Internet - The World Wide Web
PersonalizationPersonalization is the term used for displaying information on a Web page that is customized for a unique individual. Personalization is the technology used in all of those MyThis and MyThat Web sites that let you create your own personal home page with your stocks, your city’s weather, your favorite sports teams, and other personal information that is continually updated all the time. There are actually several technologies in play to create these types of Web pages.
Obviously, the Web server and its application servers are running the show when it comes to displaying Web pages. But the server does not just magically know who you are. In order to give you the Web content you have requested, the Web server needs help from the user’s own Web browser.
A Web server can store information about you on your own hard drive in something called a cookie file. Cookie files are built-in parts of both the Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer browser programs. The Web server has the ability to look inside your cookie file every time you visit that Web site. In fact, the server can store any type of information it wants to in your cookie file.
In the simplest methods of Web site personalization, however, the server simply stores a unique ID number in the cookie file. When you go to the Web site, the server reads your cookie file and retrieves this unique number. It then looks up the ID number in its database. This database is where the Web server stores all of your preferences and information. In cases like My Yahoo!, this can be the city you live in, what stocks you like to follow, what sports teams you want to see scores for, and even what news services you like to read. The Web server can then respond with a dynamically generated, personalized Web page by merging information from your database with a predesigned Web page template.
Personalization is a new trend in e-commerce. More and more smaller businesses are shying away from building huge generic sites that provides all things to all customers. Huge sites mean customers have to go through page after page of products and information that are irrelevant to them. Every page between them and the information and products they want is one more chance for them to go elsewhere to find it. Companies are now building sites that enable their customers to build their own boutiques where the content and product information is precisely what they need. Personalization like this often converts into larger order sizes and converts your occasional customer into a regular customer.
Generating your own personalization technology is a time-consuming and costly process, but it makes your Web site shine against your competitor’s and makes your customer feel more at home on your site. Before undertaking any kind of development project to make your site more personalized, you really have to gather some information from your customers. The more information you can get from your customers the better your ability to design personalization features that will make them happy. The key to getting that information is doing it slowly and subtly. Nobody wants to fill out a long questionnaire about their habits. But if your site requires membership, you can ask a single question each time the customer logs on to your site. By the end of the month, you’ll have a whole trove of information on who your customers are and what they use your site for.
If you are not an Internet-only business and have a bricks-and-mortar facility, you already have a lot of information on how your customers shop and what they buy from you. Combine that information with what you learn on the Web to help design personalization features that are right for your business and for your customer.
If you already have a preferred shopper club or other means of gathering information on your customers, build that into your Web site then offer these preferred customers a chance to take a look around their own “personal” site. They will appreciate the transition of their customer information onto the Web provided it is done in a secure way.
One of the newer companies offering personalization technology solutions is TriVida Corporation. The TriVida package works on suggestive selling. Based on preprogrammed settings by a business, the software suggests additional items to a customer along the lines of what they are going to purchase. (A purchase of a tube of toothpaste might bring up a suggestion of a toothbrush to go with it.) This kind of selling works well in apparel and electronics categories.
* Source - Everything Online Business Book
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