We have seen case studies about how numerous companies are leveraging the Web. But in past weeks, the building blocks of Web site personalisation began appearing. Once these blocks fall into place, Web sales and marketing can move to the next level. Now is your chance to get an early jump onto this very powerful wave.
Web site personalisation isn't new. Companies such as Net Perceptions (www.net perceptions.com) and BroadVision (www. broadvision.com) have been providing tools for a few years. But in the past weeks, Microsoft and Netscape have begun to embrace similar approaches. Microsoft's move was to buy Firefly, an early leader in this category. Netscape added a personalisation option to its PublishingXpert 2.2 tool and promised to bring these concepts across the company's entire tool line.
This kind of general support for personalisation tools will bring the concept into the mainstream. For many of us, personalised service is second nature in our everyday life, and it should become second nature in our Web lives. However, personalised service works only when the provider has an understanding of a subject area -- deep enough to make general recommendations, key awareness of your personal interests, and your trust in the resulting recommendation.
This sort of personalised service is already happening on Amazon.com. I've bought books there for years, and now the site's recommendation engine (which is powered by Net Perceptions) will make well-considered recommendations of books.
Only on the Web
Now the interesting thing is that this couldn't have happened in real life. If I went to my local Dymocks store, I would be lucky if the clerks there remembered anything about me. And if I went to a small local bookstore, it might not have enough traffic in the areas that interest me to justify keeping those titles in stock. Needless to say, I now consider the Amazon recommendation quite seriously. I have even found myself going there with no idea of a book and seeing what the site can find for me.
It is this type of customer relationship that personalisation can create. You need to consider how your organisation can begin to expand its customer relationships. What information should you collect? How do you collect it? What type of recommendations can you make? How can you tailor your site to your repeat customers?
You don't need the answers tomorrow, but you will need them soon.