Considerations for Selecting Personalization Technology

Sep 26, 2019
Suset Fernandez

A key piece to implementing a successful website personalization strategy is choosing the right tool.

Before jumping into comparing options, you should have clarity on your goals. Knowing what you want to achieve is going to be a determining driver throughout your selection process. You can either define a strategy for your website personalization or keep it simple and start a list with:

  1. Your website personalization goals
  2. Must-have features to achieve your goals
  3. Nice-to-have features that could end up being a differentiator

Your ability to achieve your goals will rely on the capabilities of the personalization tool you decide to use. Knowing technical challenges up front will help you choose wisely. Let's take a closer look at the areas that deserve your attention:

  1. Data Collection & Unification
  2. Cross-Channel Continuity
  3. Segmentation Criteria
  4. Testing Capabilities
  5. Privacy Regulations

1. Data Collection & Unification

For personalization to work, you need to be able to deliver value to the customer. That means understanding your customer needs (and likes and dislikes) and tailoring the website experience to each individual. To understand your customer, you need data.

A good personalization solution can collect data on its own—but it can also leverage data from existing platforms. Bringing together customer data from multiple sources into a single, unified profile will better inform the experiences you deliver.

While evaluating technology, consider how the tool integrates with other data sources such as your CRM, mobile apps, store beacons, augmented/virtual/mixed reality systems, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, call centers, etc.

But data means nothing if it can’t be automatically processed. A solid personalization tool can act on the data it collects about a customer, anonymous or identified, the moment it learns it.

When evaluating technology, look into what data is collected to consider if it will allow you to achieve your website personalization goals.

2. Cross-Channel Continuity

Have you experienced the frustration of seeing ads everywhere you go online promoting the shoes you just bought? I certainly have.

Personalization based on bad information isn’t personalization at all. Although my example can be caused by a faulty implementation, you need a personalization solution that can use the data collected to deliver consistent experiences across touchpoints. You want to continue the conversation you started with your customer on your mobile app on your website and later when you send a follow-up email.

In the planning phase of your personalization strategy, it's important to think broadly to identify all the channels you want to include. Some solutions will allow you to personalize specific channels, such as product recommendations or social retargeting. In the long run, you should consider getting a platform that is capable of personalizing the entire customer journey, not just one step.

3. Segmentation Criteria

Personalizing your website starts with identifying and defining target audiences; grouping your customers using some set of characteristics they share. Segmenting your audience is important so that you can focus on creating better, more relevant experiences for those who are more important to your business success.

Personalization tools operate via rules and/or algorithms. With rules, you manually define the segments and associate them to a specific experience. With algorithms, you let the system (machine learning) decide which experience to show each individual.

Your personalization solution should allow you to create and prioritize as many rules as you wish, but there is a limit to what you will be able to achieve manually. Machine-learning algorithms become essential in creating more refinded experiences as you scale.

The other side of this is understanding how the algorithms in your personalization platform work. Since your understanding plays as an important factor in successful personalization, you don't want them to operate in a black-box fashion, you want to be able to control them.

4. Testing Capabilities

Personalizing your user's experience doesn't mean you should stop leveraging A/B and multivariate testing experiments. Performing effective testing means you will ideate, implement, run, analyze, and iterate to deliver better customer experiences. Focus on finding a solution that allows you to combine your testing and personalization approaches to find out which experience works best for each segment.

The ideal tool should let you test and tweak the experience to find the best performer. Additionally, it should use machine learning algorithms to offer suggestions to continually test and learn to select the ideal experience for each individual and your business.

5. Privacy Regulations

Also keep privacy regulations in mind, such as GDPR. If you must keep your website in compliance with these regulations, there are some additional requirements to consider. To fulfill privacy requirements, your platform must allow users to opt users in and out of cookie tracking—and to completely delete any data associated with a user's profile.

The presence or lack of such features could be a game-changer for your organization. Evaluate the data sets collected by the tool you are considering to make sure you can use them.

Final Thoughts

There's a lot to consider when evaluating a technical solution. Doing a thoughtful analysis will be time-consuming. But because it's your customer experience that's on the line, it’s worth taking the time to pick the solution that best adjusts to their needs and yours.

As you evaluate your personalization technology needs, be sure to look for a solution that offers:

  • a single unified view of your customer data
  • omnichannel capabilities
  • customizable machine-learning algorithms
  • integrated and comprehensive testing
  • ease of implementation of privacy regulations