January 12, 2017

Household name brands like Facebook, Amazon, Pandora, and Netflix have been utilizing personalization for years as a standard feature of the user experience. In the process, they’ve been nurturing a growing expectation among consumers that their needs will be anticipated and addressed at every turn.

Nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests. Source: Janrain & Harris Interactive

Healthcare isn’t exempt. When consumers first visit a new doctor, they expect to have to explain their health history. But if they come back for a third, fourth, seventeenth visit and still have to begin each visit with the same introductory spiel, they will feel pretty crummy, pretty undervalued. Everyone expects their physician to know who they are and to treat them appropriately based on what they know. And these days? Your website visitors expect your hospital or health system to do the same thing.

73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use personal information to make their experiences more relevant. Source: Digital Trends

The healthcare marketers I speak with on a regular basis are aware they need a strategy for personalization but are still connecting the dots on how to implement it. Through the course of these conversations, I often find they’re paralyzed by legacy content management systems, spread-too-thin IT departments, and disparate data sources. This won’t be the case for long, especially as user-friendly platforms that demystify the process become more accessible. More on that later in this post…

They’re also frequently overwhelmed by the unlimited possibilities personalization provides. I agree, today there is limited documentation on case studies or best practices, particularly for healthcare, but after working with dozens of health systems to drive business results using personalization, here are some emerging best practices we have uncovered that you should consider as you begin to formulate your approach:

  • Focus on business drivers. Your website personalization strategy must ultimately contribute to the bottom line either directly or indirectly, or it simply isn’t worth it. No one has time to tackle personalization simply because it’s possible! Goal #1 should be to leverage personalized content to encourage visitors to take a specific action, like registering for a class or event, finding a physician, or scheduling an appointment. If you implement personalization for nothing else, do so to target relevant calls to action that translate to high quality leads and revenue.
  • Be useful, not annoying. Content served at the right time to the right person can help progress the visitor through their journey and, arguably, towards your service line offering. Finding the right opportunities to do this, the ones that matter most, is easiest when you spend some time upfront developing personas and customer journey maps for your target audience. A buyer persona is a composite sketch of your target prospect, identifying their real needs and concerns, and what interests them about your providers or services. It's based on interviews with real consumers. If you aren’t familiar with how to develop Customer Journeys, this 10 Minute Template can get you started quickly. Once you can identify when/where website visitors are in the healthcare decision making cycle, you can reveal content that anticipates their questions and needs and helps guide them down a preferred path.
  • Keep it simple and measure everything. There’s a common misconception that personalization requires a very involved implementation process to get started. That’s not the case anymore. Through simple integration to third-party data sources, you could be providing your website visitors a customized online experience within weeks. The right CMS will also help you measure and track performance. If your vendor is requiring a huge investment of time and dollars to get started, it may be time to evaluate new technology.

How is personalization accomplished?

The data that can be leveraged for personalization falls into four main categories which are generally understood across all contemporary content management systems. Any one, or some combination, of these elements are used as targeting criteria to render personalized content.

Ambient DataBehavior DataUser Provided DataSystem Integrated Data
GeographySearches conductedForm dataCRM System Data
DevicePages visitedSocial authentication dataMarketing Automation system data
BrowserInformation viewedLegacy application data
Operating SystemContent downloaded
DateEvent registrations
Time of DayForms completed

Rather than going down the list of available data types and determining what is possible with each data element (because the possibilities are almost limitless), you should identify the real world use cases you want to solve and prioritize your efforts based on your business goals. For example, health systems with multiple urgent care centers or emergency departments typically want to promote the location in closest proximity to the user, for obvious reasons. The same goes for recommending a physician close to home. Looking at ambient data types, these use cases can be supported by “geography” data – using the site visitor’s detected IP address or mobile geolocation data. The ability to highly personalize content and calls to action becomes increasingly powerful as visitors begin to engage with content on the site (behavior data) and provide personally identifiable information (user provided data) which can be used both to personalize content and to perform a lookup in a third-party data source, such as a CRM or marketing automation platform (system integrated data).

What content can and should be personalized?

Only 32% of marketers view their current content management systems as useful enablers of personalization. Source: Econsultancy/Adobe

There are variations in what can be achieved by content management systems, but in general, any contemporary CMS technology should support these three categories of content in some way.

  • Variable content - Either copy or imagery that changes within a designated zone on a page. Take, for example, a large health system that wants to dedicate an area of its system homepage to promote its most valuable service line(s) based on detected geography. In the exact same place on the homepage, a site visitor from Missouri may see a promotion for cardiology services whereas a site visitor from Kansas may see oncology services. Other examples of variable content include using the same screen real estate to promote an iPhone vs. an Android app to mobile users (based on their device type) or promoting gender specific campaigns such as mammograms to women vs. prostate cancer screenings to men.
  • Related content – Most of us are familiar with related content personalization from sites like Amazon, which leverage behavioral data to cross-promote related or additional services. For example, if a site visitor has recently registered for a pregnancy class, they could be targeted with a related article such as, “Choosing the right pediatrician for your newborn.” 
  • Calls to Action (CTAs) - deliver a high ROI when personalized based on behavioral data. For example, a site visitor who arrived on the site based on the keyword “weight loss surgery” should automatically be targeted with CTAs such as registering for a Bariatric webinar and scheduling an appointment with a weight loss surgeon.  

Test, Tweak, Run

Now that you know who you want to target, how you can do that, and have an idea on what content you want to try to change, it’s time to create and deploy different sets of creative to see which one performs better. Here’s a checklist for getting started:

  • Quickly craft A/B variants – two variations of personalized content – which you will test and compare to select a winner
  • Preview variants to simulate what experience will look like before you pull the trigger
  • Try out permutations of your content…banners, layout, call-to-action, content presentation, or images…to see what generates the highest conversions
  • View detailed reporting on how many times each variation was viewed and how effective it was at achieving the desired action – a predetermined goal of a click or form submission
  • Identify the winning variable and deploy it as the rule

Need an easy reference to get going on your personalization efforts (or some helpful stats on the effectiveness of personalization for executive buy-in)? Download our infographic.