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6 Key Questions About Rule-Based Personalization, Answered


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Published August 28, 2017 · Updated June 25, 2019

6 Key Questions About Rule-Based Personalization, Answered

Personalization is a powerful force that propels today’s digital marketing. The notion itself is nothing new. The approach of setting specific rules that control it, however, is quite fresh. It empowers marketers to boost customer experience by providing an individual user with unique content that matches their preferences.

Skillfully wielded it will increase conversion and decrease bounce rates. Enrich your marketing tactics and let us guide you through the whole process of rule-based personalization.

But before we begin to illustrate the peculiarities and details of web customization. Let’s get down to basics.

QUESTION 1: What is rule-based personalization?

Simply put it, it’s content personalization triggered by manually created segments of visitors. It follows logic-based rules. That’s why it’s crucial to define which audiences these rules apply to e.g. prospect vs. existing customer, anonymous visitors vs. returning clients or web visitor vs. app user.

The goal is to tailor your website, so it meets the unique expectations of each user by presenting information especially relevant to them. In other words, rule-based personalization is the practice of listening to each visitor’s needs and fulfilling them with the right experiences.

QUESTION 2: What are the rules and how do we define them?

This type of website optimization is based on specific, definable rules.What constitutes a rule is a set of various conditions and types of actions. Consider the rule as an IF/THEN statement e.g. IF a visitor buys a house, THEN display to him an ad with homeware. It sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it?

You define the conditions upon user characteristics and preferences which have been gathered from a user’s history or obtained from other sources.

The core issue is to define clear rules out of the conditions. So start with data collection and properly designing your form to gather quality information about your visitors.

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Then, build proper conditions for rule-based personalization around the WHO and the WHY of the user. Find out WHO your user is and WHY they came to your site. In this way you steadily develop the user’s profile and create relevant content.

Before you put all your ideas into action, determine WHAT content demands modification, which means where the rules should be triggered. You can adjust, change, or even hide information.

Identify key pages that can be optimized, whether it’s your landing page, One-Time-Offer, blog or product page. Choose your key elements for rule-based personalization among:

  • headlines, subheadlines
  • pop-up messages and notifications
  • testimonials
  • banners
  • infobars
  • ads
  • HTML elements

Analyze the data obtained both from your form and acquired from user’s non-web related interactions with your business. Build the rules around your visitor’s:

  • location
  • searched keywords
  • downloaded content
  • device type
  • preferences

Apply all the information you’ve gathered to fine-tune the content that will appear on the website. Treat the user profile as your guide to define your rule and tailor your content as precisely as possible.

QUESTION 3: What are segments and why do you need them?

Segmentation in rule based personlization

At first, the idea of rule-based personalization might seem demanding or even daunting if we consider providing different content for each user. In order to provide unique content for each user, you need to know your audience.

However, having an individual approach to the user doesn’t necessarily mean you need to create completely new content for each visitor. There’s another way to accomplish this purpose and it’s called segmentation.

Thanks to information collected about users, you can divide them according to their preferences, needs, interests, behaviors and arrange them in specific groups, called segments. They provide you with a deeper understanding of how distinct subsets of your audience react to various messages and offers.

Segmentation lets you focus more time and effort on modifying and personalizing content and directing visitors to take desired actions: making a purchase, downloading your whitepaper, clicking your ad, subscribing to a newsletter, etc.

QUESTION 4: What’s the formula for efficient segmentation?

There’s no single perfect solution, as there’s no one goal your organization is pursuing. In this case simplicity is the key, so consider two strategies for segmentation, one that is based on attributes, the other on behavior. But what does actually mean?

So let’s start with attributes. They define characteristics of a user, relying on explicit data that is specific, clear, so there’s no room for interpretation. Such attributes might be strictly related to web activities or database-driven sources such as CRM and email marketing platforms or CSV imports.

You may also consider including third-party data acquired from data warehouses or DSP and DMP platforms.

Web attributes cover geolocation, industry, time, browser and device. The other attributes extract information from data storing systems and allow you to identify if the user is a prospect, customer, or already your top client.

In the case of web attributes they have the advantage of better supporting personalization aimed at new visitors. Since they will have just started their journey across your platform, you are left with a vast array of personalization options to choose from.

As we move further, segmentation based on behavior focuses on interactions of a user with your site. The acquired data is rather implicit, more subtle. The scope of analyzed user behavior ranges from site-wide to in-page, that is:

  • when was the last visit
  • how often visits occur
  • which pages users visit
  • the average time spent on site
  • the click-path of the viewed content
  • user engagement, clicks, scrolling, sharing content
  • conversions and purchases

Analyzing the way users engage with your content, offers you valuable insight into their interests, preferences and inclinations.

With the extensive data resources it’s up to you to decide on your segmentation approach. You need to find the best way for your organization to leverage personalization efforts. Creating segments constitutes the groundwork for your rule-based personalization and you need to make sure you set them up right.

QUESTION 5: What can I achieve with rule-based personalization software?

Although necessary, the process of establishing separate experiences for a particular segment is rather cumbersome, as it requires manual work. So, it goes without saying that your marketing team needs to streamline the customization workflow in other areas.

A good software platform can help reduce the workload. They can also often be combined with other web analytics tools to streamline going from data collection to content personalization.

Some tools (like Piwik PRO Content Personalization), extend the capabilities of your digital set up allowing you to launch exit, time or scroll triggered pop-ups and notifications thanks to built-in, ready-to-go triggers. There are also often libraries of personalization templates that support the deployment of your campaigns.

As with a segmentation strategy, there is no one right answer. You’ll need to compare features and see which best fits the needs of your organization.

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QUESTION 6: Am I heading for the right direction?

As you acquire the understanding of trends your audience follows and you are ready to respond with specially designed offers, you need a final look at your marketing arsenal. It means that it’s high time for A/B and multivariate testing, your proof of concept.

When it comes to A/B tests, there’s a shift in logic of tests run for personalization purposes. There are no winning tests with a general audience, rather winners with particular segments. In practice, this means that you end up optimizing the site according to both the “winning” and “losing” test.

Regarding multivariate testing, it’s more complex, as you test multiple variables on one page and analyze how they influence one another. These variables also usually have more subtle differences.

You choose different elements of your website or landing page, then create different variations and build alternative versions of your site. Finally, you display multiple versions of your site to different groups of visitors.

In this way you gain insight into which elements of your page–whether it’s a headline, callout, or hero image–are crucial for meeting the goals of that web page. You can test diverse creatives and concepts of personalization and discover the best combination for your marketing conversion efforts.

A/B testing, multivariable testing and personalizations complement each other in the pursuit of your marketing objectives.They support the process of continuous improvement as your visitors’ needs, expectations, habits change. Your marketers should stay alert, ready to refine their strategies.

If you find that your organization has exhausted the possibilities of rule-based personalization you may reach for another solution, namely predictive personalization.

Taking this route means you observe customer behavior online to tailor the content so that it is more likely for the user to behave in a certain way: making a purchase, submitting a form or sharing content. The analyzed data of past behaviors allows you to predict visitor’s next steps so that you can place certain ads or modify other content to best resonate with a user’s interests.

Whatever approach you take, bear in mind that each of these requires certain preparation and testing to minimize risk. It might be delivering bad recommendations or going overboard so the visitor feels tracked and observed.

On that grounds, test your strategy before implementation and analyze the results in depth to make sure you’re on the right path to your specific goal.

Final Thoughts

Today’s marketing tends to blur the distinction between the digital and traditional marketing in its attempt to meet individual customer expectations. Rule-based personalization offers multiple solutions to meet this goal in a suitable way. This is a complex topic and we’ve barely scratched the surface of it, so if you would like to learn more, contact us or follow our blog, we will keep you up to date with the latest developments.


Karolina Matuszewska

Senior Content Marketer

Writer and content marketer. Transforms technical jargon into engaging and informative articles.

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