How to Personalize Experience for First-Time Visitors

Learn how you can personalize your website content for first-time visitors to turn more traffic into conversions, or micro-transactions and leads.

Every visitor to your online store counts. Anyone who has been exposed to your brand, products, and special offers has the potential to become a customer. This is your eCommerce ‘piggy bank’ that ‘breaks’ every time a visitor turns into a client.

While there are many ways to convert visitors, it’s obvious that most of your store visits won’t result in conversions. Some of the first-time visitors will never come back.

That’s the hard truth of eCommerce business: in an oversaturated marketplace, it’s impossible to retain everyone’s attention for a meaningful period of time. All of these visits accumulate, like a bank deposit, but you will only be collecting ‘interest’ as just a fraction of visitors will convert.

First-time visitor statsData sources: 1, 2, 3

This is where personalization comes in. Specifically, the personalization for first-time or anonymous visitors that you know nothing about. You only have one attempt at a first impression, which is also your last one in most cases.

Unless you’re cooking up something special for your first-time visitors, they’re gone forever. So let’s take a closer look at some of the personalization techniques and strategies that might improve the conversion rate of new visitors and help you turn them into returned customers.

Diversified Localization

One of the few things that you can always be sure about with your first-time visitors is their location. Unless they’re using a VPN, it’s most likely that you can capture their real IP during the session. While many stores practice localization with different languages based on the user’s locale, not many stores take it to the next level.

Culture greatly affects our perception through pre-conceived notions. These things change our behavior and purchasing decisions to a great extent. In fact, Professor Geert Hofstede conducted a thorough research to map the most significant cultural differences that can affect a visitor’s actions on your website. It’s also used to develop cross-cultural web design guidelines. These parameters include power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, and indulgence.


It’s your job to make sure that the design, colors (some might seem to be too aggressive), visual elements and other pieces of the UI puzzle fall in line with the person visiting the site. Alternatively, find an experienced development team that already knows all of these small details.

Over 30% of visitors will stop interacting with your site if the layout is unattractive. So by offering a culturally appropriate webpage for the first visit determined by the IP address, you’re increasing your chances of converting the visitor. A good strategy would be to localize website content for at least the top 5 countries that visitors come from. If you operate within a single country, you can apply the same logic to regions. For example, with the US you can localize by state, albeit you have to understand the cultural differences to properly ‘game the system.’

Take Them on a Trip

Over 40% of first-time visitors are there to search for a particular product. Given this, it’s not a surprise that 43% of first-time visitors go straight to the site search box.

If you’re able to personalize first-time search experience for your website, you might win over a significant portion of your visitors. Unless, of course, your prices are outrageously high or you’re out of stock. There is a variety of site search services that can add a personalization level on the go, as you can base the personalization on search history of other users, instead of trying to identify something about a first-time visitor. Given that Google’s site search has officially shut down back in Q1 2017, a lot of these services are experiencing a renaissance.

Amazon on-site search stats for the holiday seasonData Source:

To maximize the impact of a site search on a first-time user, these are the features that you should be looking for in a service:

  • Search predictions - based on previous search history or similar searches by other visitors
  • Synonym recognition - personalizing search by being able to understand the language that they’re using and adjusting the search accordingly
  • Business intelligence - a site search service is useless unless it’s able to shed some light on search patterns and notify you of emerging products


To Learn Where They’re Going, First Learn Where They Come From

Many destinations can drive traffic to your website. From PPC ads to that one guest post that you did a year ago promoting your products. Most of these sources can be tracked with Google Analytics and other BI tools. To grab the attention of the first-time visitors that enter from a specific source, you’ll have to do a couple of things:

  1. Get as much information about the source as possible and build a basic understanding of the type of visitors that arrive through the source.
  2. Reconstruct their sales funnel by analyzing those visits that resulted in a conversion to try to uncover additional insights.
  3. Use that information to personalize promotions for anyone visiting from that particular source.

Knowing where the visitor came from and what kind of product they might be interested in empowers you with some profound insights. You don’t have to be aware of their location or other demographic information. If you know that, for example, a person came in from a website that reviews bicycles and you happen to sell bikes, then you can momentarily start acting on that knowledge:

  • to offer a limited-time discount
  • to exchange a discount for a subscription
  • to show a pop-up with the most popular bikes in your store and so on - there are plenty of other tactics that you can come up with

Which one is more likely to convert

This tactic should prove to be a much smarter solution than just offering blanked discounts for anyone who can’t be identified by your site. This also diversifies discount options, as instead of providing a ‘50% off on everything’, you’re offering ‘50% off on your next bike’, which is a lot more personalized.

Early Birds or Owls

This is a basic technique, but it provides some great personalized website content opportunities. Personalize your site for people visiting during a certain time of day. This might be especially useful for first-time visitors for a variety of various eCommerce niches. For example, if you sell items that are often bought as a gift, it’s logical to assume that someone shopping at night does this in secret from their significant other or is late with a gift and tries to come up with something at the last minute. This is how Optimizely does it:

Optimizely - Personalize your site for people visiting during a certain time of day

Hitting them with a message that says ‘Still can’t find that perfect gift? Here’s a discount on the house, so you could finally go to bed’ or something of this sort might make a deep impression on the visitor. This idea could also be extended to weather patterns, especially if you sell multi-season clothing and accessories, like umbrellas.

Time-Sensitive Discounts

The idea is pretty simple - if you don’t want people to leave your site, offer them a time-limited discount. Their deeper personal profiling won’t matter when their inner self is confronted with a one-of-a-kind-deal. It’s up to you to experiment. You may want to give them an hour or 10 minutes - experimentation will allow you to find the right time that works best for first-time visitors.


There are a lot of personalization techniques that you can apply to first-time visitors. A lot of their logic is shared with any other personalization initiatives. You have to know where they’re coming from and what they’re interested in.

To be able to excel in personalizing first-time visits, you have to always stay on your toes. Be sure to explore your visitor data, their browsing patterns or even heat maps that show where these first-time visitors are focusing their attention. Use that knowledge to build hypothesis and execute. You can always use the standard information available on most of the first-time visitors, like device-specific details – just learn to weave it into your marketing. You can also ask instead of guessing: build a questionnaire that’ll help you understand your first-time visitors. Even if they don’t purchase, their answers will offer some actionable marketing insights for your exploration.

Remember that some of these implementations will require advanced technical preparations, so if you’re looking for a professional ecommerce development team well-versed in personalizing website experiences - feel free to reach out, so we could discuss your project in more detail.

What’s your go-to tactic when personalizing website experience for first-time visitors? What were the bottlenecks that you encountered along the way? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

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