Anon (1)Personalization means different things to different people. Many people think you can’t “personalize” for anonymous site visitors. The goal of any personalization effort is to surface the most relevant items to each customer based on what you know about them. The more you know, the more you should be able to personalize the experience. However, just because you don’t know the customer, doesn’t mean you can’t showcase relevant items. Here are the 4 ways that you can show relevant items to new, anonymous visitors.

By Country or Location

When an anonymous visitor arrives on your website, they provide signals that can help you deliver a more relevant experience. In the absence of more customer specific signals, location can help with relevance. A simple Geo-IP lookup can tell you their location in terms of country, city, state, zip code and more. By understanding the customer location, you can present items that are known to be popular for a given area. For example items that are popular in San Francisco might be different than items that are popular in New York. This is a quick and easy way to showcase different items such as products, articles or videos that are trending in their area as a way to increase relevance.

By Device

Another data point that may differentiate an anonymous visitor is their device type. Typical device types are smart phone, tablet, and laptop/desktop. Every time a visitor connects with your site, they have to share information about the browser and device so that your site can properly render content. People of different ages may use different device types to browse or buy depending on where they are in their buying process. Then high-level device information will help you increase relevance. Again, you will likely be showing items that are popular on your site for people using similar devices.

By Traffic Source

A third data point that can help drive relevance is how the visitor got to your site. Did they arrive from a Google search via an organic link, a paid search link or a direct link from another site? Customers who come to your site from a specific traffic source may have specific items in mind. For example, visitors who come to your sports apparel site from a link on a Denver Broncos related site might be looking for Denver Broncos gear. This is not something you should have to hard code into your site. Ideally, whatever systems you have should be able to see this and figure out this relationship automatically and show the best items.

Using Browsing Behavior

Finally, each anonymous site visitor provides a powerful signal of their intent through their behavior; including the items they engage with and the search terms they enter into your onsite search engine. Both of these actions provide context to understand the kinds of items they are interested in or may be looking for. For example, a visitor is browsing cashmere sweaters. After just a few items, you can develop a strong signal of what they are looking for in terms of style, fabric, color, etc. Similarly, a visitor to a media site might read multiple articles which will usually tell you they are currently interested in news and current events in football. On each page they visit, there should be relevant, related items they might be interested in. The items on each page should be relevant to the item they are looking at and should also take into account prior items they have visited to maximize relevance. This simple approach to showing relevant items does not require any knowledge about the visitor other than what they have been looking at.

The best overall strategy to deliver a personalized experience for anonymous visitors will blend all of the techniques including trending by location, device and traffic source with browsing behavior. On your homepage or category pages you can use trending techniques to grab attention and get new visitors engaged more quickly. As the visitor starts browsing and provide information about their specific intent, you can drive greater relevance using real-time contextual data. Hopefully you can see that providing relevant and personalized items to anonymous visitors in not only possible but is actually pretty easy when you know what data to look for and you have the right tools in place to analyze that data and highlight relevant results.