Personalization. It’s both a word and a concept that have been getting a lot of play lately in conversations with marketers and I fully expect those discussions to continue to grow. As an analyst who covers CX, User Research and Testing and Optimization, the most common question I am asked with regards to personalization is a “chicken or the egg” type of one. Does personalization drive the customer experience or does customer experience drive personalization? The answer is: Both. But, just as with your marketing and martech initiatives, personalization should be based on the insights and understanding provided by a Customer Experience framework.
The output of personalization should be helping customers achieve their goals more effectively and efficiently by offering the content, interactions and experiences they need, where they need them and how they prefer them. Companies and marketers focused on personalization should begin with a CX framework of personas and journey maps to determine who to focus on, where and how to personalize, and to what depth or level.
After you’ve gained an understanding of who your most valuable customers are, where the most critical touchpoints exist and what those customers need at those moments, you can start testing personalization to optimize the experience and your marketing initiatives further (our Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines helps define the landscape of platforms: subscription required). Being armed with those insights — a solid understanding of the who, where, what and why — prior to beginning your personalization efforts enables you to more immediately hone in on the interactions and moments where personalization will deliver the greatest value. It also supplies you with better, more targeted content to test. Doing this makes your personalization more productive, which then further optimizes the experience for your customers. A win-win all around.
But too often, organizations brandish personalization as a means to take what they know about their customers and provide the experiences they either want their customers to have, or think their customers want to have. Instead of offering best next actions, experiences and content that are relevant, helpful and drive deeper engagement, organizations create interactions that customers deem inauthentic, intrusive, annoying and/or “creepy”. Not only do misguided, misinformed personalization efforts turn customers off, some have even caused harm (remember when a well-known retailer outed a pregnant teen to her dad?)
If you are a marketer looking to start or improve your personalization efforts, talk to your CX colleagues. Take the time to understand your organization’s personas, and the journeys those personas take. Partner with CX to determine where your best opportunities exist to engage and improve along the customer journeys and test your personalization strategies there, keeping the tolerance levels and needs of your personas in mind. Share the lessons you learn and use those insights to further inform not just your marketing assets and strategies but your CX ones as well.