Content personalization with Contentful, and why it pays to channel your inner friendly barista

An illustration of several mugs and cups of different kinds of coffee, with one cup bearing the Contentful logo and a comparatively small man carrying a screen depicting different silhouette icons.
November 16, 2020


Humans like hearing and reading their names. If you've ever started to go to a new cafe where the barista remembers your name or stepped into a meeting to be personally greeted, you know this is true.

Lucky for us, it's not rampant narcissism, just basic psychology. According to researchers, a key trigger for people tuning in and paying attention to a conversation is hearing their name. This phenomenon has a name: the cocktail-party effect. In a noisy room, like that of a cocktail party, our brains sort overlapping conversations into different auditory systems to choose what is relevant and what isn't. Hearing our name makes us tune in more than anything else.

Hearing our name makes us tune in more than anything else. It basically makes our brains go BING!

The busy room is the internet 

Today, there isn't a busier space than the online world; information bombards us from all sides. For retailers, the biggest challenge is to get people's attention. It's like being at a cocktail party, with pumping music, trying to reach your friend who is clear across the room. But not only do retailers have to flag someone's attention, but they also need to hold it long enough to convert. It's become such a fight that it's even garnered a scientific-sounding name: the attention economy. The attention economy treats human attention as a scarce commodity or a finite resource. So, it makes sense that we need some tricks to get people's undivided attention. 

This is where personalization comes in. Personalization is the digital equivalent of that friendly barista remembering your name or a nice (but not too nice) shop assistant helping you out with some thoughtful recommendations. It's not just <insert name here> or spamming the customer with creepy emails or impersonal ads. To quote Seth Godin: "[Personalization] is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behavior as the most important clue about what people want and more importantly, what they need." 

Personalization has never been more important 

Personalization has moved from the nice-to-have category to being essential. As the room gets louder, it’s vital to create a better, more connected customer experience. 

Personalization is also something that customers have come to expect. In a study conducted by Accenture, 56% of customers would rather buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, and 65% of customers prefer to buy from a retailer who knows their purchase history and can suggest recommendations. A study by Gartner also confirmed the same thing; brands risk losing 38% of customers because of poor marketing personalization efforts. Without incorporating personalization into your marketing strategy, you risk losing out to the retailers who do. Why? Because they’re fighting for people’s attention that much harder. 

More than <insert name here> 

In the early days of personalization, it was enough to have an email marketing strategy that addressed the reader by name. Now, personalization has gotten smarter; there are infinite things you could do for your customers. Here are just a handful of examples: 

Personalized calls to action based on what you know about the customer. Create smart CTAs based on information such as whether it is your visitor's first time or hundredth time. A HubSpot study, which analyzed more than 330,000 CTAs found that the personalized ones converted 202% better. 

Weekly reports that are useful. Grammarly offers weekly reports to customers who use the product. The reports share valuable tips on how to improve your writing skills, how far you've come since using the app, and a general summary of your activity. These types of personalized reports show that you don't have to be in retail or ecommerce to use personalization effectively. 

A web page that greets visitors by name. Signing into an account –– whether for a subscription, streaming service, or internet banking –– and being greeted by name makes customers feel valued. It's like the internet equivalent of seeing your name on the TV when you check into a hotel. 

Retailers that remember size and fit. More and more retailers are offering size and fit quizzes to their product page. And they go a step further by saving customer's sizes for repeat visits. As anyone who has bought jeans on the internet can attest, sizes differ from one store to the next, and a small reminder can make all the difference. 

Features such as Spotify Wrapped, which offers a personal and highly shareable experience. The Spotify Wrapped campaign is a perfect example of giving customers a timely and tailored experience. And it gets bonus points for being something that encourages people to share on their social media feeds.

Contentful and personalization 

In a study conducted by McKinsey, only 15% of companies believe they are doing a good job at personalization –– which, considering how high the stakes are, is a meager number. So, what are the factors that lead to a successful personalization strategy? It turns out that it comes down to four things:  

It starts with data 

Personalization starts with data. Some people even refer to data as the currency of personalization. To implement a personalization strategy that works, you need first to know what your customer is doing at all times. If you don't have a complete picture of your customer journey, then it becomes hard to see where you can incorporate timely and appropriate personalization. 

So, if you need a lot of data, it makes sense to invest in the tools and tech that make collecting that data easier. One of the best things about Contentful is that it's an extensible and customizable platform; you can add any tools or services to the core product. For example, Contentful integrates with Frosmo, which is personalization software. Among other things, Frosmo collects product data, visitor background data and visitor behaviour data. 

Mining your data 

Like any data set, customer journey data is only useful if you can pull out the relevant information for your personalization strategy. The keyword here is strategy –– you need one to guide all of your choices. Instead of utilizing every piece of data available, your strategy will help you narrow your focus. An excellent place to start is personalizing content in a way that it is helpful to your customers. Think: account browsing preferences or the size & fit example above. 

Design at speed 

Like most things content-related, speed is essential. With personalization, it comes down to your ability to craft the right messages, create and edit content, and distribute to all your different devices and channels. Your success at doing this ultimately comes down to your tech and tools. Contentful helps free up your creative team by aggregating content in a central hub, removing low-value activities like formatting content for different channels and making distribution more seamless. 

No silos 

Personalization is hard enough without having content and data silos. For your message to be cohesive and consistent, you need a platform that has evolved to meet the standards of the omnichannel world. Marketers and content creators can't be jumping between CMSes to create personalized content –– it's a recipe for a message that is repetitive, contradictory or off-brand. And when it comes to data, silos divide up your findings, making it inaccessible and disjointed. A platform, like Contentful, keeps everything in one place. 

Want to see personalization with Contentful in action? Check out this blog post with our partner Frosmo or this one about mastering content personalization. 

About the author

Don't miss the latest

Get updates in your inbox
Discover how to build better digital experiences with Contentful.
add-circle arrow-right remove style-two-pin-marker subtract-circle remove