Customer experience personalization is at a turning point. Consumers have come to expect personalized online experiences, but many companies still think of personalization as aspirational, something that they can focus on later. However, major leading retailers are now setting the standards for anticipating customer needs and fostering one-to-one relationships.
More than half of consumers already expect this kind of experience. As of 2020, 52% of customers said they always expect offers from companies to be personalized, and 66% said they expected companies to “understand their unique needs and expectations” (Salesforce, State of the Connected Customer, 4th Edition). Companies that think they can delay personalization should keep in mind that, as Salesforce explains, “customers are acutely aware of the disconnect between their expectations and reality.” The time to start or improve your personalization program is now, and it begins with a clear roadmap. Follow this five-step process to get started:
1. A personalized understanding of personalization.
Personalization is delivering the right message, offer and experience to the right person at the right time; it is also ensuring those deliveries happen across devices, with the correct device targeted at the right time. Personalization likely has a specific definition for each company, and analysis can help clarify your brand’s unique personalization goals. These goals can vary by company and industry, and the paths you take to reach them can depend on the platforms, tools and agencies you use to create your experiences and messaging. After you’ve defined what personalization means to your own company, the next step is analyzing your existing data.
2. Study your data for gaps.
Understanding the data that you already have is the key to understanding what type of personalization you can achieve, so be prepared to thoroughly map your data ecosystem, including your website clickstream analytics, email data, sales platform backend data and other sources.
As you review all the types of data you collect about your users, take notes on the customer data attributes that you can use in your personalization program. Often, companies skip this step, but it’s critical because an effective personalization roadmap relies on clean, accessible data. By taking this step, you can better understand what types of data you have to leverage now and what data collection and unification work you will need to do in the future to fully meet your personalization goals.
Becoming a data-driven organization is critical to a company’s success, as this data can also highlight what customer experience problems you have. Is there a drop-off in your conversion funnel? Are you struggling to get customers to join your loyalty program? Whatever is preventing the customer from achieving whatever you want them to achieve, do an analysis to see where that gap in the user experience is.
3. Review past personalization and CX strategies.
It’s also important to understand what hasn’t worked in the past. Take a new look at your existing personalization strategies and those you’ve tried in the past to see where the gaps or roadblocks were. We often see brands adopt personalization to get better results from their loyalty program, to improve email marketing program performance or to curate custom on-site experiences. Though focusing on one channel is where many brands start their personalization journey, it’s important to plan a cohesive cross-channel customer experience when you draft your personalization roadmap.
For example, many organizations try to roll out personalization in small segments, such as personalizing email subject lines but not the customers’ website experience. That creates a disconnect, because a customer who feels recognized in an email will click through to the site and have a different, more generic experience, which undermines the email personalization effort. Seeing clearly whether your different marketing tools work together, what data they share and what user data you collect helps build a better customer profile, which is a huge step toward a solid foundation for your new personalization program.
4. Clear a path for your personalization roadmap team.
You’ll need a team effort from people in multiple departments and potentially from your agencies as well. First, plan for expanded workloads among everyone involved. Personalization will require more deliverables from developers, strategists, designers and copywriters, so make sure you have enough bandwidth to get your personalization program off to a strong start.
Next, choose someone to coordinate all the personalization work that’s going on in different departments so that everyone’s working with the same goals, messaging and experiences in mind. Effective coordination is frequently a barrier to brands’ personalization projects, because a lot of companies are still very siloed.
5. Personalize at a pace that makes sense for your customers.
Personalization is part of building a relationship with your customers, and in any relationship it’s important to consider the other person’s feelings. Just because you have the ability to do some very detailed, granular personalization doesn’t mean you should, at least not right away, because going from no personalization to extreme personalization overnight can unsettle customers.
For example, consider the reaction of a new customer who just bought a pair of blue shoes from you if you immediately send them offers for matching clothing, in their size, in stock, in their local store. You may have all of this data available to use, but it may create an experience that’s too specific too soon, making the customer uncomfortable.
A more effective approach includes a ramp-up period to introduce small portions of personalization for your customers, see how they react, see where you can optimize, and then adding another layer of personalization. KPIs to watch as you roll out your personalization program include conversion rates and revenue per user or revenue per session. By taking a gradual approach, you can match your customers’ level of interest with your personalization campaigns.
Results of a Properly Crafted Personalization Roadmap
A well-designed personalization roadmap fosters stronger customer relationships and increases loyalty and retention. It can also help your company spend marketing budgets more efficiently, increase conversion rates and revenue, and help you stay competitive. The key is starting with the right elements: identifying your data, understanding what it’s telling you about your customer experience, and setting your team up for success in mapping and delivering a truly end-to-end personalized customer experience.
Danielle Savin is Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Capgemini in North America. She has more than 20 years of experience in ecommerce, direct marketing and traditional and brand marketing. She combines experience and vision to assess business needs, develop strategy and implement and monitor deployment. Savin received her BA from the University of California San Diego and lives in Chicago.