Are you finding that your marketing organization is hitting a wall when it comes to executing your brand’s personalization strategy, or what Sitecore describes as, personalization paralysis? You are not alone.

But did you also know that often companies are overestimating their personalization capabilities?

In a recent report we conducted in partnership with the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA), the “Global Trends in Personalization Study”, 67% of global leaders rate their organization as “Masters” or “Experts” with robust advanced levels of personalization capabilities. At the same time, less than one-third of leaders polled rated their personalization capabilities as “Advanced” in any crucial sales and communication channel (Web, Mobile, Email, Call Center, In-Store Experience, Online Advertising, or Cross-Channel Integration).

So, what’s inhibiting more brands from achieving advanced personalization?

In my previous blog, I explored core areas for benchmarking successful implementation. Here are key areas on how to approach and realign your mindset when you reach a state of personalization paralysis. These key areas will help you get real about progressing your digital experience strategy to success and gain competitive advantage in your industry.

Are you thinking too big, too soon?

There is a wrong way to do personalization, and we see this a lot when we start working with clients to either start or advance their personalization strategies. Clients will hit personalization paralysis because they see personalization as a lot of prospects, a lot of data to collect on each prospect and customer, and the need to create a lot of content to design the customer experience according to the behavior data. Sound familiar? Often, when we spend more time with the clients, we realize it’s not only personalization paralysis but it’s also analysis paralysis with no clear vision of how to drive their strategies.

Where do we commonly see companies getting stuck?

  • Having the mindset that Step 1 of personalization is complete digital transformation: Often companies reach personalization paralysis early on and don’t get started because they approach their personalization digital marketing strategy as though they will only see value if they can do it all now.
  • The more data the better: Brands spend too much time focused on the back-end technology or they have too many campaigns running at the same time because they have the mindset that personalization requires extensive data to get started.
  • Leadership cannot see the value: Clients find they are not getting the buy-in they require to launch personalization at scale. And at the same time, they do not take the right strategic approach to quantifying digital investments early on to show the business the benefits of personalization.
  • High expectations without room to experiment: In addition to the previous points, clients find they don’t have an adequate window of time to execute and adjust their personalization strategies accordingly.

What “know your audience” means with personalization

Truth is, the best way to learn about your prospects and customers is by implementing personalization. You’re essentially taking what’s most effective about your in-person or human-to-human customer service and crafting the same type of digital experience. And just like with human-to-human customer service, personalization becomes more effective the more interactions you have with your customer.  With every visit and click you learn more about customers’ pain points and interests. The difference with digital is you’re dealing with data and, depending on the size of your organization, you could be dealing with a plethora of data in a variety of systems and integrations.

One of the biggest killers of personalization is trying to know everything about your audience. As mentioned above, running too many campaigns or too many A/B tests only leads to confusion. As I mentioned in my first blog, the goal is to have actionable data. Here at Sitecore, we always advise our clients to start small. Figure out the bare minimum amount of data you need to start personalizing now, then build up the information you have on your customers over time. And think about integrating systems to mature the data.

Adjust your strategy mindset to goal-based personalization

While personalization is a marketing strategy you’re striving to achieve, it is not your end goal. We often see clients reaching personalization paralysis because of this misalignment. Make sure you’re approaching personalization as a means to achieving your marketing objectives. Factors such as your industry or whether you are a B2B or B2C organization will contribute to your personalization strategy. Our position on how to establish your strategy is to be goal-based. The Sitecore Business Optimization Strategies (SBOS) team works directly with clients teaching them how to define these goals for successful personalization:

  • What are your strategic objectives?
  • What are your company’s marketing goals?
  • What do you want people to do on your website?
  • What do we need to personalize to get to those goals?

Personalization is a journey — so explore

Sitecore calls this your Path to Personalization. There is a learning process to personalization. There’s a starting point, followed by a period of experimentation and learning as you gain insights into your behavioral data. Then you’ll reach various stages where you adjust your strategy. We find that many organizations don’t take this part into consideration of the overall process, and their marketers subsequently aren’t given a reasonable amount of time to fully ingest the findings and effectively execute a long-term personalization strategy.

While personalization is customer-centric, you also need to approach it simultaneously from the top-down. We recommend having someone within your organization be the point person for your entire personalization journey so they can show the benefits of the early learnings and secure buy-in for the long run.


Want to learn more about how your personalization knowledge base stacks up to industry trends? Take the 3-minute Personalization quiz for marketers

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