user, leading to an increased willingness to pay more, and thus maximizing the revenue potential of content in the process.

Best Practices for Creating Personalized Customer Experiences

Now that we’ve covered the reasons why personalization can have such a positive impact on digital subscriptions, let’s dive into some of the best practices in the publishing industry for crafting those personalized experiences.
The following practical ways will provide a framework that will allow publishers to deliver a hyper-personalized customer experience:
  • Collecting and Analysing User Data to Understand User Behaviour
True personalization can’t exist without effectively gathering user data and tracking behavior. By collecting implicit and explicit first-party data, publishers can gain insights into what types of content users consume, how long they stay on a site, and what actions they take. Ultimately, data is the backbone of personalization and a first-party data strategy should be at the forefront of every user journey. The level of relevancy and personalization a user feels is only as good as the data a publisher has to work with.
To gather useful first-party data, publishers might consider employing strategies such as setting up registration forms that request users fill out their content preferences, or by tracking user behaviour throughout a free trial.
  • Segmenting Audiences
This rich data publishers have on their users can then be used to segment audiences based on demographic traits, behaviors and interests. Personalizing for each and every individual user is a mammoth undertaking, segmenting audiences offers a solution for publishers to easily present tailored messages without this laborious task.
By splitting an audience into segments, publishers can identify cohorts within their audience segments and appeal to these grouped users better e.g. users aged 18-21 who frequently watch sports related videos might be open to a student discount for a mobile sports subscription package. Or similarly, senior users aged 60+ are likely to be better suited to articles related to relevant life changes such as retirement, home ownership, and health.
  • Content Personalization
Content personalization involves tailoring content to individual users based on their interests, behaviors, and preferences.
As mentioned above, this could mean surfacing content to users which covers topics they’re likely to be interested in, but it could also mean showing the types of content users most often interact with e.g. podcasts over written articles. Targeted content in this way can increase the time a user spends on site, encouraging them to continue browsing to the next piece of content. This is a tactic regularly employed for social media ‘endless scroll’ browsing.
  • Transparency
It’s difficult to mention personalization and data collection without talking about transparency. Transparency is essential to building trust and loyalty with users. When users feel like they understand how their data is being collected and used, they are more likely to trust a brand and to continue sharing information and doing business with them.
In order to be transparent, leading publishers demonstrate their data policies as clearly and concisely as possible. Users should be able to understand how their data is being collected and used in a few sentences. By explaining how data is used to improve user experiences, subscription products, or services in this way, publishers can actually encourage users to share further valuable data.
  • Embracing new technologies
The requirement for personalization has evolved, the technology and means to implement personalization strategies have evolved with it. With many industries now turning towards AI for data analysis and personalization, it might be time for publishers to start thinking about employing new tech and future-proofing their business.
The use of AI and ML for personalisation is still in its early stages, but it is rapidly growing. As these technologies continue to develop, they will become even more powerful and sophisticated. Enabling publishers to analyse vast amounts of data and discover patterns never previously thought possible. This will enable publishers to further enhance personalised and relevant content experiences for their users.
In order to keep up with the competition, publishers need to be aware of these new capabilities. For more insights into the future of personalization and AI, take a look at our recent e-guide: Personalization, relevancy and the rise of AI.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, personalization has proven to be a powerful strategy that can significantly benefit publishers in terms of user engagement, retention, and revenue. By analyzing user behavior, publishers can gain insights into their audience’s interests and preferences, enabling them to create personalized experiences that cater to their needs. Whether it’s offering personalized recommendations, providing tailored content, or creating custom user experiences, there are a variety of targeted personalization strategies that publishers can adopt.
It’s important to note that personalization is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it may require a test, learn, and iterate approach to find the right approach that resonates with an audience. Personalization is not just a one-time implementation, but an ongoing process that requires regular attention and optimization. As user preferences and behavior evolve, it’s important to continuously gather feedback, analyze data, and adjust personalization strategies accordingly. Publishers who are starting to test and iterate now, will quickly realize the benefits and begin standing out from competition. Therefore, it would seem that the key is to make a start somewhere and continually refine personalization efforts from there.

Personalization, Relevancy & the Rise of AI

Unravelling the tech shaping digital publishing

Personalization strategies are nothing new. But as the publishing industry progresses, personalized experiences are becoming more sophisticated. Digital Publishers are now able to employ the use of AI to analyze customer data on a larger scale as well as make precise predictions that were previously unimaginable.

In this eGuide, we’ll dive deep into these challenges and explore various approaches to personalization and content recommendations.

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