(This is the second installment of my Sitecore Experience keynote address. If you haven’t read the first installment yet, I suggest doing so here.)

In the first of my ‘Five Hard Truths’ blogs, we examined how a lack of C-Suite alignment is holding back digital transformation in many organizations. This is a major problem facing CMOs across the globe but, as you are already well aware, it’s far from the only truth we need to face. 

Hard truth #2: Personalization is not one-size-fits-all

Our research shows that 85% of senior marketers see personalization as a major competitive advantage. However, most marketers continue to struggle with personalization. For example, only 23% of brands today are personalizing beyond the entry level — that is, using a location-based, device-based, or segmentation approach. We’re personalizing to some extent, but we’re unsure how to advance it.

Even more worryingly, over half of the companies surveyed either have no budget, no executive support, or no plan to put personalization into action. One in five say a lack of content is holding them back, while roughly the same number (22%) claim the problem lies in data deficiencies.

At Sitecore, we split personalization into four levels. The hope is that these will help you identify your level and set appropriate goals to get you to the next.

  • Level 1: A location-based, device-based, and/or high-level audience segmentation approach to personalization used predominantly in a single channel, like the web or email.

  • Level 2: A personalization strategy that connects customer data to a multichannel content delivery capability that can influence customers at key points in their journey, leading to goal achievement.

  • Level 3: You have mapped out your journey paths, laid out a set of personas, and you have the data to deliver tailored content to the right personas at the right time to nurture customers through each stage of their journey.

  • Level 4: AI-fueled customer experiences that predict customers’ needs and intent to automatically optimize and deliver dynamic content at scale.

These four levels of personalization make up the path for most brands today and, as mentioned above, the step from level 1 to level 2 is the one that most brands need to make.

The way to make that step, and future steps, is to:

  1. Start small: Level up slowly from location-based personalization to thinking about influencing a customer throughout their journey. You could, for example, organize your personalization around decreasing abandoned shopping cart rates.

  2. Fail fast and move on: Understand what worked and what didn't and use those insights to augment your customer segments.

  3. Scale: Take what you’ve learned and implemented, and then scale it quickly and efficiently.

Once you've got a working personalization journey and you've learned from your initial, smaller projects, you want to go beyond the manual facets of personalization and apply elements of automation technology to allow you to scale faster and move toward that lucrative level 4.

Personalization is just one challenge

Level 4 personalization might be the most coveted prize in marketing right now, but it’s a long way off for the majority of us, and not feasible at all for some businesses. By taking a closer look at what you want to achieve, who your audience is and what data you have, you can start taking steps to ensure you reach the level you want to — and the one that’s right for your business.

To help you move in the right direction, we’ve created an ebook that contains all the practical advice you could need from the experts at Sitecore. Read it now to start your journey and identify your own distinct path to personalization.

Download the CMO Truth #2 Personalization is not one-size-fits-all ebook.

Paige O’Neill is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn.