Personalization for

Anonymous Visitors

Personalizing website experiences for anonymous visitors

by In Koo Kim Last Modified April 21, 2021

Over the years, many digital marketers have turned their focus toward experience-driven customer interactions. While some businesses aim for a specific set of actions from their visitors, such as a conversion or transaction, experience-driven businesses strive primarily toward creating positive customer interactions.  Customer requests to learn more, online purchases, and return visits are viewed more as secondary outcomes flowing out of these positive customer interactions rather than as primary goals. It's been shown that experience-driven businesses increase customer satisfaction, improve product ratings and promote brand loyalty.*

This all begs the question: How we can craft meaningful and personalized experiences for anonymous users? Read on to learn how.

1. Why Personalization Matters

Personalization lies at the heart of positive digital experiences.

As digital marketers, we need to know something about the visitor in order to ensure they are engaged, that content is relevant, and that their needs in visiting the site are met. We can personalize experiences with any information that allows us to differentiate the visitor from the population, but the quality of the information also matters.  

Many segmentation approaches consider the "Who" of the visitor - static attributes such as age, sex, income level, location. An approach that is overlooked is the "Why" and the "What" - Why has this visitor come to the website? What is their intent?

Understanding these questions is key to creating positive customer interactions.  Did they come to the website for information? Are they looking up the specifications of a product? A better understanding of the visitor's intent can help us to better shape the website experience. At the same time, if we overlap our understanding of the visitor with our products and services, we can better gauge the opportunity with each visitor and tailor approaches that lead to the best business outcomes.

1. Who are they? Why did they come to the site?

2. What do they know about our products and services?

3. How can we make the most of this interaction to affect sales, educate the visitor of our products and services and drive conversion?

2. The Problem of Anonymous Visitors

Unfortunately, the task of personalizing experiences becomes daunting when we know little or nothing about the visitor, as is the case with anonymous visitors. Based on website analytics, most inbound visitors to a website come from organic search. The salient feature of visitors from organic search is that they are unknown first-time visitors. Aside from the IP address, we know very little about them: we have no information stored in cookies, no special links with parameters, no campaign IDs, no segment profiles. On the whole, organic search visitors are largely anonymous. So how do we make the most of these interactions?

BrightEdge Research shows that on average, 53% of our web traffic comes from organic search. Paid search visits are 15%. Depending on the vertical you are in, organic search can account for as much as 64% of visits (for B2B).

**“Organic Search Improves Ability to Map Consumer Intent,” BrightEdge Research, 2019

If only we could ask the anonymous visitor some questions:

3. Asking Questions

A simple way to ask these questions is through Questionnaires. Questionnaires present a simple, anonymous, and risk-free method for the visitor to convey information. Visitors will be rewarded with relevant content and a better experience. Yet, it's remarkable that more websites don't employ this approach. Questionnaires can come in many forms and types of interactions such as a wizards, surveys and polls, assessments and quizzes, and calculators.


Surveys & Polls

Assessments & Quizzes


Wizards are step-by-step processes that allow users to enter information in a particular order and whose steps may change depending on previous input. Surveys and polls gather information about users, allowing us to aggregate this data and create graphical representations of them. Assessments and quizzes allow us to understand how well an individual knows our products and services. The numbers entered in a calculator can tell us a lot about what products and services may match a user profile. All of these formats involve asking visitors to answer why they have come to a website and what they are looking for.

Questionnaires have significant benefits that are common across their various formats. Questionnaires are explicit, individual-specific, voluntary and choice-driven, and they supplement existing segment information. This approach for asking the visitor for information is transparent and far outweighs the murky practice of using third-party data brokers.

Benefits of Questionnaires

Explicit vs. Implied

Information received through questionnaires is explicit information. DMPs and analytics represent implied information (i.e., based on x... we think user belongs to segment y). By virtue of asking the user directly, we receive explicit acknowledgement of information.

Individual vs. Segments

Questionnaires are presented at the individual level. Many marketers think of personalization as using segment information to drive unique visitor experiences, however, we think of this more as segmentation and creating segmented experiences. To create truly personalized experiences, you need information at the individual level.

Voluntary & Choice-Driven

The best aspect of a questionnaire is that it is voluntary; If a user does not want to participate, they do not participate. A questionnaire is choice-driven and consent-oriented in terms of privacy. This goes very far to ensure there are no issues as in working with third parties to get information about users.

Supplements Segment Information

Questionnaires do not have to compete with traditional methods of segmentation, but can supplement segment information. If you combine these two approaches you can build a better portrait of the user.

4. Website Questionnaires Are More Than Forms

Before diving into how to build a questionnaire, it is important to understand that questionnaires are different than forms. Many "questionnaires" one might encounter are actually a series of static forms. These forms tend to be a uniform set of questions asked to all users, with minimal features and are generally designed from the point of the view of the question-asker.

True questionnaires are dynamic and are designed from the point of view of the user. Questions and choices adapt based on user selections so that every question builds on the previous one, allowing greater specificity and efficiency.  The questionnaire caters to the unique qualities of each individual, rather than the individual conforming to the generic demands of the marketer. True questionnaires allow us to rapidly arrive at an understanding of the Who, Why, and What.

This understanding can shed light on the kind of engagement approach that works best for users. Some users are analytical and others are social. These distinctions are particularly relevant when forming relationships with potential customers and clients. Social style can also be taken into consideration. Some users will be people-oriented or task-oriented, spontaneous or cautious, or cooperative or competitive. Integrating psychographics is possible with questionnaires and only enhances the experience.

Due to the large number of permutations in dynamic questionnaires, traversal through questionnaire trees forms a digital footprint of each visitor. Over time, the correlation of these footprints with conversions and sales can be used for a number of statistical insights, including conditional probability calculations, that can be used to estimate probabilities such as lead propensity scores. The data that comes out of the questionnaire is ideal for data science, statistical regression, and machine learning and AI analysis, which are powerful tools that are overlooked by many organizations.

A crucial characteristic of the data and information that result from a questionnaire is that that data and information is first party data, not third party data. It was provided directly by the user with consent, as opposed to third-party data which can breach data privacy regulations. This first party data is YOUR data and with it you can make product recommendations, populate lead profiles and build client engagement guidance.

Now that we understand the advantages of questionnaires for your websites, how do we ensure we ask the right questions, and how many questions do we ask?

5. Designing The Questionnaire

The power of a question

How do you ask right the questions? How many questions do you ask?

Mathematically, the most efficient method is to ask questions that evenly divide segments by the number of choices. If segmenting by category, it is important to ensure questions partition users into those categories, products, or segments, evenly.

The classic game show "20 Questions" is a useful example to start from. One person thinks of something and another asks 20 questions to find out what the person is thinking of. 20 questions is a large amount of information. If you are able to ask 20 questions evenly, you can get up to 1 million different partitions: 2^20 = 1,048,576. If your organization has 1000 products, you would therefore only need 10 questions with 2 choices. Every time you add a choice to a question, you can ask fewer questions, however, it will add complexity.


For 1000 products:

6. Challenges and Solutions

It can be challenging to create a questionnaire accurately. Questionnaires can be difficult because they require custom programming and are time intensive to design and build. They are also generally fixed after launch, and sometimes integrate poorly with the website experience.  To overcome the challenges of building and designing questionnaires, you need a tool that it is integrated with the content management system, and preferably has a drag-and-drop interface with real-time publishing.

PiSrc has built a dynamic questionnaire tool called Fütprint that integrates with Adobe Experience Manager. You can watch our two-part webinar series on questionnaires to dive deeper into all of these topics, and view a demonstration of our tool in action.

We hope that you have found this information helpful in guiding you on how to personalize experiences on your website. Please message us with any questions or comments by using our contact form, and feel free to share with your digital marketing peers.