How to stop being ignored online after 7 seconds using personalization at scale on your website

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Unless is a platform that accomplishes personalisation at scale for websites in a unique and interesting way. Sander Nagtegaal, the CEO of Unless, shares how they make that happen.

On the internet, the attention span of people is very short, the result of that being that most people that visit a website will probably leave without making a purchase or doing whatever you want them to do. Data reflects that, because globally, the conversion rate sits at approximately 1%-2% for the average e-commerce venture. That’s a terrible number, because it literally means that only one out of 100 people will do whatever you want them to do. So, the assumption is that face-to-face interactions with people will produce better results. If you ask the average sales person who does account-based marketing, their conversion rates are more likely at the scales of 30%-40%, which is a healthy conversion rate. 

Another fact is that, on the internet, people will leave a website in less than seven seconds if what is on there does not interest them, but when it comes to human interaction, people are much better at this and would not end a conversation in seven seconds, because they adapt the narrative to whomever they are talking to. They personalise that pitch, and so for the team at Unless, they developed an idea to make websites behave like humans. That became their goal, to change the internet from the static publication medium that it is today into more of a conversation-like medium, similar to talking with a friend or a favourite salesperson.

What Unless has to offer

How they transform the web experience into conversations and engagement begins with people’s empathic skills. Accordingly, people have the verbal capacity to be flexible enough to change whatever they want to say, to make it shorter, to make it longer, or to use different words. Think of their product as putting empathy into a machine and then building a structure that could change the content of any given website into something that would be more relevant to the visitor. That’s what their product does. They use machine empathy to figure out who sits in front of the keyboard, and they do this in several different ways. Like what A-B testing platforms use, they gather contextual details such as your location, what time of day it is there, if it’s the weekday or the weekend, if you came through a certain campaign, etc.. It also involves behavioural factors like, “What did I click? What did I view? What am I interested in?” After determining those details, they offer profile segmentation based on CRM integrations, where one can add additional details to a visitor profile or everything to know about your prospect. It’s possible to connect platforms like Salesforce or HubSpot and then sync this information to Unless so that they will also know what a visitor looks like in your database. 

What makes Unless stand out among other platforms is the fact that they add qualitative empathy to it. They do predictions and try to figure out what the attention span of a person is, what the engagement factors are, the ‘stickiness’ of the session or whether a person is going to leave the website or not, and they estimate the lead score if it’s a hot lead or a cold lead, and whether that person will buy or not. This can be used the same way as in a sales conversation. If you, as a salesperson, look at the person who’s sitting in front of you and you know that he wants to buy something but he’s also looking at his watch, what do you do? You quickly make him a good offer that he can’t refuse and one that he has to accept it within 10 seconds, and the team at Unless believes you can do the same on a website. If they have figured out that this high profile lead that’s now visiting your website has enormous probability to buy something and is a very hot lead but, at the same time, has a very low attention span factor, they can simply add content components face that will encourage him to make a purchase immediately, for instance, by offering an additional discount if they do so. That’s what they can do with these kinds of audiences.

Why empathy matters 

They are able to classify the traffic, which is the role machine empathy plays, and then they create experiences that are slightly different or more relevant to each person. They do this in technically clever ways through changing existing content like pictures and headlines, configuring components like popups and bars, and even adding additional feature blocks in the website like industry-specific recommendation blocks on the homepage if you figured out that your visitor comes from a certain industry. 

They believe in loosely coupled applications, and that’s a technical term for something that can be thrown away at any point. They feel that it’s better to not intervene with a user’s existing systems, because if they will do that, then their implementation cycle would be very long and they wouldn’t be able to serve that many customers. Also, it’s much safer for their CTO to try something out if he knows that he can take it out at any point in time. To put it simply, Unless is just one JavaScript snippet in a website, and that will give you the entire power of their service offering. If you want to integrate a CRM system, all you have to do is go to the backend of Unless itself, press the Salesforce button, click ‘Connect,’ authenticate it on your server, and then it will work.

In terms of the technology, because they are developers, they’ve built something that practically anybody can use. Because of that, their typical users are either people who are very interested in optimising the user experience of their own websites very quickly or marketers and salespeople who do account-based marketing or conversion rate optimisation themselves. The idea is that if you have a little bit of qualitative knowledge about how you want your website to look and behave, you should be able to use it.

In terms of the content or blocks the user would have to input about their website visitors, they’ve made easy. How they’ve managed to pull that off is through personalisation at scale, meaning that without a lot of work, one can create an almost unlimited amount of variations of a website catering to specific people, because their system works with audiences, even ones that are not even very large. They can be very small subsections of traffic, for example, people belonging to a certain industry, coming from a certain location, or behaving in a certain way. In the end, website visitors, like real people, can fit within multiple audiences at the same time. So, if you fit multiple audiences at the same time, it may well be that on the page that you’re visiting, multiple experiences that are only suitable for those audiences will trigger at the same time. That means that if you only have one specific audience with one experience, you need to make one experience. But if you have 10 different audiences with 10 experiences, then your homepage is already a million different perturbations in theory, because it’s two to the power of 10. With only 10 experiences, that creates an almost unlimited amount of different variations, because you don’t need to create an entire page variation. It’s a single experience that fits in the page that will be shown or not, depending on the audience definitions, and so they’ve simplified the creation of a highly personalised website that doesn’t require a lot of time and effort.

Unless is entirely focused on web user interfaces, so using other tools like those for personalisation of email outreach is a specialisation in itself. For personalised outreach on other platforms, they integrate with it in the sense that they will provide the tools to make sure that a personalised outreach will also lead to a personalised website funnel. For instance, if you send out an email to a specific person, you can add a dynamic code in there which will allow Unless to recognise this person specifically, which means you can hyperpersonalise your narrative towards this single contact if you’d like to. This is an optional feature, but it works well. Especially for very high profile customers, it becomes worth it to create a specific funnel for them. For high level companies, you may want to create a picture on the website that shows their office and only highlights a specific product that’s suitable for them and not the other products that you have that may not be suitable for this particular company.

In the Netherlands where Unless is based, when the COVID situation got out of hand in March, some of their customers had to implement COVID notifications depending on the local situation, and using Unless, they were able to add those notifications to their websites, to the checkouts, and to everything they had online. The fastest way their users were able to do that was to simply use one of their add-on components or inline blocks with notification blocks to add it to the website in an instant. Their clients suddenly saw that they could use Unless to quickly do those things. Now, they’re using it as their primary way of releasing new features or notifications in general, testing its efficiency, and then possibly adding it to their structural roadmap. It’s allowed a lot of people to increase the time to market any change on their website, including COVID notifications.

Unless’ global reach and cost

The team at Unless

In terms of its reach, they first aimed to test as many customers as they could to make the best product possible, so they did several marketing campaigns a few years ago for people who would be willing to be early adopters, and for that, they were given a lifetime deal. These people from all over the world took the plunge even without a product, and thanks to them, Unless was able to sell 5,000 accounts in a matter of days. From this initial batch, over half of the companies are American, and then it’s more or less normally distributed. Behind the US which has 50%, there’s about 20% of users from the UK, 10%, from Germany, 5% from Russia, and so on. Since then, Unless has been building their system based on this initial customer base and they have distributed their computing capacity across 75 endpoints across the world to make sure it’s available equally anywhere. People from places like Russia and China use their systems, so it’s safe to say that it works in different languages.

In terms of pricing, they have a plan structure that comes with a monthly subscription. Prices start at €500 per month for the Business package, €999 a month for their Premium package, and €1,499 for their Enterprise package. The difference between those plans is mostly determined by a couple of features, but also by the number of page views. B2C retail companies typically fit into the Enterprise plan, because they have a lot of page views per month. B2B companies would have less page views, so they could fit into one of the lower plans.

It’s amazing what technology has now made possible, that machines can read empathy and use that for personalisation at scale. With that, consider using a great tool like Unless to help you do that with your website. To learn more about Unless, you can connect with Sander on Linkedin or check out Unless’ website. You can also reach Sander via his email address which is For those listening to the SPEAK|pr podcast, Sander has generously offered to give a three-month trial so that people can see for themselves that they’re buying something that works. 

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Unless

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