The 9 steps on the path to personalization
While personalization isn’t a switch you flip on or off, there is a straightforward process you can follow to launch a future-proof personalization program that’s data-driven, generates brand loyalty, increases conversion, and is ready for any new device that emerges on the market. This guide offers a comprehensive outline to help you differentiate your digital experience. Depending on your industry, the stage of your customer’s journey and potential audiences, some of these steps will be more important than others. All the essential ingredients to help you differentiate from your competition. Now, let’s get started!
Establish your team and objectives
Ideally a strong personalization strategy is built using the expertise of select teammates. The goal is to leverage their unique skills and establish a framework that enhances the customer experience by serving up the most relevant content. While a broad team is not always possible, the ideal personalization team for enterprises consists of seven team members, who may or may not have a team beneath them:
- Executive Sponsor: An overall advocate for resources, leadership commitment, and cross-organizational collaboration
- CX Lead: Leads overall management of the personalization program.
- Digital Strategist: Translates organization’s overall strategy into CX strategy and tactics.
- Content Marketer: Leads journey-aligned content creation, tactics, and experience flows across channels.
- Marketing Technologist: Oversees implementation tactics and integration with third-party tools and systems.
- UX Designer: Responsible for overall UX and IA
- Digital Analyst: Provides insights and recommendations based on analytical data.
Goals and engagement value scales pave the way for personalization. One of the first steps ahead of any personalization should be creating the engagement value scale, which includes KPIs such as customer lifetime value and value per visit — both of which are vital when reporting on the success (or failure) of a personalization campaign.
Next, you’ll want to outline a strategic objectives framework. This framework should outline the business and marketing objectives that map to digital goals that represent business value. Those digital goals should drive the personalizing strategy they represent — what, why, and for whom you’re personalizing content.
Outline audience segments
A segment is a group of visitors to your site who have something in common. Personalizing content toward segments of your audience is a great way to target users with content that’s relevant to them. Segments should be identified and prioritized by their ability to drive business value and their size.
A persona (also known as a buyer persona) is one type of segment. A persona is a fictional yet data-driven representation of your ideal customer. A buyer persona includes the customer’s demographics, age, location, preferences, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. A persona is designed to represent a segment of your target audience, and thus, it’s wise to build a small range of personas to ensure you capture your entire target audience.
Because personas let us get close to users early in the product development cycle, they allow us to design, develop, and deliver a product that we know will meet a variety of user needs from day one.
Senior UX Designer, agencyQ
Alongside personas, marketers can also personalize based on historical behavior such as goal conversions, downloads, and form data. Or they could leverage the user’s contextual state, like the campaign source, time of day, or the number of times they’ve visited the website or application. In Sitecore, there are dozens of out-of-the-box rules available for segmentation and, therefore, personalization.
With your set of segments in place, you can begin creating content that’s tailored for each segment. Once that’s done, you have the content required to personalize experiences for whoever matches the criteria of the segments you built.
Sitecore allows you to predefine personas and create content for each segment of your target market.
Map the customer journey
With your personas in place, it’s time to map out the customer journey. That way, you’ll know at what stages to deliver your personalized content. Your content should be segmented by persona, but also by customer journey stages.
For instance, you won’t want to try and up-sell a customer with sidebar content before they’ve proceeded to checkout. Nor would you want to present a customer who’s at checkout with a brand new and totally unrelated offer. Again, context marketing plays a role, and as you can see, it’s hard to align content with context without a customer journey map.
Customer journey maps and experience maps let us bring our users’ needs to life. They’re invaluable in understanding how our product can both meet—and improve—our users’ experiences.
Senior UX Designer, agencyQ
Typically, a customer journey map consists of the four stages mentioned previously; Need, Research, Decision, Customer. You may need to adapt or extend your customer journeys to suit your industry or website. Moreover, you’ll also need to decide what these stages look like across channels. For instance, how will you know when a customer moves from the research stage to the decision stage when they’re using a smart speaker?
We recommend mapping out customer journeys for each major channel, and figure out how those journeys overlap, so personalization can continue when the end-user switches from one device or channel to another.
Create workflows, then test, test and test again
You won’t get personalization “right” on the first attempt. And even if you get lucky and do get it right initially, new products, seasons, buyer needs, and changes in consumer taste means this is going to be an iterative process. The aim should always be to test and refine your personas and corresponding content in order to raise conversion rates.
The diagram below illustrates the ideal workflow for launching, maturing, and testing a personalization program.
Empower marketers to quickly create, distribute and iterate content
Content is the fuel that powers personalization. If marketers are hindered by technology (or a lack thereof), the engine grinds to a halt. A documented content strategy should be your first step, and it should instruct marketers and content creators on how to craft content for each of your personas. Factors such as the persona’s technical knowledge or interests, should dictate the tone and language of the content being created.
Marketers will need a hospitable environment to write, collaborate on, and preview content before it goes live. They’ll also need the ability to dictate what channels will benefit from which piece of content, and they should also be able to modify how that content is presented across channels. Additionally, your technology stack should allow marketers to measure and test content, and then iterate published content in line with new data.
Sitecore’s Experience Optimization capabilities allow marketers to test content in a variety of ways, including A/B testing, multivariate testing and personalization testing.
Leverage geolocation and localization
With a geolocation service, you can get information about a customer’s country, state, metro area, and city. With such information, you can personalize content based on the consumer’s location, which opens up a wide range of possibilities.
For instance, you can recommend local outlets or serve content that’s in line with the weather they’re currently experiencing. You can even use the name of their town in your messaging to make your content truly localized.
Localization helps you connect to your customers more deeply, whether it’s being a part of their community or being there for them on-the-go.
Senior Digital Strategist, agencyQ
Centralize & leverage third-party data sources
Like most enterprise companies, you’re likely collecting data from a wide range of sources and using an array of tools to carry out marketing, sales, and customer service operations. Moreover, as we move deeper into the IoT era, the number of devices you can use to harness even more customer data is increasing.
For a truly data-driven personalization program, you’ll need to centralize all that data, integrate with all those tools, and ensure your customer data can be distributed to any external tool or channel; all to establish the following:
- Detailed Personas: The more data you have, the more detailed and granular you can get with your personas. With a higher quantity of granular personas, your content can be even more targeted.
- Accurate Segmentation: With more data, you can be sure that your audience is segmented under the correct personas, and are therefore receiving the most relevant content.
- Smoother Marketing Operations: A fragmented technology stack helps nobody. When a single platform can act as your content hub, where you can connect all external systems together, your marketing operations simplify overnight.
- Identity Management: When delivering personalized experiences at scale, you need to simplify the process of managing your consumer’s personalized data. With modern authentication, you can create a full view of your user and access the most relevant information in a single location.
Go beyond your website
Your customers are on the go. They’re commuting to work, walking on the street, passing through the airport, strolling past your store, or driving an Alexa-enabled car. Their attention span is also getting shorter and more fragmented, as every new device that emerges on the market divides their time yet again. The solution? An omnichannel presence.
IoT devices such as smart speakers, digital signage and virtual reality headsets are already changing the average customer experience. With a marketer-friendly headless CMS, your brand can finally go beyond its website, and into the exciting realm of the Internet of Things.
While a device-centric approach to personalization is great, some brands fail to sufficiently consider what customers are actually doing when they use their phones or tablets. Instead of just presenting a responsive site to your customers, take full advantage of their devices by using insights about location or venue to provide the most relevant experience.
Moreover, you need to consider that the mood of the end user changes depending on the device they’re using. For instance, because of the smaller screen and the fact they may be on the move, a consumer browsing for information about your service wants it shorter and snappier when they’re on a mobile device compared to when they’re browsing on a desktop.
Make personalization a core business priority
Personalization isn’t just about being informed, it’s about action. Leveraging these tools is what gives us a more complete picture of our users so that we can meet their needs every step of the way.
Senior Digital Strategist, agencyQ
Last but certainly not least, personalization should never be an afterthought. It should be the core focus of your overall marketing program right from the very beginning. Start with a strategic initiative early on, when implementing your personalization strategy, so that it eventually becomes a routine practice later down the line.
Your personalization strategy should be deeply ingrained into all your marketing and sales funnels. That means producing content purposely targeted for different personas, preparing customized CTAs, and showing or hiding content in line with factors such as end-user location, age, or demographic.
Remember, you aren’t just tacking on functionality to your website, you’re building a new and improved way to engage with your customers across the world, giving them content that’s tailored for them throughout their journey.