Personalisation: The buzzword for digital marketing in 2015

Damon Etherington, 2DataFish
By Damon Etherington, 2DataFish | 11 September 2015

Personalisation is a word that is being thrown around a lot lately, but what is it and why are businesses climbing over each other to adopt the strategy? To explore the concept, we need to take a step back and understand the current landscape.

Most marketers these days are aware of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), which has been around for some time; delivering variations of content to web visitors to determine which experience is the most effective at driving conversions. Traditionally this has been done via A/B or Multivariate testing; splitting page traffic into two or more groups, and exposing each group to differing content to measure the results against a particular conversion goal such as a completed sale, download, registration or click.

The big data revolution has seen businesses begin to embrace their customer data, improving their analytics implementations to truly understand their customers. With good reason, data-focused businesses are now using data insights to inform decision-making at all levels, especially in digital marketing.

Savvy digital marketers can now effectively measure and understand how their target audiences behave online and identify multiple audience segments with unique behaviours and traits. Armed with this intelligence, marketers can identify unique conversion paths, understand the role of their website, apps and social media presence in the customer journey, and ultimately, identify the factors convincing their audience to convert to a customer. These marketers understand that by using data to optimise their customer journey, they are creating a frictionless experience for customers to buy from them.

Personalisation becomes a reality to these marketers, allowing them to escape the rat race of basic optimisation testing and use their available data to automate their optimisation process. It’s a win for website visitors too – they can now seamlessly find all the information they need to make a decision, and aren’t bombarded irrelevant content. The end game? The visitor completes their transaction effortlessly and the customer has landed enabled a conversion, potentially securing a new customer.

The lure of using your first party data to both improve the customer experience and your conversion rates is obviously attractive. This proposition has resulted in a rapid expansion of digital marketing teams to include Conversion Rate Optimisation functions. However, building an effective personalisation program isn’t easy – particularly in larger organisations that have entrenched practices and face lengthy development cycles. The result is that many businesses find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of exhaustive testing, with diminishing returns and no progress towards the elusive ‘real time personalisation’ dream.

Leading businesses that have embraced personalisation get more traffic to convert than their competitors – but how have they achieved this? Firstly, they have a better handle on their data, through a robust implementation of analytics, and a strong strategy of tracking and measurement across all digital properties. They also experiment more often, run a variety of experiment types and use the insights from these tests to make smarter decisions. Critically, they also have a robust optimisation roadmap, testing plans and processes in place to drive efficiency. This in turn requires moving fast and developing agile processes, as well as deploying high-calibre technology and technical expertise to the marketing and sales funnel.

If you’re not achieving this nirvana of personalisation, don’t worry, not many are. Here are some common pitfalls where many organisations come unstuck:

1. Trying to run before you can walk. Businesses often get excited by the prospect of potentially dramatic improvements to conversion rates, and attempt to tackle complex experiments. Many organisations pursue ill-conceived tests resulting in a lot of wasted time and effort. My advice: master the basics of simple A/B testing first, stay focused on your testing plan, gradually increase complexity of testing and introduce segmentation, targeting and personalisation over time.

2. Purchasing a testing tool, without a plan. Businesses often select and purchase an optimisation tool without consideration of the required planning in other critical areas; namely the testing plan, people, training and plan needed to ensure success. My advice: build an optimisation plan before you purchase your testing tool, if you don’t have experience, have consultants assist with the strategy.

3. Lacking of iteration within the testing process. Businesses often don’t understand that testing as an iterative cycle of experiments, each delivering incremental improvements to an experience or funnel. My advice?: feed the outcomes of your first test into the next test cycle for continual uplift and improvement, allowing you to compound the learnings & ROI.

4. Optimisation operating as an isolated business unit. Businesses tend to silo optimisation function to one team within the organisation and don’t get buy-in from the broader business. The result of this cultural segregation is that as the complexity of tests increase, internal roadblocks prevent or slow progress. My advice: develop a cross functional team to spearhead optimisation within the business, socialise results, drive momentum and communicate the real value added to the business.

5. Analytics and data being poorly understood. Simple testing doesn’t rely on analytics and data to perform, but as optimisation matures and the business has aspirations for targeting, segmentation and personalisation, analytics and data start playing a critical role. My Advice: make sure your analytics implementation and tag management approach is robust, and will provide you with the data and agility needed to support personalisation. The data from an agile analytics framework allows personalisation to thrive.

Sounds like you? You’re not alone.

With experienced optimisation experts in short supply, most organisations struggle to move beyond basic optimisation. Consultants are increasingly playing a critical role for leading businesses to successfully overcome these hurdles. Rather than taking over your optimisation, the role of the optimisation consultant is to identify what’s holding you back, develop a strategy and provide advice, training and enablement to the optimisation team. With the support of a consultant and a clear strategy in place, businesses can effectively progress from simple testing to real time personalisation. If you’re not convinced you have the right strategy in place, perhaps it’s time to get some help to take your optimisation to the next level.

Damon Etherington

Senior business manager

2DataFish

 

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