father and baby digital experience

Personalization Matters More Than Ever. Learn to Master It.

A few weeks ago, I gave a marketing master class at the Digital City Festival in Manchester, England on personalization strategy.  Don’t worry, I followed my own advice and made sure to translate my presentation to the audience’s preferred Queen’s English. However, this blog is defaulting back to my own Americanized dictionary.) 

While attendance at the event was a bit smaller than we had originally planned due to the current global circumstances, the event was packed with memorable personalized touches from a greasy, authentic full English breakfast to carnival-style games like derby races and Acquia’s own Digital Transformation Darts contest (complete with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes). Sure, attendees came to gain insights from digital leaders in the media and e-commerce space, but it tends to be these fun activities and interactions at booths that make some events stand out more than others. That brings me to the topic of my talk -- how can brands today create a similar valuable, engaging experience across an increasingly complex and competitive digital landscape? 

digital experience darts

Especially now, as we find ourselves in a time where in-person events and physical interactions are limited, digital experience matters more than ever. For all those who weren’t able to make it to Manchester, and for the many of us who won’t be attending any events in the near future -- I’m bringing Acquia’s personalization tips to you:

Understanding the Business Opportunity  

At Acquia, our mantra is “Experience Wins.” This is born out of the data, with Gartner predicting that 81% of marketing leaders believing that their companies will mostly or completely compete on the basis of CX in the next two years. What this really means is that having the best product isn’t enough anymore. It also means that generic, one-size-fits-all experiences on the web or other channels are no longer going to cut it.

In response, organizations are turning to personalization, as a practice and technology, to try and win the experience battle.  According to Acquia’s CX Trends Report, 89% of businesses today are investing in personalization

The problem? Being successful with personalization requires more than just buying technology.  Those most successful with personalization build a personalization practice, starting with developing a strategy to identify how personalizing experiences can help achieve business goals. Normally these strategy sessions happen during onboarding or engagements with our partners, but I am going to give you a sneak preview in this post. 

Defining Your Goals and Metrics for Personalization Success 

Obviously, personalization is a top priority for many brands right now, but is personalization the right approach for you? “All my competitors are doing it!” does not constitute a strong personalization strategy. Before diving headfirst into the world of profile data and recommendation engines, organizations need to define their goals for personalization and align them to overall business success. Here are a few personalization goals to consider

  • Increased awareness
  • Increased engagement
  • Increased conversion
  • Increased loyalty

With your initial effort, focus on just ONE of those goals and align your efforts to that. The most common misconception about personalization is declaring, “It’s going to improve all of my metrics!” Once you understand what you’re trying to achieve and how these personalization objectives ladder up to both your organizational goals and your customer’s expectations, you need to select the right metrics by which to measure the success of your efforts and demonstrate personalization ROI. A few metrics to measure these goals include:

Improved User Engagement

Ex: time on site, bounce rate, click-throughs, downloads

Improved Conversions

Ex: lead generation, conversion, sales, event completes, products/services purchased

Just as your customer’s path needs to be unique and tailored to their interests, your business strategy must be suited to your team’s resources, skill sets and larger vision. No personalization path looks the same, and there are significant challenges to address as you balance the need to drive growth with minimizing cost and maintaining customer trust. To keep from getting overwhelmed, our digital experts at Acquia recommend a gradual approach to achieve personalization at scale.     

Applying the Crawl, Walk, Run Method

Phase 1: Crawl (One-to-Many Personalization) 

This is the “low-hanging fruit”  stage with lower-effort tactics that win fast results. 

crawl walk run personalization graphic

Some “Crawl” personalizations to consider include offering content based on a user’s visit frequency, geolocation or device type. Think of a homepage displaying a sale for winter hats in New England and bathing suits in Florida during the month of November or a university that displays a free parking promotion on the homepage during weekends. 

Phase 2: Walk (One-to-Some Personalization)

After you’ve completed some basic segmentation and single-data point personalization campaigns, the next phase involves delivering contextual experiences based on prior understanding of your audience. Personalizations in the “Walk” phase utilize real-time data such as repeated page views, newsletter subscriptions/webinar registrations, browsing behavior and return visits. Think of a B2B company displaying an ROI calculator to a visitor who has watched a demo video and downloaded an e-book. 

Phase 3: Run (One-to-Few/One-to-One Personalization)

The most mature phase of your personalization program allows marketers to develop robust audience personas and tailor content to individuals across multiple channels and moments in their journey. While these personalization efforts take more time to implement and require more content, rules and segments, the result is a stronger impact on overall customer experience. Think of a special sale and loyalty offer to those who have visited your site frequently, made two purchases in the last month and have a birthday coming up. 

While it may take some time for brands to learn how to replicate those special face-to-face moments across all of their digital channels, it is possible through the right technology and strategy. It’s also important to remember that you aren’t starting from the same position as brands like Amazon, Netflix or Spotify. And that’s okay! Not everyone has teams of hundreds and budgets of billions to deliver highly contextual personalized experiences. But even just moving down that path of no personalization to one-to-many personalization can be very impactful to your customer experience, and even more importantly, to your bottom line. 

Get more of our master tips on personalization in our e-book You Know You Need to Personalize, Now What? and learn more about how Acquia can help you carve a more effective path to personalization success that combines strategy, data, technology and optimization to achieve valuable results.  

Eric Fullerton, product marketing manager, Acquia

Eric Fullerton

Lead Product Evangelist Acquia

Eric Fullerton is the  Lead Product Evangelist for Acquia's suite of open digital experience products. Eric’s passion solving for the future of digital comes from living it firsthand for the past 10 years.

Eric has been navigating the divide between people, process, and technology at small organizations and global tech giants alike as he continues his journey to excite employees and engage customers through the power of digital marketing.