Personalization is the present, not the future, of marketing

29 Nov 2016 | By Tobias Arns

I had the strangest feeling of déjà vu at CMSWire’s recent Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit in November. So many of the conversations I had between workshops, at our booth and during networking events echoed discussions we had five years ago. 

“The future will be personalized!”
“We need to make personalization happen in real time!”
“If we’re going to move forward, we have to get segmentation right!”

These discussions also support a recent eMarketer report, which found that only 25 percent of client-side marketers are using website personalization tools, but 55 percent are planning to do so. They are delaying because they consider personalization too challenging to tackle or too hard to implement. What they don’t know is that personalization can be simple and straightforward. There are no longer valid reasons for marketers to put off personalization. The technology is available, and digital personalization can dramatically change the life and trajectory of a business – now. 

How to create personalized user journeys TODAY

The DX Summit focused on “the next generation of digital experiences,” but the personalized experience is not an elusive capability or one we’ll see at some future date. Companies in any industry, of any size, and in both B2C or B2B markets can leverage personalization to create more compelling experiences and deliver users what they want. For tiny businesses and large enterprises alike, the process for delivering what website visitors want is the same:

  1. Get to know your users.
  2. Segment users by real-world behavior and interests.
  3. Innovate and measure the success of new offerings.

Let’s break this down into the three steps.

Step No. 1: Get to know your users

One-to-one marketing depends on knowing users and understanding what they care about. Marketers, publishers and those in charge of the user experience need to gather behavioral data in real time, and extract intent based on the content users are consuming and when and how users are accessing that content. This can be done using technology to capture this data for known and anonymous users. User profiles can capture multi-device behavior and highlight what’s most important to individual users – and track how those interests evolve over time, through the sequence of interactions. Combining insight on how users are interacting with content and the meaning of the content is key to figuring out who prospects are, what their interests are and where they are in the user journey to taking a desired action.

Step No. 2: Segment users by real-world behavior and interests

With rich user and content profiles, businesses can create segments and determine the contextual content that will resonate best with each site visitor. An organization might need only a few segments or thousands – regardless of the number, marketers can craft and execute segmented campaigns and regularly measure results. 

Step No. 3: Innovate and measure – quickly

Sometimes the world moves fast, such as in the days after our recent elections. Marketers need to be able to innovate and measure quickly. After the elections, newspaper and magazine publishers needed the flexibility to test different offers against different segments, and see how to get subscribers to convert as efficiently as possible. Waiting weeks to develop and implement segments just wouldn’t work. For example, The Wall Street Journal reported new subscriber volume surged 300% on the day after the election. For marketers, having the ability to test segments in minutes, not days or weeks, can make all the difference. In order to boost conversions, marketers and business managers need the ability to innovate and test quickly – not every six months when IT can get around to it. This has to be a simple process that allows non-technical users to take what they know about user segments and map engagement strategies to those insights.

Personalization-focused goals, which so many marketers continue to put into their “hopefully someday” plans, are easily attainable now. Practical, actionable personalization is not the future; it’s the present.