Every brand is experiencing a critical need to realign or pivot their marketing strategies. We can all relate to this abrupt change and quick redirection due to what is currently happening in the world today. But one big lesson we can take away from this experience is the reminder that our customers are humans – not just data points. There are emotions and motivators to take into consideration. And now, more than ever, it’s clear that we need to be able to respond and evolve with our customers to meet their needs in the new climate.

Whether it’s facing a large-scale global crisis or smaller-scale change in the industry, we must be cognizant of when we need to make this pivot in our marketing. When we’re talking about this in terms of a brand’s personalized customer experience strategies, the best way to be ready for change is to listen. And we do that by equipping ourselves with the right data practices and the right mechanisms in place to deeply understand our customers as they interact with us. This allows us to quickly identify when we’re no longer providing them with what they need.

In this blog, I am going to share four areas to focus on when you’ve already implemented personalization and are working to evolve your personalization strategy to keep momentum going, especially through times of change.

1. Focus on what the customer journey analytics are saying

When you reach the point where your brand is personalizing to your customers, it’s important that you don’t make the mistake of “setting it and forgetting it”. Just like with content, you don’t want your efforts to become stale or irrelevant as your customers evolve. Use the data to look at what you have set in place and how customers are responding to your tailored content. Ask yourself: Are you enabling visitors to progress through their journey?

Now, the key here is to remind yourself that there is no “bad data”. Oftentimes, as marketers we have a tendency to focus on the data that shows our successes, especially when communicating to upper management. However, if we don’t look at the holistic experience, we’re missing out on the learning opportunities you get by evaluating underperforming experiences and content.

Such as, if a personalization rule is set in place for a specific segment but it is not advancing people in their journey–that’s not bad data. It is an indicator that the content being delivered isn’t resonating enough to progress people, and it’s time to re-evaluate that personalized content. You want to continuously evaluate this data to identify where your friction points are in your journey and make adjustments.

One example, UnitingCare Queensland, a health provider and one of the largest charities in Australia, recognized that it needed to adjust its strategy when it became clear that its corporate, jargon-laden web experience was making its services inaccessible to visitors. Going through a process of changing its site so visitors could identify their needs quicker, they’ve been able to better serve over 5 million Queensland residents.

“We keep the landing page design clean and put calls to action high up on the pages. Natural language talks you through filtering results,” said Dan Shaw, Manager of Group Digital Marketing, UnitingCare Queensland.

2. Use the journey data to validate your segments

To take your data and listening efforts one step further, you want to make sure to look at how your customer journey data is aligning with your hypotheses around what your target personas want to see and what is relevant to them. You want to make sure that your target audience is not consistently running up against those friction points you’ve identified.

There are two ways to interpret the data in this context. When we’re looking at the data for personalizing to a target audience and the numbers don’t align with your goals or outcomes you’re trying to achieve, we have to either look to adjusting our content strategy or our segment strategy. Again, this is why it’s important to continuously evaluate the data, so you’re pivoting in the right direction.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore, a global financial hub with a multicultural population of 5.7 million, took an appropriate approach when it was seeing its website friction points were due to laborious navigation and long, complex content. They were able to identify that its audience had different education levels and pivot toward turning its site into a self-serve journey while creating content that was more discoverable and digestible. Its page views increased by 83%, with users spending 21% less time getting the information they needed.

“Users benefit from a better website that is focused on — and responsive to — their needs, and is continually optimized to improve the user experience,” said Regina Chang, Assistant Director, MOM Web Services.

3. Connect your data for a complete picture

This point is particularly important when your personalized customer experience has expanded beyond your initial implementation or quick-win scenarios. A lot of brands often start off strong with their high-level user segmentation, but struggle to keep the momentum going because of gaps in their holistic data collection across their systems.

By connecting your systems and centralizing your data, you are more empowered to enhance, or deliver deeper experiences, and access a complete 360-degree view to help you pivot correctly based on business evolution or market changes.

A couple example scenarios include pulling your data to look at what information you have coming from your CRM and sellers or including your customer service data to identify gaps where personalization can help alleviate friction. A person’s behavior data may indicate they are in one phase of their journey, but a conversation with a sales rep may reveal that they are farther along. Having access to integrated data that is bi-directionally synced allows organizations to keep customer profiles up to date.

With your data in a centralized system, you can make comprehensive strategic decisions and leverage helpful tools, such as Path Analyzer that does the work of tracking journey paths to shed light on what’s working or not working.

As you’re holistically evaluating your data, annotate influencing factors. Tracking events with the changes provides you with greater insights in the moment and for longer-term trends across quarters and years.

4. Look beyond your brand’s data

We’re often focused on our own product and our customers’ journey with our brand. While it’s important to understand what other brands are doing, and we tend to use Amazon and Netflix in this context, try to think outside the box here. We all have one or two brands that we’ve grown to love, whether it’s within our industry or not. Look at what are those brands are doing right and how you can apply that to your own brand’s experience.

Put yourself into the shoes of the consumer and evaluate how people are experiencing your brand against other experiences on a typical day. You want to see what your customers are seeing on other sites because we either want to match or exceed that experience to give them the best personalized brand experiences that we can. After all, outside of our role as marketers, we are also consumers in our own right at the end of the day.

Also, explore your competitors’ journeys. If your customers are evaluating multiple products at a certain journey stage, see what other experiences may be impacting their expectations of your brand and what other information they are receiving at different stages. Use that as inspiration for pivoting toward new personalization strategies to continue enhancing your customer experience.

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 and Twitter