Let’s start by having a look at the types of personalisation you may want to consider for implementation in your website, web application or online shop.
Content management solutions come under many labels—CMS, WEM, CEM/CXM or DXP are just a few of the acronyms that have been in use over the past years. A common denominator across all leading platforms nowadays is the inclusion of at least some type of rule-based personalisation and the differences are mostly in out of the box functionality, ease-of-use and flexibility. And to make that clear as well–the lack of at least some built-in and easily accessible kind of personalisation should be among your exclusion criteria when selecting a new platform.
The most basic of data that can be used to personalise your user experience is probably environment data. That is, any general (and often also anonymous) information you can gather from a user and their environment.
Acting based on a user’s date and timezone for sure is one of the simplest rules to implement. But who doesn’t appreciate a simple ‘good morning’ or offers automatically triggered on a particular weekday or bank holiday.
The IP address allows you to easily map users with their physical location and in succession also the pre-selection of a matching site/locale or special functionality. Imagine an offer for a special delivery promotion that differs by location—and don’t forget that what is appreciated by one user (free delivery) can be frustrating for another (delivery actually isn’t free in your region).
One of the more ingenious rule-based personalisation options I have seen is weather-based. When you are able to map the user with a more specific location you can also gather weather data for the region and react accordingly. It isn’t hard to understand why special bad weather promotions work—your own imagination is the limit here.
Domain Name and URL
It is sometimes desirable that the customer experience varies based on how the user accessed it. Put it in simple terms, your website can behave differently when accessed through a specific domain name (with different branding and presentation depending on which one is used). The same goes for accessing similar contents through different URLs which can trigger changes in content, presentation and behaviour. In that sense a product category may contain a personal style guide feature—or not—based on two different URLs for the same page—without the need to maintain multiple pages.
Behavioural triggers are a more refined and a slightly harder to implement type of personalisation. They are usually still anonymous and based on relatively generic rules.
In case you have external links–be it from other web assets you own or from Google ads and similar kinds of external campaigns–you can use that information to show different information or even segment the user. Imagine that a user comes from a special campaign advertising a particular service or product category. As a visitor you would expect to see the campaign or related content promoted on the website you are visiting–in the simplest of cases with a special banner on the homepage of the website you are visiting.
Logged in/out User
Once you add login protection to at least some features of your online asset there will be some difference in user experience—from adapted navigation options to replacing entire blocks of functionality.
First Time or Return Customer/Visitor
You may want to treat a returning visitor (or customer in case you have that information) differently from a new visitor. In the simplest of examples you can show a ‘welcome back’ message or you can try to continue or extend an already started customer/buyer journey. Or in reverse you way want to present information targeted towards new users such as a beginner’s guide or an introduction to the advertised products or services.
I'm assuming you are familiar with the concept of retargeting—the same approach can be used on your own website. In case a visitor has spent a certain amount of time browsing a particular website area or product category it is probably safe to assume a genuine interest. So why not encourage them to close the deal (or get in contact) by showing special offers or a similar call to action related to that category when they browse back to the homepage or category landing page. These kinds of personalised calls to action are proven to substantially increase conversions. While all of the above may seem relatively simple to implement, personalisation that is easy to maintain and really pays off depends heavily on careful prior planning on a business level. I highly recommend you to first define who you are targeting, why and what you plan to achieve in the long run, before you start working on any kind of personalisation or you even think of moving on to more complex types of personalisation. Besides that it pays off to speak to your technical team to understand what environment and customer data may already bet at your disposal for immediate use.