Add Personalization to a Healthcare Website Within Your Budget
By Dan Persson, Chief Technology Officer
Healthcare organizations serve a wide variety of people with an even wider array of needs. It’s impractical to think that one single website experience could match each visitor perfectly.
A personalization strategy gives website users a unique experience tailored to their past actions on your site or interaction with an ad or email campaign. When properly implemented, personalization guides visitors through to the appropriate next step or conversion. However, implementing personalization is not an end to itself — it’s a strategy to help achieve your overarching goals.
Personalization doesn’t have to be a complex, expensive project. You don’t have to revamp your entire website. You can start small and grow from there. There are tools that layer on top of your existing site and tools that are built into the platform on which your site is built.
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But before you start any personalization project, you first need to understand your audience, the problem you want to solve, and goals in order to select an effective strategy.
How to start the personalization process
When we work with clients on personalization projects, we start with a discovery session. We'll ask questions such as:
- What are your key business objectives?
- What digital interactions help achieve those business goals?
- What personalization strategies can be used to help users in those digital interactions?
Next, we’ll research audience behavior, identify trends, and map out user flow through digital channels. This way we can pinpoint potential problems or opportunities for improvement.
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Once we fully understand these details, we can begin to discuss the different types of personalization strategies that may be most appropriate for your website.
4 common types of personalization
Thanks to advances in technology and big data, the possibilities of personalization seem limitless. Don’t let the choices overwhelm you, though. There are four effective personalization strategies, and each can be customized to fit your specific resources and needs.
One more note: personalization doesn’t have to be “creepy.” You can enhance the visitor’s experience in subtle, yet helpful ways. It could be in little things, such as a slightly more specific call-to-action or one image in a hero carousel.
This strategy allows users to self-identify upfront to personalize their website experience (active selection) or sorts visitors into groups based on a simple categorizations (whether they’ve signed up for your e-newsletter, for example). This can be useful if someone comes to your site one day as a patient and the next as a caregiver for a loved one or as a job seeker.
By changing their preferences, they get an experience tailored to what they need at that specific point. For example, you could offer a drop-down category selection for a specific audience. You could let users select patient or family, career seeker, medical professional, or referring physician and show different quick tasks or features based on their selection.
This personalization strategy looks at the user as more complex and maps to your view of the patient journey. Persona-based personalization adjusts site information based on a user’s behavior.
To start, you’ll identify target audiences, which we call personas, and pinpoint which actions these personas will want to accomplish. Examples of personas may include “Katie: Ready to Start a Family,” “Yasmine: Busy Mom,” “John: Weekend Warrior,” or “Thomas: Newly Diagnosed with Cancer.” Then, you map content on your site to your personas and change the experience in key areas of your site to match their needs and goals.
Here’s how it works: “Katie: Ready to Start a Family” comes to your site for the first time and sees your general homepage. She looks at some pregnancy content and leaves. When she returns to your site, the homepage, messaging, imagery, and calls to action will be tailored to her. For example, the hero image may show a mom and baby, and the “Additional Links” may include “Prenatal Classes” and an “Ob/Gyn Provider Search” along with more general links for things such as “Pay My Bill” and “About Us.”
Everyone’s life and needs change over time. “Katie” may become “Yasmine: Busy Mom.” As she starts searching for pediatricians on your site, her website experience will change as well, giving her specific content as she needs it.
Keep in mind that not every visitor follows this sort of progression. Sometimes they return to your site looking for something entirely different, such as care for an aging parent or rehabilitation after an accident, as mentioned in the segmentation section.
3. Engagement plans
This campaign-based personalization strategy escorts users through a marketing funnel. It provides concise messaging to encourage conversion and is usually tied to a specific service line or a key objective. Engagement plans can be scaled up or down to fit a project’s scope, configured to be unique to a project, or duplicated to work for a different service line.
We know most people who come to a site though a paid search campaign won’t convert immediately. They may come back multiple times, depending on the service they’re interested in, before they take a next step, such as making an appointment or signing up for a class. Engagement plans allow you to be an active player in the decision journey.
Let’s say you run a campaign tied to your bariatrics program. If someone enters your site through an ad tied to weight loss surgery, their experience on the site will be tailored to that. To help ease them toward a conversion, such as signing up for a weight loss surgery seminar, you could give them a soft sell on the first visit, push the date a little harder on the second visit, and serve a pop-up “Reserve my spot” ad on the third.
For people who leave the site without taking an action, retargeting ads can keep you top of mind, with the adapted messaging based on their browsing history – within privacy constraints, of course.
This personalization approach customizes content based on a user’s location, often using geolocation technology, to help the user find your organization’s nearest location.
For example, when a user comes to your site, the site can determine the user’s physical location and tailor the content based on the doctors, locations, and services near them. This means the user doesn’t have to wade through a long list of doctors or facilities to find one nearby. We always recommend allowing the user to override geolocation by entering a specific zip code. And for healthcare systems with multiple locations, location-based personalization can help a user determine when to go to a local hospital and when they might want to travel to see a specialist.
Measure engagement and adjust or expand as necessary
Once you’ve implemented a personalization strategy, there are multiple opportunities to tweak or expand your strategy.
- Monitor success: You can immediately begin tracking how people move through your website, but it may take two to three months to clearly see progress toward your KPIs.
- Adjust where needed: If the results aren’t what you expected, analyze what’s working and what’s not. Take that information and realign your strategy to reach your goals.
- Report on conversions: Key stakeholders will want to know how the project is performing. This can help if you request additional resources to expand the personalization strategy.
Your website should be a real-time marketing tool. Incrementally-implemented personalization strategies can help you provide the information your audience needs and increase conversions without necessarily completely revamping your website.
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