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77 percent of consumers want personalized content

Reaching customers via the Internet is valuable, but must be undertaken carefully. One of the worst possible mistakes is showing content that doesn't apply to your intended reader. Customers, whether they're shopping for gadgets or hunting for the latest gossip, want sites and offers to provide the information they need without adding additional steps. The challenge is remaining relevant to these users, while also reaching a larger audience that may reluctant to give details about themselves. 

"77% of business professionals like to receive personalized content."

According to a recent ProOpinion survey, 77 percent of business professionals like to receive personalized content. However, nearly half of those don't want to provide the information to get it. Another 22 percent felt that customized offers weren't important. Other market research has shown that the rest of consumers feel the same way.

Personalizing content, emails and offers drives traffic to your site, improves sales and encourages people to remain on the page longer, Search Engine Watch explained. To get consumers to visit your site and make purchases, you need to provide the best customer experience possible.

1. Collect information
While 45 percent of survey respondents didn't want to provide personal details, another 32 percent didn't mind. This gives you a prime opportunity to give some of your customers the service they want. First-time visitors to websites may be prompted to enter their email addresses to receive a discount or subscribe to newsletters, while in-person shoppers could be asked at check out to provide their contact information. These simple call-to-actions allow businesses to send information about what their companies are doing and to collect data about their customers' interests, which can help increase conversion rates, Kissmetrics explained.

The important thing here is understanding that a customer's information has value. If it didn't, you wouldn't want it, and consumers are more savvy than ever about sharing their personal details. If you want to capture emails, there must be a clear offer in return, and that offer must be explicitly stated. For B2B enterprises, that could come in the form of a well-researched white paper that provides information on a relevant subject. For consumer-facing companies, that could be sending them a coupon upon signup. 

2. Tailor the content
While people want personalized content, they don't want to be overwhelmed by it. Email inboxes can fill up quickly, and low-value queries are the first to be ignored. This includes messages that have not been tailored to the recipient. According to Search Engine Watch, sending out the same message to the entire address book isn't going to get businesses many sales, and it will probably frustrate the recipients. Instead, businesses should use those email addresses they collected from new site visitors to their advantage. Companies could just let people opt out of emails, but that would do no good. Instead, let consumers customize what messages they receive. Maybe they only want to hear about certain products or they could just be interested in specific news topics. Giving them options will keep companies in business without spamming people's inboxes.

People don't want full mailboxes, so let them customize which emails they receive.People don't want full mailboxes, so let them customize which emails they receive.

3. Use location data
Many people may not want to provide their names and contact information, which is perfectly fine. There are plenty of other ways for businesses to personalize content for them, including using data generators. With users' approval, smartphones, tablets and even computers can provide GPS location to allow businesses to display content that only applies to those people, CMS Wire explained. Using websites and mobile applications, companies can request permission from consumers to collect location data from them. The apps and websites can store this information for later use.

Using location data allows you to more closely tailor the things you are able to offer consumers. Let's say that you run a mid-sized retailer that sells, among other things, umbrellas. Knowing whether a reader is coming from Seattle, where rainfall is a common part of life, versus Los Angeles, which gets relatively little rainfall, can give you a clue about whether they would be interested in seeing those umbrellas. 

In addition, you can then parse this information and begin to see trends emerging from the data. Doing well in a particular segment could lead you to do greater research into what made that success possible, and how you can iterate it across your entire market.

4. Take context into consideration
You can personalize content without collecting any information that doesn't pertain to the visitor's experience on the site. Instead, use product recommendations or article suggestions based on what people are currently viewing, according to Smart Insights. If consumers are searching for new TVs, make sure you show them other televisions in a similar style and price range. If someone's reading an article about Wimbledon or Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift's Twitter feud, he or she should see another sports or entertainment article to check out next. Once someone has added a product to the cart or moved onto other topics, you can show them items that people also read or purchased.

This is more easily accomplished with a clear understanding of the ways that visitors are navigating your site. Knowing which actions readers take after reading a given article is the first step towards anticipating and personalizing their experience. 

"People do business with companies they relate to, so give yours a voice."

5. Establish a presence
While it's important for website visitors to receive customized content and deals, it's just as crucial that the page itself be personalized in a different context. People like to do business with companies they can relate to, so give yours a voice, The Next Web suggested. Consumers want to associate a person, not a robot, with a brand. Companies should encourage employees to be friendly and relatable, so that people feel at home when they're visiting a store, browsing online or talking to customer service. Any social media pages should have the same tone, voice and presence as the business's actual website so that people get a consistent experience across channels.

It's also critical to consider the voice that your company is using. Is it appropriate for the industry? What is normal in technology could be far too jargon-heavy for retail. Is it appropriate for the audience? Talking to c-suite executives requires a different level of insight than the trying to reach the general public. Is it consistent with your mission as an organization? If one of your primary goals is accessibility, the language that you use should be reflective of that. 

6. Reach out directly

One of the readiest ways to increase engagement is with a well-executed email newsletter campaign.  

In a world where people desire the next best product or service when and where they want it, personalization is key.

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