Six Ways to Overcome Personalization Roadblocks

opinionThe following is a guest contributed post from Jan Vels Jensen, chief marketing officer for Cxense.

Ask a group of marketers if they’re personalizing their campaigns and they’ll probably say yes. Ask them if they’re doing it well, and you’ll likely get a different answer. Technology is emerging as both the solution and challenge to good personalization. Who hasn’t received a poorly re-targeted message at some point? Marketers that rely on technology alone to personalize the customer journey risk alienating the very customers they’re trying to attract. The following tips can help marketers overcome roadblocks to personalization success.

Start with a unified strategy

True personalization must begin with a clear, cohesive strategy. This strategy should incorporate multiple organizational functions and channels and reflect a unified approach to the customer experience. Siloed, single-channel efforts will lead to a fragmented customer experience and discourage organization-wide involvement. For personalization to be effective, it must be relevant, timely and personal. To achieve this goal at scale requires every function from marketing, sales and service to capture, engage and have access to centralized relevant data, establish concrete objectives and measure progress.

Align marketing with other functions

Research by McKinsey found 56 percent of all customer interactions happen during a multi-event, multi-channel journey. That means customers are not only touching your brand multiple times, they’re leaving a trail of data across functional siloes – data that can help brands personalize interactions. Alignment between sales, marketing, customer service and IT is the most important element in achieving true personalization. Personalization cannot succeed if it’s only happening across some channels, such as email or mobile, or when customer service isn’t in the loop on sales activities.

Create a single view of the customer

Marketing alone cannot be responsible for personalizing the entire customer journey. If a customer visits your mobile site in the morning, that activity should be reflected in his experience when he visits your website later that day. If a new subscriber interacts with your sales team, that discussion should be factored in to the next email you send her. With the right technology in place, brands can create a unified view and approach to personalization.

Use the right technology

There are countless solutions that will automate a personalized customer journey based on specific and predicted customer actions. However, those pre-programmed steps often overlook disparate functions within the enterprise. Data management platforms (DMPs) collect user data from a brand’s own digital platforms, such as websites and apps. Some also integrate with other internal systems from various functions across the organization. The customer data stored in customer relationship management (CRM) or customer service platforms provides endless information such as whether a website visitor has been to the site before, made a purchase, been contacted by sales, or communicated with customer service.

Use real-time data to personalize users’ experience

Delivering a unified view of the customer requires both cross-functional alignment and unification of the data layer. This means using and sharing first- and third-party data across the organization, while analyzing users’ real-time actions to create contextual content. Using a DMP allows brands to capture real time activity, such as the pages a visitor is viewing, products or content he’s clicking on and the status of his online shopping cart. Brands can also use geo-location techniques to deliver location-aware promotions. Using real-time data insights, marketers can automate a personalized offer, email or in-app promotion and turn an anonymous user on the fly into a potential customer.

Be transparent

Personalization is a strategy – not a product. Hence brands should approach personalization as an important criterion for a mutually satisfactory relationship with their customers. Brands that are open with consumers about their approach to personalization are more likely to find a balance between overtly creepy and direct. Brands that explain why they’re asking for specific information or why users should turn on location services in their mobile apps give users a sense of empowerment. If users understand the reason (the value they get in return) behind opt-in requests, they’re more likely to participate and appreciate the resulting personalization.

Delivering effective, transparent personalization isn’t easy. If it was, brands would already be doing it – and doing it well. While technologic solutions can play a very big role in capturing and automating data-based content at scale, even the best technology is nothing without the right people, processes and culture to support a personalized customer experience. Brands that activate both first- and third-party data in real time, across functional siloes will have the best chance at delivering unified, personalized experiences throughout the customer journey. And if you get this right you will be hugely rewarded.