A Salesforce survey showed that 84% of customers say being treated like a person, and not a number, is very important to winning their business. Personalization has become table stakes, and making an emotional, authentic connection to your customers has taken on a different kind of importance in our now suddenly digital-heavy world. Personalized experiences can show that you understand their needs and you're there to help.

But once you begin implementing personalization into your marketing, a lack of KPIs and measurement strategy can lead to guesswork and misaligned resources. Are your customers liking what they see? Is your content leading to your desired outcomes? Are you spinning your wheels on content strategy?

The key to ensuring your investments and content efforts you put into personalization are successful is by measuring it – and not just once, but continuously.

Here’s a prime example of why:

Gartner reported last year that, by 2022, 50% of large organizations will have failed to unify engagement channels, resulting in the continuation of a disjointed and siloed customer experience that lacks context.

Frankly, this means that a large number of brands will have failed to evolve and scale their personalized digital experiences. Don’t let your brand fall into this path. Here’s how to fine-tune your personalization measurement practices to shape your content and marketing organization’s mindset along with your personalization journey, and avoid spinning your wheels.

Create the human connections behind the clicks

First, let's talk about the audience. At its core, personalization is about knowing your audience so you can offer content that provides value to them. That is a strategic advantage for any brand in today’s digital world. Not putting customers at the center of marketing strategies is why 59% of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience.

Brands that are successful with personalization are able to replicate a tailored, face-to-face type of interaction into a digital experience. They deliver this by effectively measuring and understanding the impact of their content in terms of how to understand their customer’s interests, determine the right point to serve up content or CTAs for a desired outcome, and then scaling for all audiences.

Luxury resort Atlantis The Palm in Dubai achieved multichannel personalization by starting with three main desired outcomes: increase acquisitions, cross- and up-sell customers, and improve loyalty. Over time they gained insights for personalizing digital experiences for multiple audiences and realized a 46% increase in value per site visit.

Measuring digital interactions is the essential piece in providing you with the data to create a 360-degree view of your customers and structuring their experience. It eliminates friction and leads to conversion on a specific action. It’s on the marketers to use the data to understand what content resonates with the customer, leading to a stronger connection that extends the relationship with your brand.

Make data-backed, strategic marketing decisions

Now, let’s get into what this means for the marketer. We are responsible for delivering exceptional customer experiences, so measuring personalization from the beginning benefits us in two ways: it shapes our initial introduction, or digital handshake, to our customers, and it provides a view into what content or digital experience is resonating with our customers to help move them along their customer journey.

This is where we see most marketing organizations facing a content crunch in delivering on personalized digital experiences. There is a misconception that personalization needs to be this huge, overthought, highly tailored experience right out of the gate. And without providing the marketing organization the insights to evaluate content and personalization effectiveness, a lot of time is spent using old processes, creating content in siloes, and flying blind based on assumptions -- and oftentimes internal politics.

We saw a similar case with Village Roadshow Theme Parks, Australia’s leading theme park operator with attractions including Sea World. By focusing their marketing efforts on creating digital experiences for three core personas instead of their original eight, they were able to maximize their efforts in creating a frictionless experience.

“We’ve taken a crawl, walk, run approach,” said Renee Soutar, VRTP’s general manager of marketing. “We’re building content to support those initial personas and then will expand beyond those as we dial-up our resourcing.”

Measuring personalization takes pressure off marketers, providing the data needed to make strategic decisions around which content to create, or not create. It also provides the foundation for establishing benchmarks so there is a clear direction for progression. Your personalization and content efforts will evolve over time as you validate them with your data-backed insights.

Driving the business case for personalizing your customer experience

Personalization is an investment that should be measured over time. A common frustration we see is brands feeling as though they’ve made this big investment to personalize their digital experience, but not seeing the outcomes they expected right away. Measuring personalization will empower you to make the case for personalization as a strategic imperative for the business, but it requires patience as data is gathered and learnings can be implemented.

Let’s step into your marketing organization’s structure. You, and other successful brands, are often aligned on what your goals are for the year or for the quarter. Personalization is a tactic for achieving those goals. As a result, personalization KPIs should be an extension of your business, strategic, and marketing objectives. Whether you're a B2B or B2C company, this approach to personalization should always start the same.

Measuring your personalization will provide the data needed to refine your content strategies based on whether or not you’re achieving your goals. Establish the process of benchmarking in your marketing organization and pull data on a regular basis. Develop a hypothesis for why a personalized experience will have an impact, then use the data from the implemented personalization to determine what’s working or if there are adjustments that need to be made.

Ready your company for AI and future technologies

When your marketing organization gets to a point in exploring automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in your personalization journey, the possibilities will be endless. But the only way to open that door to what’s possible is with data.

Very mature organizations are personalizing so customers no longer feel like a data point. The personalization is so fine-tuned, it can nearly mimic human-like interactions. Technologies such as machine learning are taking aggregated behavioral data and providing recommendations, unburdening the marketer. It’s helping marketers recognize when customer buying behaviors shift and how strategies should be shifted to stay aligned.

Your organization needs to be set up with a foundational data collection solution that pulls it all together and serves as a single source of truth. By benchmarking your data and aligning your marketing and business goals, you'll be one step closer to truly understanding your customers.

To learn more, download our Path to Personalization: The 9 keys to driving relationships—one customer at time.

Jill Grozalsky is Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Find her on  LinkedIn or on Twitter.