The promise of personalization has failed. For years we’ve been hearing about its incredible benefits, and marketers looking to capitalize on it have bought into pricey and technically complicated solutions, only to discover too late that, for most, the promise of personalization is little more than smoke and mirrors.
The problem starts with how personalization has been viewed. Positioned as a business solution, it’s been framed through the lens of solving business needs when really personalization should be about the person (if that sounds obvious, it’s because it is). Inserting someone’s first name into an email doesn’t serve their needs. Following them around the internet with an ad for an item they looked at on your site doesn’t serve their needs. Tailoring your landing page content could serve their needs, but not if the system that supports it has gaping data holes and poor content management, common issues underpinning many of the personalization hurdles businesses stumble over.
Each of these approaches is like the digital marketing equivalent of a cheap parlor trick, and your customers not only see through them, they resent them. But there is a world in which data-informed, customized experiences offer real added value to customers, helping them find, research, and purchase their items with ease in the channels that suit them best.
All too often, brands engage with a personalization strategy before they’re in a position to make it succeed. The glittery dream of bigger baskets and repeat customers leaves out a harsh reality: without a robust approach to data and a digital architecture that can support decoupled omnichannel experiences, a dream is all it will ever be. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Personalization can succeed.
So how can we move from an experience that leaves customers feeling indifferent (at best) to one that connects them with what they want when and how they want it? With the right combination of technology and strategy.
Do Your Data Work
First and foremost, businesses need to get their data sorted. Note that I didn’t say marketers need to get their data sorted but businesses as a whole. Many marketers have clean and organized data. The same is true for product developers, branding teams, and each segment of an organization with access to its own slice of data.
Only customer experience doesn’t live in neat and tidy little silos; it happens at every level and at all times. Expecting insights about retargeting campaigns to inform the entirety of the customer experience is a fool’s game. For personalization to work, it needs to be built around the whole experience, not just one slice of it.
That means your business needs to get a single view of the customer across every touchpoint. Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are great for this, and a trusted partner like Myplanet can help you determine which CDP is best suited to your needs and help you implement it. By breaking down your departmental data silos, you’ll begin to get a comprehensive view of what your customer experiences really look like, from end to end. Personalization today trades in linear customer stories most of the time, but the reality is rarely that straightforward.
You’ll also need to shore up your real-time data (RTD) applications. With RTD, you’ll ensure the experience itself is optimized—guaranteeing product information is up to date and search functions are performing their best—but it’s a crucial part of building an effective personalization approach down the line. Customer actions in one channel should be able to trigger a brand reaction in any channel, including the one they were in, and that’s only possible with RTD.
Bringing in additional industry data can help you take experiences a step further, too. Marketing insights around search terms can help determine not only what the most common words your customers are using to find desired products but also complementary terms they associate with the products, which will come in handy when you’re ready to customize an experience with product recommendations.
And finally, it’s crucial to centralize your product data. To ensure the experience a customer has online matches the one they’d have in store, on the app, using a standalone kiosk, talking to Alexa, or any other form factor your brand may be interacting with your audience on, you need to have each of those touchpoints connected to a central data hub. Again, down the line when you’re ready to orchestrate a personalized customer journey, harmonized data will be the backbone of those experiences.
Make It Modular
Leveraging data effectively will help make an experience great, but to make data work at its absolute best and ensure you’re delivering a knockout experience in every channel, you should consider decoupling your experience. A headless architecture (decoupling your front-end experience from the back-end framework) isn’t for everyone, but for many a modular framework is the best option for keeping pace with the rate of technological change.
Without best-of-breed technology enabling each part of an experience, it can be difficult to take that experience to the next level with orchestration. To finesse a customer journey from the conversational interaction that brought them to your brand, to the online experience where they learn more about your products, and finally to an in-app purchase is extremely hard to do if you’re operating with a monolithic back-end that doesn’t play well with others.
Composable by Myplanet offers a modular framework that lets you make the most of your ecommerce experiences. Leveraging proven ecommerce patterns and best-in-class technologies, Composable equips you with the tools to create a true omnichannel solution that can live up to the promise of personalization: fully connected data to help you determine the content your customers want; flexible content management to enable you to deliver that content to the right audience segments; and a modular architecture foundation to grow with your business, adapting to new market opportunities as they emerge.
Monoliths have their place, and if their offerings happen to match your needs perfectly, you’ll be in great shape. But as the landscape evolves, it’s very hard to see how a monolithic solution will continue to provide everything a brand needs to succeed, and to offer it at the highest level available in-market. The ability to pick and choose solutions that comes with a modular framework means when something shifts for your business—a new form factor you want to access, a new channel you need to be a part of—the technology supporting your business can shift accordingly.
Take a look at the rise of marketplaces in the last 2-3 years. Marketplaces can offer a real value-add for consumers. Shoppers can get everything they need in one place and, as an added bonus, may earn loyalty points or save on shipping costs at the same time. Plus, they open opportunities for things like complementary product recommendations that might enhance their product experience or further simplify their shopping experience, both offering even more potential value for consumers. The business benefit for this technology is rooted in the consumer benefit and connects directly to an effective personalization approach—there’s a reason marketplaces have taken off recently.
But trying to bring a marketplace solution into a pre-existing platform can be challenging. Any new technology will take work to get right, but introducing a new technology into an existing monolithic ecosystem can be next to impossible. Every solution has labor and time and money involved. The flexibility a modular, best-of-breed approach offers, however, means that all that time and labor and money won’t be lost down the line when you need to adjust to meet consumer demands.
Personalization hasn’t lived up to the hype so far, but it can. We just need to be smarter about how we use the technology that enables it. We need to set a strong foundation for data usage because it underpins every aspect of personalization, and we need to ensure the architectures we rely on to support a personalization approach can actually support it. Most importantly, we need to focus on user-centered strategies. Any personalization strategy that puts business wants ahead of user needs is poised to falter and fail.