Personalization isn’t a new concept, but as technology continues to improve, the ability to personalize messages has become easier. And more importantly, it’s become essential to keeping customers and growing relationships. Acquia’s most recent global Customer Experience Trends Report surveyed over 8,000 customers and 800 marketers, finding that 96% of marketers saw improvement in their customer engagement after implementing personalization. Everyone understands that they need to start adopting personalization tactics into their overall customer experience and digital marketing strategies. However, they’re less certain on how to establish a personalization program that is strategic, effective and scalable.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many customers on their personalization strategies and most have similar concerns that are holding them back from success. Here are the three biggest barriers for starting personalization and sticking with it long enough to earn lifetime customer value.
Roadblock 1: Resourcing
One frequent question I hear is, “What size team do I need to be successful with personalization?” The most common answer is that it varies for each company. I’ve worked with customers that have a marketing team of two people and have been very successful, while other customers have a full team plus agency support and can’t get personalization off the ground. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some general tips that can guide you when creating your personalization team structure. That’s why I’ve created a standard RACI to help customers get started.
I recommend at least a 25% allocation for one to two people to be Responsible for personalization. They will be the primary users of your company’s personalization tool. They will also be responsible for assessing if your efforts are successful. However, they’ll need a cross-functional team to support their goals.
Customer experience today extends across multiple channels, interfaces and devices, and customers expect those individualized and relevant interactions from brands wherever they are. In order to connect all of your customer data into a seamless, individualized journey, you need to have the support of various internal teams such as marketing, design, content, analytics, customer success and website operations. These supporting teams won’t be Responsible for personalization but they will need to be Consulted to avoid campaigns getting stuck in digital silos. Therefore the allocation for these team members can be 10-15%. These teams all need visibility and accessibility into your personalization strategy, so they can optimize and adjust their own efforts to engage customers.
The goal is to make personalization a component of all marketing campaigns, not just a single channel. If you are running an email or social media promotion, you want the website experience to match what the customer is seeing on your other channels. You need to consult with the marketing teams to understand the promotional details as well as the content and design teams to make sure the right assets are created for your website. Everyone will also need to have a centralized view of your customer data to gather valuable insights on the audiences you should target.
Personalization is most successful when you have cross-functional support but it’s also important to have leadership support. Nobody expects senior leadership to get involved in the day-to-day tactics, but it is important to keep them Informed. The more informed they are on the strategy— and more importantly the results that are being achieved — the more support they’ll provide for future efforts. Implement solutions and marketing technologies and analytics dashboards that make your data easily understandable and accessible at a high-level, so that execs will be able to clearly connect your personalization efforts to ROI.
Roadblock 2: Getting Started
We have a team in place, we have the tool, now how do we get started? Many customers feel they need complete customer journeys in order to get started. Or they put it off because they don’t have resources to create personalized content for all their audiences. But as long as you have some understanding of your customers, you can get started right away with some very basic use cases that leverage existing content. If you aren’t sure how to create a use case or need help thinking of potential use cases, our blog on How to Develop Customer Use Cases provides examples that companies can try no matter how mature they are in their personalization program.
Personalization is hypothesis-driven so you don’t need to have all the answers before you start. Instead, let your personalization efforts help inform your customer decisions. If you think an audience would resonate better with a different type of message, then try it out. If it doesn’t give you the results you expected, then try something else. A/B test a few messages until you find the one that performs the best and gets you the results you want.
A/B tests are easy to set up and provide some quick results to help optimize your site. And you don’t need new content to run an A/B test. Simply test the content you have on your homepage; swap one featured article for another or try different promotional messaging. The benefit of A/B testing through a personalization tool is that you can set the A/B test to run for everyone coming to your website, or you can limit the A/B test to a specific audience or segment. For example, you can test two different messages about “Who We Are” on the homepage to all first-time visitors and see how many of those visitors return to the site based on the message they saw. And while that test is running, all returning visitors will see the default homepage message.
Start small, but get started. Focus on a few small personalizations and see how they perform. If you don’t get the results you wanted then make small adjustments until you do. Then replicate those efforts for other audiences. You just need a few good segments and content types to try out that have been optimized to generate the results you are looking for.
Roadblock 3: Maintaining the Momentum
You’ve got a few campaigns up and running...now what? All too often I see customers create personalizations and walk away like the job is done. Personalization is NOT a “set it and forget it” tactic. It requires time to review results and modify your methods until they are optimized and provide the results you want. And once you have the results, you can clone that approach and see if it works with other audiences. Improving the customer experience is an “always-on” job with no completion date — there are always more ways to improve the customer experience as your customers’ needs and preferences evolve and shift over time.
So how do you keep the momentum going? I recommend scheduling a recurring personalization alignment meeting with your team. It’s a great opportunity to:
- Share a recap of current personalization efforts and successes
- Present top ideas for new efforts and their intended goals
- Get informed of upcoming marketing campaigns that could leverage personalization
- Agree on 1-2 new efforts to implement
- Commit to timelines for new content or assets that may be needed
Whether your alignment meetings are weekly, monthly or quarterly is completely up to you, but I recommend getting them set up as recurring meetings that happen at the same day and time so they become a habit. The meetings should be led by the person(s) Responsible but those Accountable and Consulted should be represented.
I also recommend that you create a quarterly report that can be shared with senior leadership. This report should be a collaboration of the person(s) Responsible for personalization as well as the person Accountable. This quarterly report provides leadership visibility into your efforts while giving you a record of the things you’ve tried, what’s been successful and where you want to go next.
Personalization isn’t a one-and-done effort, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Customers are demanding it and as a marketer, it’s our job to listen to customers and adapt our strategies to improve the overall customer experience. If COVID-19 taught us anything it’s the power of our digital channels and if we don’t enhance the digital experience for our customers then they’ll find a company that does.
For more inspiration of customers who have built and adapted successful personalization strategies, check out our blog: How to Adapt Your Current Personalization Strategy for a COVID-19 World.