Partners in Digital Experience: Phase2’s Experimental Personalization

We spoke with Jordan Hirsch, director of innovation at Phase2 on why successful personalization requires an open and experimental mind.

experimental approach to personalization

Customer experience is in flux, and every industry now faces the pressure to evolve to meet a new, unfamiliar digital order if they are going to survive. Above all else, organizations need to adapt fast and adapt frequently to come out ahead. To get more insight into how brands can keep up with customer expectations, we recently spoke with Jordan Hirsch, Director of Innovation at Phase2, on how to embrace a culture of experimentation.

“Understanding customer experience begins with an experimentation mindset, and a willingness to be proven wrong,” said Jordan. Marketers are facing enormous pressure to ramp up their personalization efforts, but at the same time, they feel paralyzed by a lack of resources needed to implement complex personalization at scale. The key is to start small. Build your personalization program from the data and segments you have available and continuously test each effort over time. 

Jordan Hirsch
Jordan Hirsch, Director of Innovation at Phase2

Defining a Hypothesis 

As part of Acquia’s Personalization Solutions Partner Program, Phase2 has worked with many clients to help shape, define, and execute their own personalization goals. While Acquia Personalization’s powerful and intuitive approach to personalizing content for users is simple to use, Phase2 first needed to work alongside clients to help them establish a purpose-driven approach to the technology. “Implementing Acquia Personalization and starting to personalize is the easy part, but what businesses needed help with was establishing the foundational strategy of what they wanted to achieve with the tools, and then setting clear metrics by which to measure their success,” said Jordan.

Anyone can begin their personalization path by starting with the data they have available. From your customer data, you can identify patterns of behavior and develop a hypothesis. For example, when designing a personalization program for a large healthcare nonprofit, Jordan and his team worked with the client to observe how personalized web experiences influenced donor revenue. They approached their hypothesis by observing which of the nonprofit’s channels currently received the most audience engagement and narrowed their focus to a few key metrics, such as time on site and email newsletter signups.

Starting with basic metrics such as geolocation or device type allows brands to test their methods before devoting more time and resources to complex personalization tactics. When starting out, Jordan also recommends brands focus on bottom-of-the-funnel behaviors that directly influence conversions. Being able to demonstrate a few “quick wins” for personalization efforts that directly correlate to revenue helps to build momentum for your program and earns the support of other organizational stakeholders. 

Achieving Results through Continuous Experimentation 

Optimizing your organization’s approach doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the brands that invest in regularly testing and conducting multiple iterations of their personalization hypothesis that will discover insightful solutions. In the case of the healthcare nonprofit, Phase2 helped design an A/B test where they deployed both a standard newsletter signup message and a message with a personalized CTA. The test targeted states with the most active donors and found that when people were exposed to the personalized CTA, both clickthrough rates and donation revenue improved.

Now that the nonprofit’s marketing team had a baseline to measure one set of results, they could begin testing other factors as well, from CTA placement to time of day to frequency of messages, etc. “Digital experience is complex and customers don't always act the way you expect them to. With personalization, you need to be able to learn from your results, even if they’re unexpected, and apply those results to your next experiment,” Jordan explained. Analyzing the data allows companies to pull insight from those enormous customer databases and shape that data into an actionable format. Before embarking on a mission to integrate all of your various technology systems to gain that coveted unified view of the customer, marketers need to have context for what each piece of data tells them about the customer and where that information falls in the entire scope of the buyer’s journey. 


Sharing Impact Across the Entire Organization


Neither success nor failure can exist in a vacuum. Once marketers gather measurable results from their personalization campaigns, they are faced with how best to interpret and apply those findings to propel growth and reach digital maturity at scale. This means adopting transparent communication with all stakeholders about which personalization methods were effective and where teams should pivot their approach. 


Working with technology built to accommodate this flexibility through an open, adaptable architecture is critical for helping brands transform their digital operations quickly and customize the user experience as consumer expectations continue to move forward. As an open-source content management system, Drupal offers users great freedom for how they want to construct their own digital experiences and ensures that those experiences reflect both the needs of the business and the customer. “Drupal’s good for content customization. It gives editors and site builders options for how they want to approach their digital experience — without having to push a bundle of predetermined tools and features on them,” Jordan said. As customer behaviors keep shifting and digital experience extends to incorporate newer, different channels, you can’t get locked into a single solution. 


This forward-thinking approach to digital transformation is why Phase2 believes in incorporating innovation across all parts of your organization and embracing flexible technology that makes it easier to integrate sophisticated personalization and data systems. Impactful change happens when your content managers and site editors aren’t fighting against the tools and are instead using them to advance their strategy. “There’s a correlation between improving your employee experience and creating better customer experiences,” Jordan explained. “For every company that now says they need to prioritize digital transformation, it starts with giving your internal audience the same upgraded digital experience that you want for your customers.”


With so many industries making the leap into digital right now, personalizing the customer journey is essential. Phase2 believes that successful personalization is in reach for any organization if they’re committed to investing in their people, process, and technology as a whole and embarking on the path forward with an open mind.  


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