If businesses could implement personalization instantly, at the touch of a button, they would. Personalization is critical to providing a positive and effective customer experience, but as we all know, it is not quite as simple as pressing a magical button. As an overarching strategy, there are many areas to consider — including which customer points of interaction to personalize, what technology solution to use, who will oversee the program and how will it be implemented across an organization. But given the business benefits, these considerations should not scare anyone away from pursuing personalization.
I recently interviewed a few experts on the Evergage Customer Success team to get some insight into getting started with personalization. In this article, I outline some personalization hurdles first-time personalizers face, and describe the experts’ recommendations for overcoming those challenges to become a personalization rockstar!
1. Begin with the Data
As with many other challenges in life, first-time personalizers often struggle to determine where they should begin. This hurdle can easily be overcome with a data-centric approach. A good personalization platform provides a ton of data, yet first-time personalizers don’t always realize that analyzing that data can provide an excellent roadmap of where to start.
Logan Goulett, Senior Customer Service Director at Evergage, stresses the importance of allowing data to guide the initial stages of personalization. For example, many retailers believe they should begin by personalizing their homepage experiences because they consider their homepage to be the website’s storefront. Most often, however, a quick look at the data will establish that the best places to start are the product detail or category pages, as those are the points of interaction that typically generate the most incoming traffic for retailers. A similar approach can be taken by B2B and financial service companies. Are certain pages — perhaps pricing or a popular piece of content — getting significantly more traffic? By seeking validation from data first, first-time personalizers can avoid time-consuming efforts and instead focus on what will provide the greatest return.
In utilizing this data, however, organizations must be aware of legal restrictions within their industry. Andrew Dorris, Customer Service Director at Evergage, states this is especially relevant to financial services companies. Ensure that you create internal alignment with your legal team ahead of any campaign launches by documenting what the experience will look like and who it will target. This will enable your organization to be more agile and have a dedicated process to follow as more personalization opportunities present themselves.
2. Be Flexible
In order to adequately listen to the data, first-time personalizers must also maintain a flexible mindset. Pardees Safizadeh, Customer Success Manager at Evergage, states that first-time personalizers can self-impose hurdles if they fail to adapt their frame of mind. Being receptive to testing is one way Pardees suggests individuals successfully build out their personalization strategies. Rather than committing to campaigns that you believe will work, testing will tell you which ones definitively work. It’s important to be flexible and let ideas go if they don’t work out.
3. Maintain Content
Pardees states that one hurdle some first-time personalizers — particularly in technology companies — face is a lack of content to personalize. A blog devoid of posts cannot effectively recommend the most relevant articles to each individual. A company with no case studies cannot recommend specific case studies to different audiences.
One straightforward way to overcome this challenge is to create more targeted content. While this can be a time-consuming task, it will ultimately serve your SEO strategy as well as your personalization goals because consumers will have access to more relevant content. Start by identifying your gaps: Do you have content tailored to each of your target industries or personas? Do you have content to serve those prospects’ needs at each stage of the funnel? Andrew further stresses the importance of keeping content fresh. Relying on outdated content does not serve customers and will ultimately hinder a personalization strategy.
4. Prepare for Internal Buy-In
Implementing personalization across an entire organization generally requires buy-in from a wide variety of stakeholders. This includes not only individuals from different departments, such as merchandising and e-commerce teams in retail organizations, but also stakeholders who look after different channels — like web, mobile, and email — who may have varied perspectives on how to implement personalization across channels. Logan shares that these are often the individuals who impose hurdles for first-time personalizers by making it difficult to get campaigns off the ground. However, by taking the time to establish support and buy-in across the organization from the beginning, this can be avoided or at least alleviated.
Collaboration across teams can be formalized through the creation of a personalization management office (PMO). Having dedicated individuals working on personalization within an organization allows for quicker turnaround times and a greater degree of nimbleness.
5. Create a Campaign Playbook
Successfully developing and measuring campaigns can be a challenge for first-time personalizers, but by proactively creating a campaign playbook, they can avoid or overcome this hurdle. Outlining the processes by which you’ll create campaigns and the benchmarks by which you will measure them will help set a standard throughout the organization. Establishing benchmarks prior to the creation of new campaigns is especially critical, as ROI cannot always be measured using simple, short-term, revenue-focused approaches. This is especially true for non-ecommerce companies that have a longer sales cycle. First-time personalizers can become frustrated if they can’t demonstrate that their efforts are generating a positive return, but being clear about how campaigns will be measured at the start can expedite the analysis of a campaign’s success. The formal creation of a campaign playbook reinforces accountability and ensures that everyone has access to the information.
It should be clear that while there is a learning curve to personalization, there’s no reason you can’t move down that learning curve quickly. The ultimate goal of delivering the most relevant experience to each individual should drive everyone to implement personalization in their organization. Customers have come to expect tailored experiences, and it is the responsibility of all business stakeholders to meet this expectation (or risk losing those customers). By approaching personalization with the knowledge of what the initial difficulties will be, first-time personalizers can avoid headaches and common mistakes and instead produce results that will surprise even the biggest skeptics.