Successful brands not only requires an elegant and intuitive shopping experience, but one that is contextualized for the customer’s specific goals and preferences. Delivering an experience that is capable of understanding whether a person is doing product research, shopping for themselves, or buying a gift for someone else is complex, but achievable with the proper plan and technologies in place.
Businesses are scrambling to figure out how to achieve personalization success. To do it right, there are a lot of moving parts. Identifying and addressing each of those can be a challenge. Here, we’ve broken down the personalization process into easy, actionable steps to get your business started off on the right foot.
Before You Get Started
Prior to starting work, there is some preparation needed to assure success:
Define Your Goals and Strategy - Before you invest in software and technology, you need to define why you’re embarking on this project. What do you hope to get out of a personalization strategy, not just this year but in three, five, or seven years? You need to define your business goals and personalization strategy before you can select the right tools.
Put Your Tools in Place - Let’s assume you already have a commerce platform that can give you all the functionality you’ll need on the backend, and that can grow with you as your business evolves and expands. On top of that, you’ll need to integrate a leading Content Management System (CMS) into your site to give you maximum flexibility and control over your customer experience, and the requisite personalization tools.
Invest in Resources to Manage the Process - Personalization is much more than just a technology project. If you decide to get into the personalization business, then you need to commit to truly being in the business. This means having dedicated resources, processes in place, and KPIs determined to be able to measure effectiveness.
Get Organizational Buy-In - Make sure the senior decision makers within your organization are on board with personalizing your user experience. If they’re hesitant, let them read this and this. You’ll need to be sure your personalization strategy is aligned with your overall business goals, or you’ll never get this initiative off the ground.
Do Some Customer Research - Before you dive in, you’ll need to collect some customer data. This should include:
- demographic information (age, gender, location)
- behavioral observations (browsing and buying habits, cross-channel tendencies)
- psychographic details (interests, activities, opinions, attitudes, values)
- demonstrated affinities and loyalties
Got all that in place? Great! Your foundation is complete, and you’re ready to start your personalization journey.
- Create Customer Profiles, Segments, and Personas - Before you can establish and then start testing your hypotheses, you need to create the profiles, personas, and segments you’d like to target. Sift through all of the information you’ve collected to date and find trends. This is how you begin to develop personas and segments, which are crucial to mastering personalization.
- Build a Testing Campaign and Test a Hypothesis - Now is the time to create a Learning and Testing Agenda to build a basis for your execution strategy. What are your hypotheses? What do you want to learn? What are your ultimate goals? Let’s build a testing campaign to answer those questions.
- Test, Test, Test - With a campaign in place, and hypotheses created, you’re ready to start testing. This can include A/B and multivariate testing, or it can include behavioral targeting, which is another great place to start. This will allow you to start crafting the experience, in real time, to each individual user. Just remember -- you should test and measure every step of the way. The more tuned in you are to each step of this process, and each step of the customer journey, the more sophisticated your customer profiles will become.
- Refine Your Targeting - At this point, you’ve done a good amount of testing. You’ve collected loads of data and created one unified profile for each consumer. You know not only who the primary personas are who interact with your brand, but the individual customers, too. You’re ready to start refining your process and getting really good at targeting your customers with relevant content and offers. Now you want to revisit your Learning and Testing Agenda to confirm or deny your initial hypotheses, and then figure out what you want to learn next. Using the results of your initial hypotheses, consider what additional learnings will help you to continue to refine and enhance your targeting and experience personalization.
- Nurture - To be honest, this step isn’t rocket science, but it is a crucial step. You’ve spent all this time and money getting to know your customers, and you want to keep them hanging around for the long haul, right? So, take care of them! Nurture them like you would nurture a real relationship -- that’s what you’re aiming for, after all. Take the time and care to make them feel like they each matter individually, from every single touchpoint, across all channels online and off. Target them with the right offers at the right time, based upon where they are in their individual customer lifecycle.
- Repeat and Expand - Think you’re ahead of the game? Think again! Just as soon as you make your way through this list, the market has changed. TIme to start all over again -- redefining personas and repeating testing and targeting practices -- but this time, you’ll be all the wiser. Now is also the time to start expanding your personalization practices -- uniting in-store and online personalization tactics, integrating social, incorporating marketing automation -- figure out what makes the most sense for your business, and expand your efforts into those areas. Remember, personalization isn’t only digital -- it’s omnichannel, it’s everywhere.