Earlier this year, Sitecore launched its Personalization Quiz for Marketers, giving digital marketers the opportunity to answer a series of questions to see where they are when it comes to implementing a personalization strategy and executing on it.

With more than 400 participants, the quiz revealed a large majority of digital marketers have a clear understanding that, when it comes to personalization, every channel can and should be leveraged. Plus, they acknowledge the potential business value of customer behavior data as 91% of the respondents identified at least six different sources of data that should be considered for executing an effective personalization strategy.

However, what we found interesting with the responses to this quiz is the disconnect with results in more formal studies. One big delta emerges when looking at the latest findings in the “Global Trends in Personalization Study” we conducted in partnership with the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA). Less than 40% of marketing leaders who participated in the study are utilizing even the most basic data-driven personalization tactics (purchase history, browsing history, referral source, and session click-stream data). And alarmingly, in a recent report we conducted along with Econsultancy, “Reinventing Commerce”, two-in-three companies stated that a lack of trust in their marketing data is a significant issue.

So, on the one hand, digital marketers correctly identify broad categories of data as valuable components for driving personalization programs, but industry research still shows minimal utilization of even the foundational personalization dataset. And marketers are reporting that they don't seem to have a high level of confidence in even this baseline data.

Knowing that your personalization strategy needs an omnichannel reach and a full spectrum of consumer data, the question becomes: what knowledge gaps do you need to bridge so you can see progress in your personalization strategy and start seeing successes?

Unfortunately, there is no secret recipe to achieving your dream-state personalized digital experience, but here are three areas for benchmarking on executing a successful personalized marketing strategy for your brand.

Where are your gaps in personalization?

You should be no stranger to how the customer experience (CX) is shifting. Customer expectations continue to rise in today’s highly digital world. They want personal, one-on-one connections with your brand that makes them feel like a preferred customer. There are three key components required to delivering personalization at scale: customer data, content, and an omnichannel delivery system. This is where you need to evaluate whether you have the tools and resources in place to get moving on your path to personalization.

Where do we see most companies failing?

  • Organizations don’t have their data connected. Brands may have data practices in place, but they are limited by their visibility into the data. As a result, they are personalizing based on a fragment of the picture, which can be steering them in the wrong direction. There is not enough information to clearly define the audience and where they are on their customer journey.
  • Not enough content. Even if the brand has the customer data to know their customers, they don’t have the right content to show them. Companies find themselves hitting a brick wall, or in a Content Crisis.
  • Organizations don’t have the technology or organizational design in place. Companies will find they are not built to make effective use of their available technology nor are they able to align themselves with their business objectives. Aside from budget, technology platforms and channel integration are the top barriers hindering organizations from delivering more personalized digital experiences (SoDA).

The key to personalization strategy success: Iteration

Just like the journey most customers typically have with brands today, the path to personalization is not linear, with a clearly defined beginning and end. So where do you start (or get going again)? Maybe you have a lot of customer data, except it currently resides in disconnected repositories. Perhaps you’re struggling to build a content production and distribution engine that will allow you to provide the right content to the right audience at the right time in their customer journey. Or you could be just like a large number of companies that are still in the earliest phases of getting a handle on both content and data. So, which one do you tackle first? Our perspective is there is no one right answer. Regardless of where you start, changing customer behaviors and market dynamics will require you to iterate along the way, so pick a place to start, get moving, and be prepared to change course. Start with a goal to personalize content in one channel, prove the ROI, and then use what you’ve learned to win more executive support, align more resources, and expand your personalization strategy.

You can’t get there without content

A winning personalization strategy gives your brand the ability to deliver value to your customers at every touchpoint. In the context of personalization, “value” means helping your customers make a decision, teaching them something new that increases the joy they get from a product or service, or rewarding their loyalty. So, although you can start in any number of ways, delivering on the ultimate promise of personalization is only possible when you make customer data and omnichannel delivery actionable with relevant content. In fact, content is so important that 97% of senior marketers say it is a priority to produce and publish personalized digital content more quickly (SoDA).

Decipher your path to personalization

While personalization isn’t simply a switch you can flip on, we have created a guide for helping you gain the necessary knowledgebase to get moving forward. Our Path to Personalization ebook provides nine steps on how you can launch a future-proof personalization program that’s data-driven, generates brand loyalty, increases conversion, and is ready for any new device that emerges on the market. Get moving now no matter where you are on your journey.

To learn more, download Path to Personalization: The 9 keys to driving stronger relationships – one customer at a time

Chris Stennett is Senior Director, Value Engineering and Business Optimization at Sitecore. Find him on LinkedIn.