How To Get Started With Personalization

Written by: Katie Sweet

These days, it can feel as if every analyst, thought leader, or martech vendor is talking about personalization. When a term is used so often, its meaning can get murky. So what does “personalization” really mean? It refers to any moment in any channel where you deliver an individually relevant experience to someone based on what you’ve learned about them. Product or content recommendations based on their preferences, event promotions based on their location, and a homepage hero tailored to their industry are all examples of personalization.

According to Forrester, 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience. Click To Tweet

Why would you want to personalize? More and more companies are providing personalized experiences across digital and in-person channels—not just those brands that are known for their personalization like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify. And as more companies provide unique and personalized experiences, more consumers and business buyers have come to expect them. According to Forrester, 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience, while Infosys found that 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.

So if you’re interested in personalization but not sure how to get started, here are some steps to follow.

1. Determine Your Strategy

While it is possible to get started with personalization with just a few short-term goals in mind, it will be much better in the long term if you take the time to establish a strategy up front.

Ask yourself a few questions: What customer or prospect engagement challenges are you facing and how can personalization help? What are you ultimately trying to accomplish with personalization? Increasing conversions, reducing bounce rate, improving the ROI of a specific marketing tactic, driving upsells, increasing retention, and improving loyalty are all common goals.

What are your channels? Personalization can be used for websites, web apps, mobile sites, mobile apps, email, search, digital ads, and in-person human interactions (such as in-store, in call centers, with sales and customer success teams, etc.)—so consider which channels are relevant to your business.

What audiences are you targeting? Do you have different messages or content to share with different groups? Enterprise and small business buyers? Buyers from different industries? Visitors from different referring sources or locations? Shoppers interested in different brands or categories? Thinking through who you are trying to reach will help you focus your efforts.

2. Invest In Your Technology

Even the best personalization strategy will go nowhere without the technology to execute it. For the last two decades, marketers have dreamed of speaking to each of their prospects and customers at the one-to-one level, but the technology didn’t exist to make that possible in a scalable way. Today, the technology exists, but the martech landscape is crowded. Selecting the solution that best meets your needs can be a big undertaking.

Think through your technology needs in advance. Which tools do you need to deliver the strategy you have outlined? Being thoughtful and strategic about which tools you add to your tech stack will help you avoid adding a new solution each time you identify a new personalization tactic you’d like to utilize—such as product recommendations or email personalization. Trying to execute personalization with too many point solutions that do not integrate easily with one another can result in siloed data.

3. Bring Together Your Data Sources

Data is the foundation of any successful personalized experience. Data allows you to understand a person—otherwise you can’t deliver a relevant experience. Identify what data you have and what you will need—thinking through each of these main buckets (and keeping in mind that an effective personalization solution will help collect a lot of this):

  • Attribute data: Attributes describe any characteristic of a person. They can be accessed directly from the web (such as a person’s location, referring source, firmographic details like industry or company, etc.) or they can be pulled in from a database or other system (such as a person’s loyalty program status or plan level in a CRM).
  • Behavioral data: A person’s behavior gives you a clue into their interests, preferences and in-the-moment intent. The trick is to make sure you’re capturing enough behavioral data to create a complete picture. Beyond pages viewed, you also want to track time spent and engagement on each page, including hovering, scrolling, zooming, etc.
  • Survey and form data: Surveys and forms provide explicit data that you can use to supplement behavioral and attribute data. Surveys can be presented on a website, in a web or mobile app, or via email triggered by a person’s actions—and any data captured in a survey or form can then be leveraged for analysis and personalization.

Once you’ve identified your data sources, focus on bringing them together to create a single picture of each person in a solution that can allow you to take action on that data to affect an experience.

4. Identify And Prioritize Your Campaigns

Now that have your strategy, technology, and data in place, turn your attention to specific campaigns.

What campaigns can you implement to address your main goals? What experiences should you target to each of your audiences? Where can your channels benefit from machine learning-driven experiences? Brainstorm ideas, then refine and prioritize your list. There is a single path for every organization, so be willing to try something new. Be sure to loop in all appropriate teams and individuals across your organization to get a broad perspective.

5. Execute, Test And Iterate

Personalization is not a “set it and forget it” program. Each new campaign should be tested against a control experience to ensure that it provides lift when compared against a non-personalized experience. This also helps you make sure that your hypotheses on ways to improve results are validated. Continue to plan new campaigns, and test and iterate to avoid getting complacent. Customer expectations are always changing; what works in the past may no longer meet those expectations.

Final Thoughts

Implementing a personalization program can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. How you approach personalization should be unique to the needs of your business. Larger organizations may want to spend time developing a comprehensive strategy, vetting it with different stakeholders, and developing processes to efficiently execute it. Smaller or more agile teams can dip their toes in the water and run a few campaigns before developing detailed strategies and processes. But at the end of the day, spending time in each of these five areas will help you deliver successful personalized experiences going forward. For more help getting started, check out Evergage’s eBook, The Ultimate Personalization Planning Guide.

Katie Sweet is Sr. Manager, Content Marketing at Evergage, which delivers real-time personalization to more than 3 billion people across the world. When Katie isn’t meeting challenging deadlines, chasing blog contributors, and driving content at Evergage, she is constantly reading, traveling, and trying adventurous foods.

 

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