It’s a truth universally acknowledged that that a brand without a personalized marketing strategy is falling behind in today’s hyper-connected, deeply personal marketing world.
In fact, 98% of marketing pros say personalization advances customer relationships.
86% of customers say personalization makes a big difference in their purchasing decisions.
And 49% of customers made a purchase they didn’t plan on all because of personalized recommendations from a brand.
In other words, there’s a reason that companies that prioritize personalization—like Netflix and Spotify—are leading their respective industries.
Of course, personalization, like any other big industry shift, isn’t something you can achieve overnight. To get there, you’ll need to be strategic. You’ll need teams that are on board and aligned. You’ll need helpful, real-time data. And you’ll need a plan to go from wherever you are now to the next milestone on your journey.
In our recently re-launched white paper on personalization, we talk about first steps. Today, let’s talk some more about the path to a personalized marketing strategy.
Step one: Know your business
How can you drive customers toward your goals if you don’t know what those goals are? Personalization sounds like a silver bullet, but the only way it truly works is with good strategy behind it. And good strategy starts with business goals.
What is your business trying to accomplish in the world? What do you want prospects to do on your site, in your email, on your social networks? What goals are you driving them toward at each phase of the journey?
These are the kinds of questions you should ask before you get started on personalization.
As Vikas Jain, Head of Strategic Alliances at Google, put it in an industry panel last year: “Technology is a means to an end…Figure out what the end is…Once you define what it is you want customers to get from your products, then you work backwards to figure out how to get there.”
Step two: Know your customers
The second thing you need to know before you start personalizing?
It’s who you’re personalizing for.
If you’re Netflix, you better know what kind of movies your subscribers like. If you’re Spotify, you need to know genres and artists they listen to. If you’re Amazon, your personalization engine better be able to recommend relevant products based on purchase history, browsing history, etc.
This means gathering data. But not just gathering data. (Because you can have piles and piles of data and still not understand your customers.)
No. It’s about getting the right data and identifying actionable insights from that data.
Getting the right data
So, what does it mean to get the right data? It starts with knowing what data you have across your organization, where it lives, and how you’re going to get access to it.
What policies or tech do you need to put in place in order to access your data? How recent is the data? Is it relevant? Do you want access to all of it or should some of it be retired? Does it tell you something useful about your customers or does it just clog up your systems?
Start with some transparent conversations with your IT and data leaders. Bring in your data scientists or business insights teams. Figure out which data is actually useful to your business.
For example, let’s say you’re selling Shakespeare insult bandages (yes, that’s a real product). It might be useful to know whether they like Shakespeare, how often they buy health products like bandages, how often they engage with humor content online, and whether they are within a geography you ship to.
On the other hand, you may not need to know their education level, household income, or gender. You probably also don’t need to keep a database worth of info on their browsing habits on unrelated topics like their bird-watching interest or their deep love of canned cheese.
Identifying actionable insights from the data
So, here’s the other catch: Even with the right data, your personalization strategy could fail. Because data is never enough. You also need insights
from that data.
What do we mean by insights?
We mean actionable information like:
:: Customers who purchase Shakespeare insult bandages are 50% more likely to purchase Edgar Allen Poe bandages.
:: Customers who open your email series of weekly funny quotes are 20% more likely to purchase Abraham Lincoln bandages.
:: Customers who buy bandages in bulk are 3x as likely to sign up for automatic, recurring orders.
The ultimate goal of getting the right data in place is to generate insights like these that you can plan around. Insights, in other words, that drive your strategy.
Step three: Get your teams on the same page
If your marketing is hyper-personalized but your customer service team has no access to customer history when said customer reaches out for support, that’s not true personalization.
If customer service is handling a tech issue and your marketing team is still advertising add-ons to the broken product, that’s not personalization.
If a customer has a “personalized” experience with each team, but those experiences are completely siloed, that’s not personalization.
True personalization is seamless and cross-channel. If the marketing team knows who I am, your customer service team should too. If your sales team knows I’m interested in Product A, marketing should be helping me along the journey to purchasing Product A—not products B, C, D, and X.
This means teams can’t operate in a bubble. Planning for personalization means planning to give everyone access to the same customer data. It means aligning teams to create a holistic customer experience. And this needs to happen early in your personalization journey. The earlier everyone is on board, the more seamless your transition to personalized marketing will be.
Step four: Open lines of communication
Giving teams access to the same data is a good start, but for true personalization, you’ll also need open lines of communication.
As strategy and data and sources and customer needs shift over time, every team needs to know and understand how that impacts what they do.
To keep the communication flowing, many top companies are using a Center of Excellence approach where a centralized team owns the data strategy and the data itself. They’re responsible for communicating across teams and departments.
Because the truth is that if communication is everybody’s responsibility, it’s too easy for it to become no one’s. It’s marketing’s version of the bystander effect—where if there are too many people, everyone assumes someone else will help (and nobody ends up helping).
Step five: Choose the right personalization products—and learn to use them well
You can have the best personalized marketing strategy in the world, but if you don’t have the right tools to execute on it, your results are going to fall short. Which is why choosing the right personalization products should be part of your strategic process, and the person driving the strategy should be deeply involved in the decision process.
Why do we bring this up? Because often we see companies coming up with killer strategies and then tasking IT with choosing the right tech.
And, sure, IT should be involved. They need the tech to integrate with their existing systems. They need to ensure it fits with internal requirements for security. And so on.
But IT considerations aren’t the only thing at play here. Your ability to execute on your personalization strategy hangs in the balance. And that means the strategy team needs to be in those tech meetings and ask questions like:
:: How will support our use cases?
:: Can our marketing team use the tool without a lengthy IT request process?
:: How fast will we be able to see ROI with this system?
:: What personalization capabilities does the product offer and how do they support our goals?
:: Does this tool support 1:1 personalization or is it just a database that puts all the heavy lifting of personalization on our team?
For 1:1 personalization, look for a personalization product with built-in data science and machine learning
For brands prioritizing personalization, that last question is a key one. Does the tool you’re looking at support true 1:1 personalization?
What do we mean when we say 1:1 personalization? One good example is Netflix. With millions of users, Netflix isn’t relying on its marketing and tech teams to individually personalize for each customer. It’s not building out customer journeys for a million different journeys.
To personalize at that level, you need a CDP with machine learning
and built-in data science. Because there’s simply no way for a small marketing team to plan customer journeys and recommendations for customers at a 1:1 level without great technology that automates a large part of that process.
Personalization is the future
1:1 personalization is the future. Companies like Netflix and Spotify are proof positive of that.
So, what does that mean for you? How can your company truly reach the 1:1 potential? Download our guide to personalization to learn more.
Or reach out for a demo if you’re ready to see how Lytics can help you reach your personalization goals.