3 Ways Brands Struggle with Personalization

Modern consumers have high expectations of the brands with which they do business. Given the impact of social media, user-generated content, mobility and an increasingly competitive online marketplace, it’s really not surprising. On the one hand, consumers are constantly connected to numerous brands. On the other, many feel disconnected from brands on a personal level. And online is no different from offline when it comes to consumer demand for a more personal experience.

Brands looking to increase consumer engagement and loyalty have latched on to various personalization strategies intended to provide relevant, targeted content to the right people at the right time. People don’t want to see ads meant for people like them – they want content generated specifically for them as individuals. But, making personalized content a reality isn’t just plug and play. Launching the initiative correctly calls for a significant overhaul of the way we approach marketing, content delivery and the consumer journey. Here are three questions brands should consider:

Is Personalization Consistent Across the Organization?

When a customer lands on your website from his smartphone, what does he see? Let’s say he spends a few minutes looking at books about his favorite sport or by his favorite author. Two hours later, he logs onto your site from his laptop at home, what does he see there? Or perhaps the marketing department sends a newsletter to the same consumer seconds after this visit. What does he see then?

If you’re doing personalization properly, he’ll see content related to his previous visit – even if it occurred on a different device or was activated by a different part of the organization. Consumers give you access to their information so you can understand them more completely. They’re complicit in the trade off, but you need to live up to your side of the bargain. The customer experience needs to demonstrate your commitment to providing the most relevant content at every point in customers’ journeys with your brand to make them feel unique.

Activating data to deliver consistent experiences calls for you to eliminate a number of the siloes so common in the enterprise. Every function throughout the organization needs instant access to the same information to track users throughout their journeys. Research by McKinsey found 56% of all customer interactions happen during a multi-event, multi-channel journey. As a user spends more time interacting with, for example, a retailer’s mobile application, the pages he sees, the queries he searches and other details need to influence the experience he has at other entry points, whether it’s a desktop website, email newsletter or display ads.

With audience and customer data, your brand can create point solutions – optimize a website or personalize a newsletter – but you will never create a 360-degree experience unless you have a full view of the customer.

Who Owns Your Data?

Research shows half of U.S. consumers are concerned about data privacy and how companies use their data. Data privacy is critically important, and if handled improperly, can easily turn consumer trust into mistrust. To prevent issues of data ownership and access from hurting personalization, there are several political and technical barriers to overcome.

Effective personalization calls for a holistic approach to the entire data lifecycle. Teams charged with managing the customer experience on a mobile application or the homepage need to be pulling from the same data and contributing their own information and insights to create the personalized, 360-degree customer experience your users want. You must define companywide best practices for aggregating, managing and activating data, and make it clear that every department is responsible for sharing information. Hire and train the technical capability on your team to integrate information from different file formats and platforms, so everyone can access the data with ease. You can’t outsource these processes.

How Will You Measure the Success of Personalization?

Like any other project, you need to be able to tie your personalization efforts to concrete metrics that add value to the company. Many brands have lofty goals in mind, but it’s smartest to start small. Start, for example, by trying to convert 10% of unsubscribed website visitors who land on your site into subscribers. Define the time period for the goal and make adjustments to strategy and budget as the campaign progresses.

Treating measurement as a mission-critical aspect of your campaign will ensure you avoid wasting both time and money. It also keeps teams focused on consistently improving processes. When your employees know precisely what KPIs to track, they can make adjustments to reach those goals and possess a better overall understanding of what they’re really trying to accomplish. In the end, the ultimate metric to gauge personalization success is whether or not it increases revenues. However, it takes time to make those assessments. Starting small keeps teams focused on the gradual progression of personalization and enables you to build on early successes.

Frequently, companies turn to personalization and invest in a series of solutions only to struggle when it comes time to activate a strategy. There’s no one-touch solution to make personalization work for your company. It’s a significant shift in the way you approach marketing and data use throughout the enterprise. At this point, it’s a competitive necessity. Customers want relevance and the most direct path to finding the content, products and information they need. When personalization is done properly, that’s exactly what you’ll give them.

Jan Vels Jensen is chief marketing officer for Cxense


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