Imagine the perfect store: You walk in, the salesperson greets you by name and then guides you to exactly the things you’re interested in. Maybe they’ve even set aside a few things especially for you. It might sound like a dream, but this kind of experience is increasingly becoming the norm online. The secret behind this seemingly magic user experience? Dynamic content.

The Big Data revolution has changed the way marketers and advertisers approach every facet of their jobs, from the way they design campaigns to how they measure their success. At the heart of this data-driven marketing approach is the goal of creating truly personalized experiences for users and also measuring their success more precisely than before. Dynamic content is one of the main ways companies tailor experiences to their users. Combined with marketing automation efforts, dynamic content can allow companies of any size to create personalized yet scalable marketing efforts.

In this article, we’ll explore how dynamic content works, what value it brings to companies, and what you need to have in place in order to take full advantage of it.

What Is Dynamic Content?

If you’ve ever gotten a book recommendation from Amazon based on other books you’ve bought or looked at, you’ve experienced dynamic content. Simply put, dynamic content (also called “smart” or “adaptive” content) is a piece of HTML code that changes based on a user’s behavior or demographic information. It’s used in emails, websites, ad units, landing pages, and more.

At its most basic, dynamic content can be as simple as pulling a user’s first name from a database and using that in an email subject line. For instance, “Hi John, check out our latest offer!” Even this tiny bit of personalization has been shown to significantly increase open and clickthrough rates for certain emails. More advanced types of personalization can change every part of a user’s experience, from the copy they see on landing pages to the ads they see while browsing other sites to the deals they’re offered by email to the movies they’re recommended to the white papers they’re offered. All of these tactics aim to tailor the user experience to that person’s particular interests and make it more relevant to them, whether they’re existing users, sales prospects, or first-time visitors.

Users Expect Personalized Service

Although personalization is a relatively recent phenomenon, users are already coming to take it for granted. According to a survey by Janrain, about three-quarters of users report feeling annoyed by ads and content that aren’t relevant to them. At the same time, more than half of those same users reported that they were willing to provide personal data as long as it clearly benefitted them. In short, most users expect personalized service, and are willing to turn over their personal data in order to get it.

Whether your company is B2B or B2C, dynamic content is a powerful way to meaningfully engage with your audience. As a business practice, it’s quickly becoming table stakes. According to Pardot, websites that personalize their web experiences report an average sales increase of 19%.

Where Does the Data Come From?

Dynamic content relies on two different types of data: demographic and behavioral. Alone, each can be valuable, but taken together, they give depth and context to one another.

Demographic data typically comes from forms filled out by the user. Using demographic data, a company’s data scientists can get valuable insights about their users and more effectively target their resources to specific groups. In order to keep bounce rates to a minimum, many companies are turning to progressive profiling. At a high level, progressive profiling spreads out the task of data collection over many interactions with the user. On their first visit, a user might only be asked for the bare minimum, say an email address and maybe a first and last name. On subsequent visits, and at contextually relevant times, more questions may be asked, slowly building out a richer demographic picture of that user.

Behavioral data can be gathered much more seamlessly–via tracking and event-based analytics tools like Google’s Universal Analytics, Mixpanel, or Heap. These trackers provide valuable information about how users reach your website and how they interact with it once they get there, but in order to be effective, this data must  be properly gathered and stored by data engineers.

The Data Silo Challenge

Because many companies’ data operations have evolved in response to specific business needs over many years, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to gain the kinds of holistic insights necessary to create an effective personalized experience. These data silos aren’t a problem of data analysis but of data integration and management.

Business Intelligence tools like Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, and Qlikview can help consolidate data from disparate sources with high-level dashboards.

Creating Dynamic Content

Now that we’ve covered how dynamic content works, what does it look like in practice?

  1. Personalized communications. Whether in the form of emails, ads, or greetings on landing pages, using someone’s actual name is a simple yet effective way to increase open and clickthrough rates.
  2. Targeted recommendations. For consumer-facing companies, this can mean offering recommendations based on a combination of demographic info (sex, age, location) and observed behavior. You see this on music and movie streaming services. For B2B companies, it can mean recommending white papers to users based on their industry, title, and which parts of your site they’ve already visited. This way, you can make sure IT buyers learn about your data integration and security features, while CEOs see how your product impacts their bottom line.
  3. Customizing landing pages. You can create custom landing pages based on the keywords and ads that brought a user to your site. Did someone reach your bookstore by searching for “new mysteries”? You can make sure the first thing they reach is a custom landing page that showcases the latest arrivals in the mystery genre. A well-designed template system can allow you to create hundreds or thousands of dynamic landing pages.
  4. Progressive profiling. The name of the game is striking a balance between creating a seamless user experience while also gathering the information you need to make that experience as good as possible. Gather just an email address and name when a user first arrives, and then slowly build out a more complete profile at appropriate moments, like after they’ve made a purchase or when they’ve decided to download a white paper.

Implementing dynamic content and creating an effective personalization strategy is a time-consuming and technically challenging effort that requires a high level of coordination between your marketing, data, and engineering efforts. You’ll need data scientists and engineers to make sure you’re collecting and storing your data, as well as front-end developers, designers, and copywriters to develop scalable templates and content. Ready to get started? Browse freelancers on Upwork today.