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November 23, 2015

How Data-First Personas Inform Adaptive Content

We last talked about the importance of building data-first personas and why this is valuable in personalizing any customer experience. Let’s explore how to put these personas into action to inform adaptive content.

We’ll explore how a fictitious company, called Garden Pro, uses their data-first personas to drive behavior-rich, adaptive marketing content. These “micro experiences” deliver certain pieces of messaging depending on the type of visitor that arrives.

Using this method, marketing teams can build adaptable, intelligent content assets, rather than commissioning numerous pieces. That can get expensive.

But, it starts with a means to unify user data, inject behavior-rich segments into adaptive content and the customer experience, and how to gage the efficacy of these assets. Let’s take a look at how data-first personas influence the construction of adaptive content.


What’s Adaptive Content?

Adaptive content is sustainable content that is deisgned and constructed to adapt to various user types, formats, and devices. It exists nimbly to serve specific user needs.

Adaptive content is a pretty hot topic right now. It sounds like anyone who touches it, from web admin teams, to designers, to marketing squads, digital strategists, and all in-between, wants to make the most of it with whatever understanding that they have about adaptive content.

At first, it began as the concept of content that has more than one usage (content folks have been talking about adaptive content since forever. Instead of building one style of homepage to fit one viewport requirement, we also will include different versions of the content blocks, like titles, body copy, and whatnot, to adapt to phones, tablets, game consoles, and other numerous device.

For the hungrier digital and content strategists, adaptive content advances into the need to think through how we architect content to serve various devices, various users, and what that means to existing organizational workflows(whether you work in marketing, sales, web teams, product teams, etc.). Noz Urbina has a great perspective on how adaptive content is rooted in bigger organizational and process change, and is much more than “what to build or publish next, and for whom.”

While adaptive content is still a maturing concept, it’s clear that it involves understanding who the content should serve, how we build content to serve and scale, and how we maintain that content to continue fueling great personalization.

It all starts, and is firmly rooted, with whom we want to serve with our content. We identify these users by unifying their data into behavior-rich, data-first personas.


Build Your Data-First Personas

Let’s assume that Garden Pro uses a Customer Data Platform, like Lytics, to unify various sources of customer data (like email, web interaction, ads performance, social media, and mobile data) into rich, universal profiles. We’ll use these profiles to supplement content creation and creative.

Data First Personas Adaptive Content 1

Here are a few examples:

Persona: Tire Kickers
Internal Definition: Potential customers who are still shopping around for deals or product data to make informed decisions.
Data Includes: Customer Lifetime Value, Purchase History, content affinity analysis, interaction with web events.
Actionable Segments Example: "Anonymous, returning visitors with no recent purchases"
Persona: Brand Advocates
Internal Definition: Our best customers who frequently purchase from our site in high volumes.
Data Includes: Anonymous web ids, interaction with web events, content affinity analysis.
Actionable Segments: Example "Returning, known visitor with high Customer Lifetime Value"
Persona: Lawn Winterizers
Internal Definition: Homeowners who winterize their landscaping annually and make sizeable, seasonal purchases.
Data Includes: Seasonal purchase dates, interaction with web events, purchase history, content affinity analysis.
Actionable Segments Example: "Winter Season Lawncare Enthusiasts"

Rethinking How We Build Content

For this adaptive content exercise, we’re going to focus on the digital marketing aspect of Garden Pro.

The current school of thought is to create a multitude of different variants of ads, landing pages, and assets based on known demographic personas. There’s great coverage in this strategy as it involves numerous unique assets, but if we have the means of determining actual user intent and segmenting off of it, why not use segments to inform content creation at a more modular level?

For instance, why create ten landing pages when you can create one adaptive page to render content specific to the visiting user by their corresponding segment?

Data First Personas Adaptive Content 2

If it’s a lawn enthusiast, show lawn-related messaging.

If it’s a greenthumb, show messaging that entices gardeners.

Outside of user data unification and content creation, there are probably a few chats to have with your web development and information architecture teams about developing sustainable content reuse practices like this.

For instance, you can build in methods fo reusing these content blocks assigned to different segments within latter parts of the experience to ensure message consistency.

Data First Personas Adaptive Content 3

NOTE: We explain a basic format of content personalization in an article by my developer colleague.

Assuming Garden Pro unifies its data, creates data-first personas and segments, and creates content constructs to support personalization and customization, let’s check out a few example campaigns.


Tire-Kickers: Anonymous, Returning Visitors with No Recent Purchases

The Customer Data Platform, Lytics, allows Garden Pro to map anonymous user IDs with particular user behavior. This means that the next time an anonymous user revisits Garden Pro, there will be enough interaction data to determine membership with a segment.

The segment in this example are folks who visit again, but haven’t made a purchase yet.

Knowing this, we can alter parts of the website to cater to understanding that the customer hasn’t made a purchase yet, but frequently visits. Perhaps an incentive to buy will help nudge them in the right direction.

But, for visitors that don’t qualify for this particular segment, let’s say they’re “new visitors,” they’ll receive a welcome message instead. Adaptive web content that uses behavior-rich segmentation allows marketers to use one website to welcome both types of visitors with contextual messaging.

Of course, when the new visitors leave and return, they will be reclassified as returning visitors and will be served with different content, depending on how detailed your segments and content strategy is.


Brand Advocates: Known Visitors with a High Customer Lifetime Value

Using the same content construct, if Garden Pro has a segment of brand advocates (customers who visit frequently and make high-value and volume purchases), why not welcome them back to your site with a message that recognizes this?

Or, even better, incentivize them to make another set of purchases with a coupon code.


Seasonal Content Based on Personas and Segments

Segment membership doesn’t always have to be about when and where to hand out an incentive or ask for an email sign-up. Understanding seasonality of user interaction can yield the right segments and content constructs to personalize an experience.

For example, Garden Pro can create a segment of users who tend to visit winter lawncare goods and frequent the site during the Autumn season most based on web analytics and user interaction.

This segment can tell adaptive content constructs to show educational material related to the user type. When the “Winterizer” persona visits the site, Garden Pro can encourage them to take a look at the latest winter lawncare blog article or video to encourage that they’re in the right place and that Garden Pro is looking after their best interest.

These moments of clear, user-focused context and personalization are what helps brands break through market noise and actually matter to their customers and users.


How We Measure and Maintain Adaptive Content

Data-first user personas, behavior-rich segments, and adaptive content are a great asset for any forward-looking marketing team. But, they require upkeep and maintenance in respect to performance analytics and user interactions to remain relevant. This is where a Customer Data Platform, like Lytics, can help.

How marketing teams loop new analytics and user interactions back into their systems not only keeps personas and segmentation fresh, but it also allows practitioners to know what and where content needs to improve throughout a given customer experience.

Next time, we’ll dive deep into what an adaptive content system needs to look out for in regards to customer interaction and campaign analytics. Until then, check out my engineer colleague’s piece on rethinking and evolving our understanding of web analytics to hold you over.

Remember, personalization doesn’t mean quantity over quality. Data-first user personas and some smart, adaptive thinking when it comes to content can save a lot of time and money for any forward-looking digital marketing crew.

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