Using 4 types of data to personalize the user experience for customers

by | Jan 6, 2022

A generation ago, one of the biggest challenges for organizations was gathering user data.

In today’s digital world, gathering data is much less of a hurdle than it used to be. If anything, there’s too much data available. The modern challenge is using the data in the most impactful way. And many companies have significant opportunity if they simply change their mindset about user data.

While it’s critical for these areas, user data is not just a resource for marketing, sales, and support. Data should also be used to personalize a user’s entire experience with your brand – through the delivery of content and solutions! Doing so will lead to dramatic increases in engagement, loyalty, and value.

In order to put this into practice however, we first need to review the fundamentals of user data. Then we can dive into how to use that to personalize your entire brand experience.

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The basics of user data and data types

At Mod Op Strategic Consulting, we think about four types of user data that collectively paint a powerful picture of your customer base:

  1. Biographical data is basic information about who someone is, such as their name, email address and, for deeper profiles (such as those of members of an association), job title, employer, or specialty.
  2. Transactional data is what specific users have bought or signed up for in the past, including pricing history and expiration or renewal dates, as well as interactions with customer support.
  3. Implicit preferences are users’ behaviors on your website, including where they go, what they do and what products, services, or content topics they seem most interested in.
  4. Explicit preferences are what users tell you directly that they want or don’t want, such as through prompts when they complete their online profile. These can include preferences related to topics they’re interested in, how they want to receive information (frequency, channel, etc.), and their data privacy consent.

Importantly, all this data needs to be gathered with the full knowledge and consent of the user. The keys to doing this right are transparency and consent.

Be upfront about what data you’re collecting and how doing so will improve their experience on your platform. Then, make it easy to opt in or out.

Drawing insights from aggregated data

All four categories of user data can yield important insights about how well your website is performing from an engagement standpoint.

Only a few years ago, organizations focused on basic metrics like “time on site” or “pageviews per visit.” Today, however, the marketplace is filled with tools that can provide much deeper insights into engagement patterns in your web, email, and marketing efforts.

Perhaps you notice that a significant percentage of users end up at a particular page on your site, but often take winding paths to get there. That might indicate a need to reorganize or make that page more prominent. You might see pathways you didn’t expect – with some pages or sections leading to more transactions than others – or certain pages driving users away from the site completely. That kind of data can drive changes in site organization and shifts in the types of content you focus on.

Most exciting, though, is that these insights can be used to deliver more personalized experiences.


Designing personalization from user data

Most users who come to your website come with different needs in mind. As a result, the experience they have on your site or with your brand shouldn’t necessarily be one-size-fits-all.

In the same way that Netflix doesn’t make the same suggestions to every viewer – or Spotify doesn’t provide the same music recommendations to every listener – existing technology allows you to customize your own users’ experiences.

The key is to fully understand the different kinds of needs your users may have and develop pathways, or customer journeys, that help them meet those needs. This is a fundamental principle of user-centered design, known as a “jobs-to-be-done” framework. We encourage every client’s organization to come up with a list of the high-level jobs that their various types of users (also known as “personas”) want to accomplish when experiencing their website.

This framework follows a simple equation:

Text image saying As a [type of user, or persona], I want to [job to be done], so I can [fulfill a need].

This formula works at a high level of abstraction: “As a new runner, I want to learn the best strategies for training for a marathon, so I can finish the race with a respectable time.”

It also works at the transactional level: “As a new runner, I want my running time instantly added to my tracker app when I finish, so I can easily compare it to my past times.”

Connecting the dots

The content here is designed to help executives at all levels understand how all four types of user data can be leveraged to help users accomplish what they want when they visit. But the conversation should span across the organization – from the C Suite, to product, to sales and marketing. These data insights should be discussed regularly with your team.

The more data your system has about a visitor, the better you can deliver the content, solutions, and experiences that meet their needs. Follow user data best practices, such as privacy and consent policies, and start building strategies that are more effective for your customers and your organization.

Want to explore this topic a bit further?

You may find these articles helpful:

Explore additional executive insights and guidance from our team of consultants, all of whom have decades of operational experience making exactly the kinds of decisions you now face, or browse the library of case studies.

Mike Mills, Managing Director

Mike delivers client satisfaction by taking a user-centric approach toward strategic planning, content strategy and digital publishing. Mike has 30+ years of experience in digital publishing and journalism. His passions include tackling complex business, technology and communications challenges, as well as leading teams to develop a vision and approach for solving them.

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