Blog post General, Personalization, Strategy

Be a Personalization Leader: The What, Why, Who, When, Where of Content Personalization

Despite years of personalization-hype, you still don't feel like your company has really nailed the whole personalization thing. It's OK! BCG backs me up:

Only about 15% of companies can be considered true personalization leaders, and most of them are tech companies and digital natives. BCG

But, it's time to catch up. Personalization done right is undoubtedly a competitive advantage; that is, if your competitors doesn't embrace it first. Personalization is what elevates content from being simply marketing material to becoming a core part of the customer experience. This is an important distinction to keep in mind.

This article kicks off a new series I'm writing on the various levels of sophistication for implementing data-driven content personalization in the enterprise. I've labeled the approaches crawl, walk, and run. In this first post, we'll make sure we're on the same page about personalization in general by covering the five W's.

So what is personalization all about?

I'm going to assume you know the basics of what personalization means on a technical or functional level. But what does it mean on an emotional level?

Relevancy AND authenticity. One without the other is just creepy and/or ineffective.

Figure 1: What

Ok, great stuff. But it's a waste of time unless there is a defined WHY - a justifiable reason as to why personalization improves your business. You still have a business case to build for the spend.

Why invest in increasing relevancy?

Figure 2: Why

Increased conversion rates, increased shareability of content, improved brand perception and brand/product stickiness -these are all things everybody wants. These are concrete reasons or objectives that you need to fulfill. Personalization is a major driver in helping you get there - just make sure you back it up with numbers. Quantify it as best you can and build your personalization business case around those numbers.

While things like improved conversions are easy to grasp and fully expected for any marketing activity, don't lose sight of what I said above. Personalization makes content so much more than a marketing activity or output. As a customer, authentic content that feels like it's made for me, feels comfortable to me, speaks my language (literally and figuratively), understands me, knows what I want to know, and simplifies my interactions with your company... that's content that improves my customer experience. It's not just information anymore, it's actually a part of the product and my impression of using that product. Depending on the industry, personalized content might even be the product itself. Personalizing your content is improving your product.

I'll spare you the justification for why an improved product and experience is good for your business, since we're all smart people here. But make sure to quantify that too - alphabet soup will help (CLV, CAC, NPS, YoY, etc). Numbers matter.

When & where should you invest in personalization?

Figure 3: When&Where

Don't be alarmed. You don't have to offer advanced personalization right off the bat. In fact, that's the point of this article series - to show you how to crawl first before you try to walk or run. But make sure everything you do from day 1 is done in the context of the holistic CX transformation you're undertaking (or, that I hope you're undertaking). Don't start personalization efforts for any channel or touchpoint until you've mapped them and their relationships out across the entire journey first.
Personalization is the cart if mapping the journey is the horse.

After relevancy and authenticity, consistency and connectedness are the two most important aspects of personalization. The average B2C customer journey can include 3-5 touchpoints across very different channels. A great personalized experience from one touchpoint is lost if the next touchpoint falls short - every interaction must be performed in the context of all other previous interactions and with a consistent feel and approach. A customer's experience is only as good as the experience from their morest recent interaction. Shoot for breadth before depth.

Who should your personalization efforts target?

FIgure 4: Who

You know something about everyone. That sentence is worth repeating. You know something about everyone.

Use that something (data) to personalize your experiences for every single user. Start small, and grow the level of personalization iteratively. But start it for everyone.

You will of course have varying degrees of personalization based on how much you know about your current user, due to the inability to uniquely identify every single person. But whether they have a full identity, partial identity (tracked but not registered), or an unknown identity, use the data you have to make the experience 10%, 25%, 50% better, more targeted, and more relevant based on what you do know.

The big question: How do you make this all a reality?

In my experience from working with numerous Fortune 1000 enterprises, personalization doesn't become a reality, despite the best intentions, because people are simply overwhelmed. They try to run before they walk, and walk before they crawl. Suddenly, the proposed budget and timeline is astronomical, the list of decision makers involved is insane, and the overall initiative becomes a bureaucratic mess.

The next 3 articles in this series will focus on how you crawl, walk, then run at delivering industry-leading data-driven content personalization in the enterprise. If you can't wait and need more information now, check out this webinar video I did on the same topic.

If you find this helpful, please share or like this post!

And leave me a comment if you have any questions or are looking for a constructive personalization debate!

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