Making It Personal: Taking Action On Your Customers’ Digital Body Language

You stagger into your favorite coffee shop on Monday morning at 7 a.m., yawning and desperate for a caffeine jumpstart, when Mandy the barista places your daily double cappuccino with extra foam in front of you before you even have the chance to croak out your order. She’s also thought to include a sample of […]

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You stagger into your favorite coffee shop on Monday morning at 7 a.m., yawning and desperate for a caffeine jumpstart, when Mandy the barista places your daily double cappuccino with extra foam in front of you before you even have the chance to croak out your order.

She’s also thought to include a sample of their newest raspberry coffee cake to whet your insatiable sweet tooth. The cake is just to your liking so you order a full slice of it and tip Mandy handsomely.

It’s moments like these that reaffirm why you don’t bother getting your morning fix anywhere else. This type of consistent, personalized and attentive service has made you a loyal customer, and the staff knows you well enough to offer you new drinks and pastries that they know you’ll like, successfully locking down more of your daily spend.

While it’s (currently) impossible to order and drink a cup of joe online (at least until Starbucks introduces an augmented reality version), there are many lessons marketers can apply from Mandy to the online visitor experience.

Online visitors “walk into” your store or place of business and immediately display digital body language signals via their clicks, leaving a cookie trail of information that marketers can collect, analyze and leverage. There are countless signals and self-defining choices that they send your way, enabling you to turn them into more meaningful and personalized online experiences, helping you grab more of that elusive ‘share of wallet.’

These small signals add up to bring greater meaning to every digital interaction a visitor has with your brand online, painting a picture of who your visitor really is and what they really want.

This opens up an opportunity to create a customized experience so in tune with what a visitor wants, that it is genuinely valuable and unobtrusive. This is much less about mass marketing and more about personalizing digital experiences to each visitor who “walks in” the door.

Who Needs It?

What types of businesses can benefit from reading digital body language and personalizing their digital presence? Any and all! What visitor to any site, be it an etail, travel, banking or media site, wouldn’t prefer a more relevant experience that is tailored to their particular interests and desires? Certainly, a majority would say they do.

This is why I found it so surprising when a recent survey we conducted with over 1,700 digital marketers from a cross-section of industries revealed that the majority of businesses are still doing very little to personalize digital experiences.

And What Is It, Anyway?

In the early days of ecommerce, the word “personalization” was bandied around marketing meetings like it was the new black, with just as many definitions of what it is as there are in the letters in the word itself.

It’s much more than a personalized greeting like “Dear Mr. So-And-So, Loyal Customer and Recipient of this Extremely Personalized Email.” Your visitors are smarter than this. They expect personalization to actually add value and show that you have a deep understanding of who they are.

A personalization strategy can include any or all of the following tactics to speak to visitors throughout their digital journey:

  • Dynamically assembled on-site marketing banners with just the right combination of messaging and visual assets for that particular visitor’s profile
  • Targeted and more relevant site search results tied to a visitor’s current and past search and browse activity as well as insight from their profile variables
  • Personalized content or product recommendations that suggest alternative or complementary items which can dramatically increase engagement and conversion
  • Targeted remarketing emails after a visitor has left your site that offer an opportunity to reconnect and build a stronger relationship, or offer a specific discount to help them finish their shopping
  • Personalized display ads to tactfully remind visitors of your brand and their particular interests on your site as they move around the Web

The Profile Shot

Website content and experiences can be personalized to visitor profiles based on many different variables. A visitor’s digital body language is comprised of explicit (clicks) and implicit signals, so it’s also important to consider both what visitors are telling you as well as what you actually observe from their behavior.

Who: Consider behavioral variables – is this person a new or repeat visitor? And look at referrer variables such as referring domain. Or did they start an organic search or arrive via a social network? What search keyword brought them to your site? Your approach must be different depending on who they are, where they’re coming from or what they were looking for.

What: What are their previous purchase patterns? What type of articles or videos did they view before? What categories and areas of your site do they like to spend time in? Take in these signals and share similar areas of your site or content that you believe they’d enjoy.

Do they tend to browse in the sale section or do they purchase higher-end items? It’s critical to know how spendy they are when you decide what types of products you want to try to up-sell or cross-sell through product recommendations

When: Take into account temporal variables such as the time of day of their visit and the recency and frequency of their visits. Weekday lunchtime visitors want to get in and out quickly. Weekend visitors have time to stick around longer and explore, leaving them more ready to buy or convert.

Where: Where do they live and what is the weather like there right now? Tailor content based on environmental factors such as IP address, country of origin and time zone. A shopper from Maine in January would benefit from seeing your selection of heavy winter coats on the homepage, while a visitor from Los Angeles might bolt at the sight of anything thicker than a windbreaker.

How: How are they reaching you? From their desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet? Each device demands its own unique experience with different page layouts and calls-to-action optimized for mouse or touchscreen access. Are they visiting your store in the morning via a mobile app only to return late at night from their tablet? Let them pick up right where they left off with you last, regardless of device, and don’t treat them as a brand new visitor each time they return.


This is when you can really put all that website analytics data you’ve been collecting to work. Creating personalized experiences is just not possible without data.

Get to know your web analysts to get great insight into what’s going on in your business and how you can leverage that data to shape visitor experience. Data can drive finely-tuned relevance in the content you display on your site. You can deliver dynamic homepage banners to visitors based on profile variables sourced from your analytics data to create more targeted experience. Deliver more relevant search results based on the most popular items or content according to your analytics. Recommend relevant content to them based on their prior site activity or category affinity.

The possibilities are essentially endless as you continuously refine the way you leverage data to drive more relevance.

Know Where You’re Going

Forget about the destination, it is all about the journey, and any journey worth taking requires a map. The digital world is complex and with visitors shopping, consuming content and engaging online in so many ways, businesses need to create a defined personalization roadmap.

This roadmap ensures that they are providing consistent, relevant and rewarding experiences from one touchpoint to the next and helps move their business forward from point A to B to C, and beyond.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

An online personalization strategy needs to be a program that is continuous and evolves over time. The biggest mistake I see marketers make is when they run some dynamic banners on their homepage and call it a day. As you start to see results from personalization efforts (and you will), you’ll want to keep a close eye on your strategy and continually optimize your campaigns to make the most of your efforts.

Digital marketers are tasked with providing a high level of service online, but without access to the same (and usually more explicit) interactions that are available in the offline world.

Understanding how to measure and interpret online visitors’ digital body language to roadmap an ongoing personalization strategy helps businesses build more affinity and loyalty, increase engagement and encourage repeat visits or purchases and provide more relevant and targeted experiences in an increasingly cluttered digital world.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Kevin Lindsay
Kevin Lindsay heads up product marketing for Adobe Target. He is an expert on conversion optimization and personalization, and speaks frequently at industry events around the globe. Lindsay was with Omniture prior to its acquisition by Adobe, and previously held product and strategic marketing positions at search software companies Mercado and Verity. Lindsay is a Canadian expat who enjoys life with his family in the hills above Silicon Valley.

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