Four personalities of web users to help with personalization.

By Sumithra Jagannath

Your customers are as unique and different as your business. Both small and large companies alike are recognizing this and moving away from static "one-size-fits-all" website design. Good websites appeal to the individual needs of each visitor. Poor websites don't. In fact, 75 percent of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests.

Personalizing a website is one way companies are creating an end user experience that resonates with them long after they leave your site. Steve Jobs said it best: "Get closer than ever to your customers. So close you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves."

Personalization involves adding intelligence to a website to adapt the content such as text and images on-the-fly based on the needs of each visitor. A personalization strategy is one way to make sure your customers are seeing what they want to see.

How does it work? It requires collecting data about a visitor so that content is shown specific to what that person wants to see. Visitors' buyer personas, age groups, demographics, browsing history, geographical location, product/service interests, buying habits and industry segment are just a few of the things website personalization tools can identify. Using that data collected, personalization has been shown to boost conversion rates and increase sales by small and large businesses alike.

When pondering a switch to a personalized website, start by considering if your website appeals to these four visitor personas:

The humanistic persona: Personalities that are humanistic tend to be more influenced by emotional forces than logical ones. These are the touchy-feely types of consumers that enjoy reading stories about other people. Philanthropic, visual and relationship oriented, this persona wants to feel like they are apart of a community when making a purchasing decision. Websites designed for the humanists include testimonials and pictures that appeal to their feelings.

The analytical persona: Here, buyers make purchases based off of data. An analytical person is one that will collect as much information as possible before buying. By nature, these consumers are skeptical of new products. Whereas testimonials are likely to sway a humanistic persona, analytical customers are more convinced by numbers and stats. Websites for analytical personas should be kept simple.

The competitive persona: Logical. Results-oriented. Competent. The competitive persona is a "to the point" customer. As quick decision makers, consumers in this category crave the feeling of importance. Targeting these online visitors requires short copy that focuses on how your company can help their business succeed. When personalized, a website for competitive personas gets right to how they will change their visitor's bottom line.

The spontaneous persona: Spontaneous personas make decisions on the fly. However, they differ from competitive personas in that their decisions are often based off of emotional triggers. Because a spontaneous persona is ready to buy, a company's website doesn't need to waste time with much detail and instead should focus on reinforcing his or her purchase decision with personalized thank you messages or short testimonials.

Knowing your customer's needs and personalities listed above and acting on them through website personalization has been shown to increase sales by 19 percent. A data-driven site is tailored to appeal to different audiences and can mean success or failure for a business's online presence.

Sumithra Jagannath is president of ZED Digital, a digital marketing and software development company focused on data aggregation software, SEO, personalized web design and web analytics.