Home page personalization has come a long way from “Welcome back, Kotter!” messages when a user logs in. Advances in contextual targeting like geolocation, IP detection, personalization and predictive engines allow ecommerce merchandisers to target customers based on their session context, their past behaviors, their social data and more.
More relevant targeting results in reduced bounce rates (which can also positively impact SEO) and often higher conversion rates, guiding customers toward products and content they are most likely to want.
While any part of your ecommerce experience can be personalized, home pages offer you the most real estate to play with. Let’s explore the many ways you can tailor your home page experience from pop-ups to product assortment.
7 Ways to Personalize the Home Page
Home page content can be targeted to any level of geography – region, country, state/province, city, zipcode or pinpointed-location.
Language and currency settings
Many ecommerce sites that allow international shoppers to shop in their own language and currency employ geolocation to either automatically serve a localized experience, or suggest the international customer configure the site to their preferences.
While auto-serving localized options is the lowest friction option (no action required by the customer), a lightbox overlay allows a merchant to describe value propositions of the localized experience, such as showing “landed costs” (duties and taxes collected up-front – no surprises) and special shipping offers.
For SEO and usability reasons, light boxes are preferred to splash pages. With geolocation and language settings detectable through the browser, there’s no need to gate your home page completely. Reduce friction by auto-serving content based on detected settings, and offer an override in the top right corner of the page.
Ecommerce businesses don’t always offer free shipping or other promotions to international customers, or offer them on specific terms. For example, Nieman Marcus provides free shipping on everything to the US, and with $100USD purchase to Canada.
Merchandisers may also wish to feature different products, messaging or imagery based on location. For example, snowy winter messaging may not be so persuasive to Floridians or Californians in December.
It’s not uncommon for apparel sites to find some styles very popular in cities like Miami, and very unpopular in New York. Sales data can be very useful in optimizing geotargeted site merchandising.
Some products cannot be shipped internationally due to size/weight or brand restrictions. For example, Sephora’s US catalog is different than its Canadian offering, and its home page merchandising zones may reflect this.
Sephora’s US Home Page Features
Sephora’s Canadian Home Page Features
Sephora’s US Editor’s Picks
Sephora’s Canadian Editor’s Picks
New vs Returning Visitors and Customers
There are many use cases for showing different content and offers to new and returning visitors (though cookie wiping and cross-device / cross-browser use makes the tactic not 100% accurate).
A common tactic is to display “recently viewed” items. This doesn’t just remind returning visitors of what they looked at, but allows them re-locate products fast without having to recall search terms or work through navigation menus.
Amazon takes this trick a step further, suggesting items related to recently viewed and purchased:
You can also personalize to what’s in a user’s cart. T-mobile cleverly recommends a Galaxy S case when a Galaxy S device is in the cart.
Another tactic is to offer new visitors a call to action, often a discount off first purchase with email sign up.
However, showing this offer to all visitors, including existing customers and visitors who’ve previously declined the offer, can be detrimental. It adds friction to the experience (vs showing no interruptive content) and carries an opportunity cost of not showing a more relevant offer.
While persistent cookies can help you identify returning visitors (including those logged-in to an account), some sites explicitly ask visitors to self-identify as customers or pre-customers.
Home page offers and messaging are targeted to existing customers (special offers), and pre-customers (value propositions) respectively.
Logged-in users’ profile information, including details gleaned in newsletter sign-up and preference centers, can be used to target more relevant merchandising. Some ecommerce platforms allow you to “tag” visitor segments based on this information.
For example, a member that has indicated an interest in men’s clothing (or has a purchase history as such) is more likely to respond to men’s merchandising than random home page slider content.
Likewise, a member that has indicated an interest in kids be shown children’s features.
Visitors referred by email or social campaigns, affiliates, ad campaigns or other relevant sources may benefit from contextually targeted content, offers and merchandising.
For example, Discount Dance Supply may choose to show visitors referred from a cheerleading blog Teamwear banners and offers.
Or, if a visitor has previously visited a category or product page through a paid search ad for cheerleading, the ecommerce system (if supported) can serve cheerleading content upon following home page visits.
Tip: Some personalization vendors can identify email visitors by their email address, and can tie this back to previous sessions, regardless of multi-device behavior or logged-in/logged out state. Make use of this feature!
Emergent and advanced methods of personalization incorporate cross-channel and social data. For example, in-store purchases or in-app browsing can be applied to the Web experience. This 360-degree view of the customer is costly and requires retail and online systems to be tightly integrated, and requires customers to consistently identify themselves across channels through logged-in Web sessions, smartphone beacons, loyalty cards or other identifiers. While this is considered “holy grail,” very few organizations are able to do this effectively, and the challenges are unlikely to be overcome in the next few years.
An advance we may see in ecommerce personalization is the use of third party data, like that already used by social and ad networks, that can identify even a new visitor’s interests and purchase intent based on frequently visited websites, social profiles and Google searches.
How important is home page personalization?
In theory, more relevant content, offers and product recommendations leads to higher sales. The conversion goal of the home page is to not send the visitor away running and screaming, and encourage a click deeper into your site. While personalization can certainly support that KPI, navigation and guided selling are equally important (and may be even more effective for your business).
If you missed our chapter on site navigation, you can read it here. Next chapter, we’ll look at how to apply “guided selling” to your home pages. And if you like what we’re puttin’ down here on Ecommerce Illustrated, please subscribe to receive each week’s chapter as we journey through 52 ecommerce issues from home page through checkout.
Ecommerce Illustrated is a project of Edgacent, an ecommerce advisory group.