The 7 Tenets of Personalization 3.0

For over a decade, marketers have been promised the power of digital personalization to enable more relevant and effective customer experiences, individualized communications and offers, and higher conversion rates and average order values.

And marketers are paying attention. Forrester Research reports that 92% of marketers say their interest in personalization has increased over the previous year, and 83% say personalization is critical to their company’s success.

That said, many technology vendors and IT departments have built personalization solutions on top of databases that were first released over 25 years ago – back when all the data lined up into nice little rows and columns, and all you had to do was place your data into that structure and occasionally query the database (then wait patiently while the data crunched) to get answers and try to identify useful patterns.

Needless to say, with this approach, any personalization ends up being very broad in nature, is infrequently utilized and is not completed in real-time. But, that’s how most personalization works. It uses a rigid, high-latency and asynchronous approach to segmenting and responding to user behavior. This doesn’t align, however, to the 24/7, global, multi-device, sub-second attention spans of today’s consumers. Retailers need a new approach. They need the next generation of personalization – Personalization 3.0.

Today’s digital marketer must be empowered to act on any kind of data from any source across channels to deliver relevant, individualized, one-to-one experiences for their key audiences in real time. That’s what Personalization 3.0 is about.

Here are the seven tenets that comprise successful Personalization 3.0:

Marketer-Friendly. Personalization needs to be easy to deploy and use by marketing – without the need for developers, IT or data scientists. Rolling out campaigns every few weeks and waiting days for the results won’t cut it. Marketers should be able to launch multiple personalization campaigns every week and have instant access to easy-to-understand reporting and analytics.

Data-Driven. Marketers should be able to conduct real-time segmentation and analysis based on extensive data about each visitor, including current and historical behavior, location, source and profile information. It’s simply not acceptable to deliver the same shopping experience to a frequent, VIP customer as to a first-time anonymous visitor coming from a display ad.

Real-Time. While it wasn’t possible with prior generations of personalization, technology exists today that enables brands to respond to visitors “in the moment” with a maximally relevant experience based on an instant analysis of their behavior. If a visitor is spending a lot of time checking out a particular item on your site, you don’t want to have to wait until his next visit (if he even comes back) or chase him down with an email to prompt a purchase.

Rue La La, for example, seizes opportunities like this to provide targeted incentives to complete a transaction right then and there. One way the company does this is through a “secret sale” exit message that is delivered when a shopper is about to leave its site. Targeted to non-buyers to entice them with an exclusive offer, this last attempt re-engages would-be bouncers. Rue La La also presents cart abandonment messages that remind shoppers that the item they were interested in could sell out. Personalized brand messages like these substantially increase the amount of revenue generated per visitor.

Individualized. Every visitor should have a unique experience that becomes more and more relevant as she traverses the site. Given the short attention spans of today’s shoppers, online retailers must make every piece of content matter. Even if a new visitor spends time browsing a particular product category and a loyal, repeat shopper does the same thing, they shouldn’t see the same product recommendations. You want to help them make a buying decision by displaying the best-suited products.

Iterative. Marketers should be conducting targeted A/B and multivariate testing on their sites with different experiences for different audiences, rather than using a “testing for all” approach. This is the only way to iterate and determine what works best for each of your different audiences. A/B testing should be an integral part of a personalization program rather than a separate activity using separate technology.

Multi-device. In the omnichannel world we live in, retailers must consistently provide a great experience for each customer wherever they are located and however they choose to interact with the brand. This includes an optimal (and personalized) experience on whatever device they choose. If a customer has spent a lot of time shopping for designer necklaces on her Macbook and then returns later on her iPhone, she should be able to pick up right where she left off. For example, you’ll want to show her the items she was previously viewing – perhaps even prioritized by her level of interest – optimized for the smaller screen size.

Integrated. Your personalization cannot be an island. It should connect with the rest of your technology environment – including ecommerce, CMS, analytics, marketing automation and CRM systems. It should take in and pass back valuable data to optimize your overall marketing effectiveness. The thousands or millions of records in your CRM database, for example, shouldn’t be isolated from your personalization engine. You want to bring it all together with deep, real-time behavioral data to deliver the most timely, relevant and effective digital experiences possible.

Personalization 3.0 is the culmination of a vision going back over a decade. Built for the modern marketer – rather than IT – it is data-driven, centered on real-time segmentation and response, and enables individualized customer experiences. Most importantly, it will help drive the conversion rate improvements and revenue lift that online retailers and other businesses have been demanding for years.

Andy Zimmerman is the CMO of Evergage, Inc.