SEMA News—August 2020


By Joe Dysart

Website Personalization

Digitized Charm, At Your Service

In the end, web personalization is going after the same goal that has driven businesses for ages: happy customers.

Given that personalization has become a dominant mantra among marketers these days, it’s no surprise that there are a number of solutions available that can significantly personalize a website for every visitor. Those services are able to pull off this personalization (which manifests in websites that can instantly change images, text, colors and more, based on who’s visiting) by amassing an ever-growing data profile on each of your customers and visitors.

Once the service has that detailed data profile, it’s simply a matter of matching content alternatives with the kind of person who is on your site.

“In its simplest form, true one-to-one marketing means that each person gets their own content, their own experience,” said Raj Balasundaram, senior vice president for artificial intelligence (AI) at Emarsys, a website-personalization services provider.

In fact, the recognition of the power of personalization in selling is so pervasive that 96% of organizations surveyed said they considered it to be an important part of their everyday marketing strategy, according to a report released by Dynamic Yield (, a key personalization services provider.

In practice, adding personalization essentially transforms a website into a great salesperson. And, like every great salesperson, a website with personalization remembers every detail of every encounter customers or potential customers have had with the company. It knows what products they’ve purchased and which products they’ve passed on. It knows if they’re impulse buyers or tough customers who take a long time to study features and options at multiple websites before making purchases or business decisions.

It also keeps track of every piece of information customers have shared with the company—whether it be via the website itself, email opens and clicks, phone conversations with company representatives, face-to-face encounters that have been chronicled, the ads they’ve clicked on—even the company links they’ve bookmarked in their browsers.

Web personalization also keeps constant track of the tiniest of minutia associated with customers, which it knows can come in handy sooner or later. It knows what countries they come from, for example, as well as the time zones they live in, the kind of computers they’re using, what time they usually open their emails and even the screen resolutions of the devices they’re using.

In fact, Adobe Target—a leading provider of website personalization services—tracks 33 categories of data associated with each customer it keeps tabs on for its clients, including profile data that companies buy from third parties. Armed with that continually updated data stream, a top web-personalization service can really charm the pants off customers, if used creatively.

For example, a website powered by personalization can greet customers who visit by their first names, wish them a happy birthday and offer up a new product offering featuring their favorite color. And it can dynamically restructure the company homepage on the fly, switching to images it thinks specific customers prefer, changing to text it thinks they’ll prefer and serving up offers it thinks they’ll prefer.

It also has the ability to make any page of the website do the same backflips to impress.

A personalized website can also unveil special offers explicitly reserved for VIP customers—the same way a Las Vegas casino comps someone on a room once it realizes he or she is a high roller.

The best services also enable businesses to zoom in and out on personalization, sometimes personalizing a website for an individual visitor and other times based on a genre of customer. The best web-personalization services also enable marketers to update the way a website personalizes a customer visit in terms of the images changed, promotions offered and coupons sent—without being forced to go to company IT to make such updates.

The most comprehensive web-personalization services also enable marketers to reach out to customers beyond the website. Such beyond-the-site offers include personalized coupons via email, enticements via email to turn an abandoned shopping cart into a purchase, and ad offers that pop up on other websites your customers visit.

As you’ve probably guessed, many of the top website-personalization services are also infused with AI, which enables the service to learn over time what strategies are working best with each customer. AI-driven web-personalization services also often enable marketers to set a personalization goal for each customer’s visit and then let the AI figure out the best way to implement that goal.

“The best AI machines literally let you tell them your strategy,” Balasundaram said. “For example, setting a sliding scale to indicate how aggressively you want to discount an item for a particular campaign. Self-learning systems—which most AI-branded tools should also be—have to learn on their own, creating, reacting to and defining rules that aren’t explicitly told to them by humans. On top of all that, these processes will all need to occur within a matter of milliseconds.”

Added Lisa Kalscheur, chief marketing officer for Monetate, another website-personalization services provider: “Combined with AI-driven insights and recommendations, personalization can have a significant impact across a customer journey.”

Moreover, bringing personalization on board a website can often involve minimal changes. For example, a number of website-personalization services require you to simply embed a few snippets of code in your webpages so that its software can track what’s happening on the site and then make personalization changes accordingly.

When shopping for web personalization, a good first stop is to check out Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines, 2019 ( It’s an in-depth report on personalization from a highly respected consulting firm and identifies eight website-personalization services providers it considers to be market leaders:

Also extremely handy is “Picking a Personalization Vendor With Confidence: 56 Questions You Need to Ask Before Making a Decision” ( That guide offers an extremely in-depth view on what to look for in personalization and how to get the most from the personalization provider you select. One caveat: The guide is written by Dynamic Yield, a top web-personalization services provider that is trying to sell you its approach to personalization. Even so, the questions the guide offers do apply to any vendor you’re likely to evaluate closely and really get you thinking deeply about the kind of personalization that is best for your company.

You can also get an extremely in-depth look at how other companies are implementing personalization with the Inspiration Library ( The series features 81 case studies of website personalization done right. Again, the literature is provided by Dynamic Yield.

“The Inspiration Library codifies the top customer-use cases into a repository that is rich with best practices and offers a starting point for scaling your business with omnichannel personalization,” said Mukund Ramachandran, chief marketing officer for Dynamic Yield.

Still other extremely helpful guides you can use in your search for the ultimate personalization services provider for your business include:

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