So, you want to personalize your customers’ digital experience?

We’re huge advocates for personalization here at Sitecore, because we know that it is absolutely central to building relationships.

But we also know personalization isn’t always easy to execute. Around 33% of global marketing leaders rate their organization as “beginners or novices” on the subject, and even among those who rate themselves highly, less than 40% are currently utilizing even the most basic targeting criteria for personalization.

Personalization goals can often seem unachievable but, in reality, there is no big secret to success. Personalization begins and ends with high-quality, customer-centric content.

After all, it is your content that powers personalization. Without it, you can’t demonstrate your understanding of the customer’s needs and link it to what you have to offer.

How do you create effective content for personalization?

You’re probably already producing a lot of content, likely with certain personas in mind. You’re probably one of the 92% of marketers who say their content is considered a valuable business asset. But if you’re not seeing the results you want or expect, ask yourself: do we fully understand our customers’ journeys?

Unfortunately, many personalization efforts today are focused on the “buy” aspect of the customer experience and give little time to all that comes before and after it. But once you understand your prospects and their entire customer journey, you’re on your way to producing relevant content that puts your customers first and goes beyond next-best purchase to drive long-term loyalty.

Mapping the customer journey and keeping content relevant

Each customer has their own requirements and needs depending on where they are in their buyer journey. And they expect you to serve up relevant content at every stage.

Being able to address and anticipate customer needs will set your digital experience apart. It’s for this reason you need a Digital Relevancy Map (DRM), which can serve as your guide to creating the most relevant content for your key audience segments, at every stage of their journeys.

Customer journeys — with their multitude of digital and physical touchpoints — are more complex than ever. However, the vast majority of journeys include the same core segments: Need, Discovery, Research, Evaluation, Purchase, Use, and Advocacy.

Understanding what your customers are looking for at each stage of this journey will help you develop the content that will encourage them to take the next step. Do they need a product brochure during the Research stage? Should you send them an automated email asking for a review during Advocacy? How do you think they would respond, based on their activity in previous stages?

To identify the points at which you can prioritize your content creation efforts, you should gather data on common points of friction:

  • Entry points
  • High-volume visit points
  • Decision points where visitors split or change directions
  • Conversion points
  • Points of disconnect where experiences fail

The gold standard in personalization is, of course, having tailored content for each stage, acting as a nudge forward (or a nudge to get back on track). Good content – whether that’s a blog post, an ad, or even a line of micro-copy – makes the journey frictionless, engaging, and fun.

Of course, that means you’ll need to produce a wide variety of content. How do you keep up with the scale of production?

Bridging the content gap with data

While content powers personalization, data can help you identify how to best create, deliver, and reuse content to make your customer interactions more valuable and have less friction.

For example, data gives you the insights needed to know where you might be missing content for a target persona somewhere along the customer journey. Likewise, repurposing content to fill gaps in the customer journey can be a powerful solution to the content crisis. For example, you could take a well-received white paper and pull relevant information from it to form the basis of an infographic, social post, or a retargeting banner ad.

The goal is to avoid creating new content for every touchpoint. In fact, according to SEMrush, 51% of marketers report that repurposing existing content is their most effective content marketing tactic.

To efficiently fill content gaps, you must first identify them. Again, this means having good insights into each stage of the customer journey through data.  And when working to improve your personalization, focus on identifying the touchpoints at which you have the clearest opportunity to engage. This will help your team set priorities for their time and energy.

Times, and customers, are changing

Today’s customer expectations are higher than ever, and the bar is constantly rising based on the experiences your customers have with customer-obsessed brands like Spotify, Starbucks, and Amazon. Effective personalization is the key to differentiating and adding value to your customer experiences, enabling you to focus their attention, deliver value, and build trust.
The best place to start is with your best customers. Look for areas in their journey where you can deliver value to them, create quality content with their needs in mind, and deliver it at the right point of their journey, through the right channel. Then employ testing and performance measurement to build a continuous cycle that will help you iterate, optimize, and expand.

If you are looking to build authentic experiences that matter to your customers, download "The Digital Relevancy Map" for tips on managing content for maximum business impact.

Zarnaz Arlia is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Sitecore.