Personalization: Am I Ready?


Does it seem like every digital marketer is chasing after personalization? They should be! Done right, it delivers results.

Personalization increases relevance. And increasing the relevance of your value proposition by addressing your visitor's expectations and needs will lead to more conversions.

But once you've decided to take your website to the next level and dedicate part of your marketing budget to implementing personalized user experiences, where do you start? Find a tool? Hire help?

First, implementing personalization implies an organizational change; it requires you to put the customer at the center of your plans. Change your strategic thinking to prioritize customer needs. Secondly, without a strategy, even the best tool can fail to deliver the promised results. That’s why you should start your organization's transformation with a strategy before determining the best tool for the job.

Without a strategy, you are likely to run into common mistakes like:

  • Paying for a tool you don't use, because you don't know how—or simply don't have an actionable plan.
  • Implement out-of-the-box features without understanding what needs you're solving.
  • Poor insights and little to no data analysis before starting the implementation.
  • Lack of process to hypothesize, test, and validate personalization ideas.
  • Insufficient resources to sustain additional experiences that must be created to support multiple, personalized target audiences.

But before taking any action, I recommend that you assess your maturity and readiness for personalization. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Do you have a vision and a plan?

A digital marketing plan where you outline your digital marketing goals aligned with general marketing goals and business objectives lets you know what problems you are trying to solve and what you're aiming for.

Additionally, you should have a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for the most important goals and each marketing objective.

Your strategy must clearly outline what experiences (areas of your website) you will start with. Don't hesitate to get help from consultants if you need guidance to get started.

Defining a timeline will help you visualize your expectations over time. Lining up your plan and adjusting it to be realistic and achievable will allow you to be better prepared.

Do you know your customer?

To leverage personalization you must first get to know who your visitors are. Knowing the who, what, when, where, why, and how is the first step to designing your personalization scenarios.

If you haven’t segmented your website audience, you should identify audience segments and prioritize them before moving into personalization.

When you're just getting started, have at least basic audience segments in place. These will be larger cohorts at first (e.g. driven by visitor location, visitor device, or a specific campaign).

Do you have the resources to do personalization?

Operational readiness is often the hardest to achieve. It involves hiring resources—or shifting priorities of team members. To ensure operational readiness, you must have a properly trained team, a tool, a content strategy and at least a basic understanding of how to transform analytics into actionable insights.

  • Do you have a team in place that can manage your personalization strategy?
  • Do you have a personalization tool that supports your strategy?
  • Do you have an experimentation team that can validate your personalization approach?
  • Do you have resources to maintain updates to the segments that will multiply as you increase your message granularity?

Do you have a process for validating personalization hypotheses?

Personalization is a hypothesis until it is tested. Assumptions about target audience segments and the best experience for them are just guesses until validated.

Your team must continuously generate hypotheses on how to improve your user experience (measured against your marketing goals and KPIs), implement them, analyze the resulting analytics, make changes and refinements, and iterate. The key to success lies in completing the cycle and starting over every time while adapting and evolving to better meet your visitors' expectations.

Final Thoughts

If you aren't ready, don't worry; readiness is something you can grow into. The first step is determining where you're at—and then plan to get where you want to be. In future posts, I'll talk about what to include in your personalization strategy. Stay tuned!