When it comes to web personalization, there’s a fine line between ‘annoying’ and ‘awesome.’ On the one hand, marketers are obsessed with the idea of reaching audiences at the right time in their buying journeys — the perfect messages can have dramatic impacts on conversion rates. On the other hand, marketers are also consumers who respect their fellow consumers’ needs for privacy and space.

No matter how much upfront research and testing you do, it’s hard to tell whether online audiences will respond positively to your web personalization strategy. The last thing that you want is an unhappy customer base — so follow these tips to avoid a web personalization blunder. Here are 5 tactics that you should avoid at all costs.

1. Aggressive pop-ups for everyone

When you serve up pop-up messages to everyone on your site and someone x-outs of the window, read the gesture for what it is:
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  • The person doesn't find your message compelling.
  • The person isn't paying attention to your pop-up window.
  • The person wants to focus on the core content on your site.

Experiencing denial (and sometimes laziness) marketers will often use pop-up tools — that keep popping up with the same message. This tactic will inevitably annoy your audiences who keep x-ing out.

The last thing that you want to do is make your brand look tacky. Instead, implement pop-ups that can adapt to specific user intents. For instance, you may want to target audiences who are about to leave your site or who may be struggling to use a particular feature in your app. Set controls for how often audiences see your messages. Your pop-up should listen as much as it alerts.

2. Condescending messaging

The last thing that your customers and prospects want to hear is that they’re ‘stupid’ or making wrong decisions — and yet, many marketers will jump to create marketing messages that ignite shock, guilt, or insincere urgency.

Today’s buyers are research-driven and need flexibility to make informed decisions. They’re well aware of ‘hurry! buy now!’ marketing tactics, and don’t like feeling disrespected.

Your marketing messages should always aim to inspire. Through web personalization, you are in the strongest possible position to make your audiences feel good and empowered. Observe the actions they’re taking on your website. Reward them, and encourage them to dig deeper. Remember that your messaging should be a force of good — not a pressure cooker.

3. Mismatched intent

Even if you have the right messaging, you need to make sure that you’re targeting your audiences at the right time. If you push a sales pitch too early, for instance, you’ll risk driving prospects away. On the flip side — if you try to ‘seal the deal’ too late, your messaging will just seem awkward.

The solution: if you’re a marketer, you need a clear understanding of your buyer journeys and customer personas. Your messaging then needs to align to those personas and be timed appropriately. With understanding and empathy on your side, you’ll have an easier time meeting your audience’s needs.

4. Creepiness

Your customers will love when you’re present, attentive, and responsive. If you’re always in their peripheral vision, however, you can creep them out.

As mentioned earlier in this post, there’s a fine line between web personalization and creepiness. If you’re running retargeting campaigns, recommending products, and following up on unopened messages, you need to be careful not to act like a stalker.

Instead, think back to scenario #3 from this post. You need to be empathetic and selective in your messaging, retargeting and follow-ups, acknowledging that your customers need time, space, and recommendations to make informed decisions.

5. Taking 'web' too literally

Personalization needs more than a one-size-fits-all strategy. Mobile has reached a point where it is too big to ignore — your audiences are using multiple devices and platforms to engage with your brand.

Think about how mobile fits into your marketing picture and how you should adapt your calls to action. Keep in mind that mobile audiences will engage with your brand through a series of taps and swipes.

Your personalization strategy should be device-appropriate. Pay attention to key differentiators between mobile and web — create a strategy that builds a bridge between the two.

Final thoughts

The best way to succeed with web personalization is to stop thinking about it anatomically. Start by getting to know your customers and their buying cycle. Then, use your left brain to piece together your marketing strategy. Personalization goes wrong when you ignore the human beings on the other side of the screen.