How to successfully leverage adaptive content in e-commerce

Feb 3, 2022

Published by: Xiaoyun TU
adaptive content for ecommerce

Today’s customers consume content on more platforms, devices and channels than ever before. That’s why content marketing services are booming, and the volume of content is rising accordingly. 

What this means is:

  1. There are a highly diverse range of contexts in which your content can be consumed

  2. There is a very saturated market in terms of other content competing with yours

At the same time, consumers are turned off by blanket messaging that doesn’t apply to them specifically. They want content that answers their thoughts, feelings and needs in one fell swoop.

So, where do you find a team of mind-reading copywriters, for it seems your customers are asking for the impossible?

Enter adaptive content.

What is adaptive content?

Adaptive content is the practice of displaying personalized content to customers based on what you know about them.

If this sounds confusing, let’s give you an example from the past. In this scenario, you’re a traveling salesperson for an insurance company. You knock on a door and start talking to Samantha, who tells you she rents her home and has a daughter in kindergarten. As a salesperson, would you pitch her the benefits of:

  1. A life insurance policy

  2. A home insurance policy

Clearly, the answer is “life insurance”, because Samantha has a family to support and doesn’t own her home. In other words, adaptive content is simply about listening and responding to your customers, as successful salespeople have done forever.

But the age of digital transformation has made door-to-door-selling obsolete, and the many platforms and devices your customers use make commerce more complex than it was in the past. That’s why implementing adaptive content requires knowledge of how customer data, digital channels and marketing messaging interact.

How adaptive content marketing works

Unlike in the days of door-to-door sales, most of your customers aren’t going to tell you about themselves directly. In the era of e-commerce services, you’ll have to perfect the art of collecting customer data as they interact with your site and content across the internet.

For e-commerce, this interaction data typically includes metrics like:

  • Pages visited

  • Time spent on pages

  • Page activity heatmaps

  • Purchases made and abandoned

  • Saved products

In addition to this interaction-based data, tools like Google Analytics can give you customer insights such as:

  • Age

  • Geographical location

  • Device used

  • Gender

  • Time of visit

  • Language

So how does this data feed into your adaptive content? There are a million different ways, depending on the nature of your products. Let’s give a couple of examples:

If you’re a multinational brand selling retail ERP software, you can promote the Spanish-localized version of your product to users with Spanish as their browser language.

For customers who add items to their cart but abandon them before purchase, you can show a pop-up window that offers a time-limited discount on their purchases.

If your customers use a variety of device types, you can set up the same instruction to say “Click” on a laptop, “Tap” on a tablet, or “Say select” in a voice-activated system.

A common example of adaptive content is the “recommended” sections on sites like Netflix. These recommendations are based on each user’s previous actions on the site. By analyzing the patterns in that data, Netflix can understand what content is going to keep each user coming back for more.

You can also base recommendations on content that users have looked at on your site. If you run an e-commerce bookstore and a user visited your blog about gross profit margin formula calculations, for example, you could recommend books on small business finance to that user.

Define your goals for leveraging adaptive content

Before you get into implementing adaptive content, you need to know why you’re doing it. Your goal might be to counter a drop-off in customer satisfaction, for example, or the project might be part of a drive to target a wider range of demographics in your marketing. Alternatively, you might want to boost your conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts.

These goals will determine which of the benefits below are most important to you.

1. Creating seamless customer journeys

Whether based on previous purchases or demographic data, you can tailor e-commerce experiences so customers purchase faster and more often.

2. Running multiple campaigns simultaneously

Rather than creating a separate landing page for every user, you can display different “flavors” of content depending on each user’s data profile. This streamlines and focuses your digital marketing efforts, with targeted mini-campaigns within one page.

3. Amplifying your voice across platforms

You can set up content that adapts to all the devices, platforms and channels your customers are using.

When your content is suitable for and present on each of these, it has a much greater reach than it would on your website alone. This is an effective way to scale e-commerce marketing.

Get started with adaptive content

Once you’ve identified your goals and the benefits you want to achieve, it’s time to put adaptive content into action.

Before we get to the technologies involved, there’s a bit more planning required. At this stage, you’ll need to decide the details of what content you want to adopt, when and how.

1. Choose contextual factors

Decide what type of personalization has the most value for your e-commerce customers. It’s best to start with one or two factors across your products. You can always add more later.

2. Determine the content variations for those factors

Let’s say your contextual factors are device type i.e. mobile or laptop. What two content variations will you need to serve those two devices?

Perhaps you’ll have long-form text for laptops and short-form for mobile. On mobile, your blog title might be “LIFO or FIFO”, while on a laptop it could be “First-In, First-Out versus Last-In, First-Out Accounting”.

3. Create the business rules

This is about linking the context with the content. If you know some programming, you can think of this as an “if statement”. Whatever technology you use, this is basically about telling your content delivery system when it should display which form of content.

For those who want to get started quickly, there are adaptive content plug-ins for the major e-commerce platforms and CMSs. While pricing varies, these plug-ins won’t greatly increase your e-commerce site costs. They also offer easy integration with the customer data in your CRM.

Collecting customer data

If you haven’t been collecting detailed customer data for long, you’ll find adaptive content gets off to a slow start.

It’s crucial to collect as much relevant data from your customers as possible to feed your personalization efforts. In time, this data will allow you to create ever more targeted and successful content that adapts instantly to each customer.

So, how can you get customers to volunteer their data?

By giving them something useful in return. This is why unique and informative content helps lay the foundations for adaptive content down the line. It’s also a key part of good customer communication.

Let’s say you sell kitchen utensils and you’ve identified vegans as a niche market you want to tap. You can attract this audience by publishing a series of blogs with great vegan recipes. When a visitor lands on that page, there’s a pop-up window asking them to subscribe to emails with more recipes. Now you have a clear indication that those users are vegans.

With the information those users gave you in the email sign-up, you can tailor content across your site to appeal to them. Where a regular user might see meat being cooked, you can set up adaptive content to only show vegan food to the users signed up to the vegan recipe emails. 

And there you have it – committed vegans are now much more likely to spend time (and money) on your site. As your data on vegan customers grows, you’ll then discover the peak times for vegan purchases and can add these to your retail sales calendar.

Ways to use adaptive content

To round off, here are a few useful ways you can use adaptive content in e-commerce.

Fear of missing out (FOMO)

Creating a sense of urgency is a great way to convince customers who might otherwise drift away. You can do this by highlighting the number of people who are looking at a product at any time, along with the number left in stock. This gives customers a sense that they might miss out if they don’t act fast.

Location-specific content

If your e-commerce store relates to travel, for instance, you can tailor content to each user’s location. You could feature how your product relates to the geography and climate of the area, or include references to local traditions, festivals and events.

Intelligent pop-ups

We’re all used to experiencing pop-up windows as we navigate around the web, but have you thought about why that particular window is popping up for you at that time? In adaptive content, you can tailor pop-ups to appear for different user profiles, such as:

  • People who have scrolled past your main call to action

  • People who have spent more than two minutes on a page without completing an action

  • People whose behavior suggests they are going to leave the page

Depending on each option, you can present different pop-ups, for example:

  • Tempting the user with an attractive discount

  • Encouraging the user to subscribe to your mailing list

  • Offering the user a free download

  • Persuading users to leave e-commerce product reviews

In each case, you can use this pop-up to collect key details such as names and email addresses as well. 

Isn’t it time you put these top tips to work today?

Check out our podcast

Welcome to the show where we're closing the gap between hearing about a business topic and knowing how to take action with it in the real-world.