A Google search gives each user a personalized result and if a customer calls up the Amazon shopping platform, products tailored to the user's interests get recommended. Even while surfing on popular magazine and portal sites individual advertisements and link recommendations are now displayed and it really seems that personalized content on the Web is becoming the norm. Most probably that trend will move to online services and corporate web sites too, as the targeting of users, the personalization of the content according to their interests, and the analysis of this information for downstream (online) marketing efforts will become increasingly important.

So how can the personalization of a web page be technically done? What opportunities for addressing users in a personalized way are available? What measures can be used for personalization in online marketing?

The following contains some suggested approaches, tools and concepts for the personalization of online activities:

Personalization through self-assessment
One form of personalization is to allow a self-assessment by the user, which can be done with a scroll bar (beginner, expert, professional) in the appropriate website. Through user input the website gets information on the level of complexity or detail of the website contents that should be displayed for them. Product information could then, for instance, be reduced for beginners or the sorting of products could be changed to better meet their specific requirements.

Personalization by user profiles
User log-ins are probably the most commonly used form of personalization: After a successful user registration, a personalized view of the website can be displayed and content can be adjusted manually or automatically, in accordance to the user's needs.

The need to register often occurs at a threshold, in times of continuously growing social networks, where users are, to no surprise, increasingly reluctant to create or maintain additional profiles on several different websites.

An alternative may be the possibility of the personalization of Facebook, which allows the connection of the user profile on Facebook with the website. Even here - with regard to the issue of privacy - acceptance by users is rather low and these functions should be used very cautiously.

Automatic personalization by tracking interest
The basis for the personalization of web sites is a thematic mapping of content. By allocating website content to various topics of interest or profiles it is possible to define, within a content management system, which content is suitable for which target groups. If content of an online offer is categorized accordingly, all information gained during the delivery of the website can be assigned to the user with the help of cookies.

By visiting various thematically dedicated pages the user profile gets created piece by piece or click by click respectively. After four to five page views it's usually pretty clear what kind of user type is currently accessing the website, providing information that can be used for personalization.

Personalization with geographic coordinates
One of the most widely used forms of Web personalizations is based on geo-location of the user. Information gained from the IP address allows conclusions to be drawn about a user's whereabouts which can be used, for instance, to present appropriate service centers or special offers and promotions. In addition, this information is also very useful to link with other regional data - such information could be whether there is rain or shine at the location, or can be used for a suitable or useful geo-based product recommendation.

Enhancement of customer databases
The various data, obtained through the personalization concepts, are ideal to optimize or personalize tailored downstream marketing activities. Thus, with a newsletter registration or the use of a contact form, the corresponding profile of interests, the self-assessment or the linked information from the user profile to a customer database or CRM system can be transferred. Caution: Personal data should be stored appropriately according to local laws and guidelines on data protection.

Personalization of newsletters and email marketing campaigns
Based on this data highly targeted email marketing campaigns and newsletters can be generated and personalized, according to the interest profiles of registered recipients.

Personalized advertising through remarketing
Since 2010, Google offers with its remarketing function the option to capture visitors to a website or landing page and to address them later with targeted advertisements. Important here is to achieve a critical mass of 100 users who have accessed the page first, because after that, the ads can be delivered.

Outlook for the personalized Web
On social networks like Facebook and Google+ users give away more and more information about their interests and needs. These data are already used to deliver target group appropriate advertising - at least on Facebook. Google will surely follow and deliver to their Google+ members even more relevant ads through AdWords.

In the area of detached online services, such as corporate websites, this trend will certainly have an impact, too. By reducing wastage and providing a better opportunity to address users, the success rates and conversion rates can be optimized, making it easier to gain new customers. Expect the Web to continue to be personalized - from the search results page to the company website to the point of email newsletter.

By MediaBUZZ