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Six critical success factors for personalisation

17th Mar 2016
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It’s one of the hottest topics for marketers: how to deliver a personalised customer experience.

But, the quest for personalisation has also brought a lot of confusion, mixed messages and grand promises, sometimes raising more questions than real answers. If personalisation is the ultimate goal, the practical questions that often remain are, “where do I start?”, “where am I going”’, and “what is my organisation’s path to getting there?”

Of course, many marketers will claim that they have been using personalisation 
for years. After all, don’t all their customer communications already contain some element of personalisation? However, things have moved on, and change is fast. To deliver an outstanding experience, organisations need to get ever closer to their customers by combining deep analysis of historical customer behaviour with real-time data – and acting on it.

Contextual personalisation is the holy grail, and it is a long way from simply adding someone’s name to the subject line of an email. Brands now want to create interesting, relevant interactions based on each individual customer’s needs at that specific time, giving the customer what they want, when they want it and importantly, where they want it.

Depending on the level and quality of customer insight data used, the brand’s ability to integrate all their sources into one single view of each customer, and eventually to leverage technologies such as beacons to marry online and offline worlds, marketing can get very personal indeed.

Where to start?

Some organisations are still a long way off personalising the customer experience to this degree – but getting there needn’t be as complex as it sounds: The road to customer personalisation can kick off by implementing some simple step changes. So where to start?

It helps to think of personalisation as a set of five building blocks, starting with measurement, the analysis of aggregate behaviours on one or more digital properties where the customer interacts with the brand.

This is the foundation for moving forward with the other four blocks: segmentation – the discovery and creation of those high-value audience segments that the organisation needs to market to, and how they can be identified by their behaviour and reached in appropriate ways; digital optimisation – including testing and targeting to deliver the best digital experience within each channel; the customer journey – the mapping of the cross-channel customer journey to improve the end experience across all touch points; and finally, personalisation – applying historical and in-session data to create the magic of a relevant, contextual customer experience.

Looking at digital marketing optimisation broken down into these steps will help organisations understand where they are on their path to personalisation, and crucially, what they need to do next.

While every company’s path to personalisation will be different, there are some common themes that can be seen as universal indicators of success.

The critical success factors every company can put in place

1. Adopt a customer-first mindset

Consider the complete customer journey across all digital and human touchpoints, across online and offline. Then apply that perspective to the organisation’s measurement, segmentation and digital optimisation programmes. It’s all about optimising the complete customer journey, not just each channel. Mobile should not be an independent strategy, but considered an important touchpoint within the overall customer experience.

2. Get the data right

A solid data strategy is fundamental. In the age of the customer, the winners are those companies that know more about their customers. Laying a good data foundation is critical to success, so enough effort and time should be spent on getting this foundation right.

3. Make analytics actionable

Develop a culture of measurement. An organisation should measure everything it does – and measurement should never be an afterthought, it should always be a focus from the start. Evangelise the results and use them to plan and justify any investments.

4. Think beyond technology

Technology can get you part of the way there, but expertise also plays a pivotal role. In many organisations, the biggest barrier to advancing digital marketing is not the lack of technology, but the lack of expertise, people and processes. Repeatable and tested processes will be key to making any marketing success sustainable over the long term, so prioritising these areas will make all the difference.

5. Gain buy-in early

Operational siloes are another barrier to success. The marketing team needs to be aligned with other departments and key stakeholders, so all parties can work in partnership.

6. Start small

For companies that haven’t embarked on a journey towards personalisation, it can be daunting to decide what to do first. So, take a small step, iterate and learn from it. It’s important to not let perfection get in the way of progress. A good start is to choose a defined project, a web page, or an app and advance this – something small, but with clear measures of success.

The path to personalisation has plenty of hurdles, but keeping these six success factors in mind from the beginning will increase any organisation’s chances of success.

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