The power of personalized subscription offers to turn anonymous visitors into loyal readers

02 Nov 2016 | By Tobias Arns

By providing highly tailored content, relevant to each individual, customer loyalty can be built and maintained, meaningful connections made with new and existing customers, anonymous or fly-by visitors can be turned into regular ones, and revenue generated.

A long time ago and far away, in a cafe located somewhere deep behind the lines of surreal TV comedy Monty Python:

  • Have you got anything without spam?

  • Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.

  • I don't want ANY spam!

Just imagine: slapping a menu down in front of your customer and steadfastly ignoring their complaints that they want something else. That's no way to run a restaurant, or indeed, any sort of business.

Don’t let your fly-bys fly away

Yet, that is precisely what hundreds – thousands, even – of website owners do daily.  They present one face, one set of content for every visitor, and then exhibit surprise when the occasional and casual visitor – the “fly-by” – flies off and never returns.

How much business is lost? How much damage done to the reputation of your enterprise, by this rigid, unbending public face?

And how much benefit if, at the moment that individual lands, you served them content that is relevant to them, grabs their attention and engages their interest? How much better, in short, if you delivered personalized content from the outset?

Convert fly-bys with personalized content experiences

The quick, easy answer to that question is: at least 20%. From early research in 2013, through to more specific insight provided by J D Williams in 2016, the uplift in business is regularly quoted as being in excess of 18% with personalized web experiences.

US consultancy, Gartner, is even more bullish. A recent report, IT Market Clock for Digital Commerce, suggests: “by 2018, sellers that have fully invested in all types of digital personalization are expected to outperform companies that have not invested in personalization technologies by 30%.”

They explain: “Personalization is a process that creates a relevant, individualized interaction between two parties designed to enhance the experience of the recipient. It uses insight based on the recipient’s personal data, as well as behavioural data about the actions of similar individuals, to deliver an experience that meets specific needs and preferences.”

Get personal with big data

This, in two short sentences, is it. Getting personal is the way forward. It increases engagement, increases loyalty, and, in the case of fly-bys, makes it significantly more likely that they will return, so maximising the value of investment in your website.

As for what this involves, there are many aspects to “getting personal”. It is in the tone and language used. Where an individual is returning to a site, the use of cookies means that a name greeting might be possible. These, though are the icing on the cake.

The essence of personalization is in content: for news sites, as well as for a growing number of businesses that attract visitors through the quality of the tales they have to tell, this is about serving up news and features that instantly engage the user, because they relate to their interests.  

Personalized offers in the sales funnel

It is about presenting visitors with personalized and relevant promotions/offers. More broadly, it is about tailoring each individual journey through the website so that at every stage, options presented nudge them down the path they want to take anyway: removing barriers, by not presenting them with irrelevant links, or highlighting the ones you suspect they were looking for in the first place.

That, though, is the relatively easy bit. Once you know who you are dealing with, delivering the right content is by no means a trivial task. But with the support of the appropriate digital personalization engines, the dual task of identifying the optimum experience for an individual and then triggering the best response in real time – including changing the way a website presents itself to them – is increasingly straightforward, as well as the absolute minimum for trading effectively online.

The difficulty lies in the second half of Gartner's analysis. Delivering a personal experience to individuals you have done business with before is one thing: but how do you personalize a conversation with someone appearing for the first time ever on your website?

As a publisher, you know more about your readers than you think...

The answer, in an increasingly interconnected world, is simpler than you imagine. Individuals travel the net with a growing amount of baggage attached. You know where they came from in terms of clickthrough, and this often tells you a lot about them. If they came from a search engine, you may know what they were searching for.

Meanwhile, cookies as well as a range of apps store useful information drawn from individual profiles on social media. And don't forget that visitors who access your website through their mobile arrive with a wealth of extra data attached including, if GPS is turned on, their current location. So you can distinguish a visitor who seeks you out in the middle of a sports clothing store from one coming from the heart of Bloomingdale’s.

Add in a profusion of predictive, adaptive learning algorithms, and fly-bys are no longer anonymous unknowable enigmas.

Content personalization is the new norm: what customers expect. And just as you would no longer turn away prospects with unsolicited untargeted mail, you should no longer do so with inappropriate content.

There is no place for spam on the menu, no matter what the context!


  • Personalization relies on the effective use of big data to help media owners understand their audience, to know what they want, when they want it and where, and to anticipate what they will want next.

  • Creating content is expensive and time consuming but personalization can make the content media owners already have, work harder. Archive material can be repurposed and pushed out to interested users at no extra cost.

  • While people are spending more and more time online across PCs, laptops, mobiles and tablets, attracting their attention is becoming increasingly difficult.

  • By understanding who users are and what they want, publishers can not only convert fly-by visitors into loyal subscribers, but they can also increase their value to advertisers.