Building an effective personalization strategy is not easy.
We have spoken about personalization many times before. We have even written some posts around some quick personalization tricks you can apply right away.
But if you are interested in personalization long term there is a lot to consider. That is before you even start the implementation phase of a personalization project. The best personalization strategies start with some serious research and ideation.
In part 1 of our how to get started with personalization strategy series we will look at the first steps you can take to build a personalization strategy. This is if personalization is right for you and your business.
Let’s get started.
How To Build An Effective Personalization Strategy – Types Of Personalization
Believe it or not, there are actually two types of personalization. This is important to note before you start looking into strategy. There is a slight overlap with how personalized product recommendations work too.
The two types of personalization are:
Implicit personalization is often based on user behavior. Tracking technology on your website is used to track this behavior. This technology may log things like user location, site searches and what products the user browses. This helps power things like product recommendations.
Explicit personalization is often based on user actions, rather than what they look at or search for. This may include filling out a contact form, making a purchase or adding an item to a wishlist. This can also include things like reviews or ratings.
Explicit personalization really helps you to put the customer at the center of your purchase experiences as you are using data that shows what the users actually want.
How To Build An Effective Personalization Strategy – Is Personalization Right For You?
This might seem a strange question to pose due to some of the obvious benefits personalization has.
But, it is a very valid question. Personalization can be easy to get wrong.
So it is important to ask yourself whether building a personalization strategy is really what your business needs.
With that in mind, it is important to assess your business and ask a few questions.
Does my business have the data to do this?
Personalization and segmentation tend to get a bit muddled into being more or less the same thing. And while there are overlaps, they are very different.
Segmentation puts your users or target users into buckets of similar groups. The goal of personalization is to give experiences to those users that speak directly to them based on in-depth information and insights you hold about them.
But to get to that point, you first need to have at least the basic segments in place.
If you do not have that, then personalization has to wait. Focus on segmenting your data first then you can begin building an effective personalization strategy.
Or you could work with a third-party partner (like us here at MAQE cough, cough) that will help you do all this.
Can my business spare the resources to do this?
Personalization needs resources and effort to maintain and sustain your segments and your personalized variations at each touchpoint. WE will also touch on this in the section below but you will also need resources for your tests. So personalization is not a one off project, it is a continuous process.
Again, working with a partner can help you free up resources to focus more on the “big picture” side of your personalization strategy, rather than on the time-consuming implementation side. As you go forward you will also have more work to do as your messaging becomes more granular. This is important to bear in mind if, for example, you do not have many staff to help with personalization.
Can my business test the best ways to do this?
Personalization requires constant A/B testing to work.
Without testing your personalization strategy is just a series of ideas that have not been validated yet.
You will need to constantly test and iterate. Which takes time and resources. Your business may also have a “knowledge gap” on these types of practices. Which is not rare, in fact most businesses feel that this knowledge gap is a big stumbling block to their personalization efforts.
If your answers to any of these questions is “no” then you should look to consult with an external partner to further examine how personalization could work for your business. Or you can take time to focus more on segmentation and tackle personalization further down the line.
If every answer is “yes” then you’re good to go! If not, you should look into talking to some external experts…
How To Build An Effective Personalization Strategy – Research & Ideation
Ideation and research are as important to your personalization strategy as testing (which we will come to in part 2, so stay tuned).
For example, how can you begin to write personalized messaging for your brand if you do not know what will work?
It is here you may look at what competitors are doing. It is also crucial to look at general trends in your industry. This is ongoing, continuous work. But it is also the area in which you will see the most improvement for your business.
So where do you start? Here are a few things to consider.
General Deductive Research
For general deductive research you might look at psychological principles of personalization. Or why people prefer personalized experiences. You may also want to look at personalized UX design principles. This can give you ideas around look and feel as well as messaging. This part of your personalization journey will center around your assumptions/theories of how your customers will respond to certain experiences.
This can give you a great base to start your own messaging experiments which you can then test and validate.
If you have access to segmented data, or if you have run experiments with personalization before, you may have seen some results through the data you already have. Focusing on this existing data is inductive research. Most businesses do not currently have their data set up to get any insights from what they already have. But you may be surprised by what you have already.
Looking at and assessing your current setup will also aid your deductive research. If you already see a customer segment you can target, your deductive research will help you find you to talk to these customers.
Ask Your Customers
Here is where you can ask your customers and get them to, maybe, do some of the work for you!
Talking to your customers is just good practice anyway but, with regards to personalization, they can be a treasure trove of good advice.
Through asking the right questions you can get your customers to segment themselves. Then, through testing, you can see what they best respond to. This can then inform your messaging and the types of commerce experiences you present to them in the purchasing funnel.
This is the simplest research that you can conduct, implement and gain insights from. It compliments inductive and deductive research and can eliminate some assumptions you may already have.
How To Build An Effective Personalization Strategy – You Know Your Audience
You will know your customers, their pain points and what they want. Personalization is not just looking at your analytics and going from there. It involves looking at all areas of your business. Then you can look at more “personas” to inform your messaging and general customer experience.
From here you can begin to prioritize. This is something you have to do, it is impossible to do everything at once and personalize for everybody.
You can read part 2 of our series to learn more about how you prioritize your personalization efforts and the testing you can conduct to build your personalization strategy.
Talk to MAQE
If you need help with any aspect of personalization strategy, talk to MAQE. We can help you sort your data so you can get to key insights, conduct research so you better know your customers and help you begin to build personalized experiences for testing. Get in touch via email@example.com.