By Paul McCormick, Senior Consultant, Data and Personalization, TH_NK

Partner Perspectives

No one needs personalization.

No one needs AI.

And no one needs another website.

Clients and agencies alike often start with a solution—a new app, a new campaign, new technology like machine learning—and then look for a problem it can solve.

As the martech landscape continues to grow exponentially, and new technologies and techniques become available, it has become all too easy to ask, “What should we do?” rather than “Why are we doing it?”

The powerful systems now at our disposal make it so easy to act, we rarely stop to ask ourselves the most basic questions: What are we trying to achieve? How will we know we’ve succeeded? We need platforms that guide us to a more strategic approach and that ensure we’re getting the most out of our technology and assets.

A recent Gartner report showing that growth in marketing budgets has stalled after years of continual increase puts marketing leaders under even more pressure to justify previous budget commitments and prove ROI. Having a platform that can both demonstrate the “why” and continually adapt to further increase ROI is now more important than ever.

The power of goals to shape personalization strategies

Goals sit at the heart of martech, from analytics and testing to engagement plans and personalization. The definition of a goal is simple—a customer views a page, submits a form, or downloads an asset—but its implications across your digital estate are anything but simple.

A goal transforms a strategy into a series of specific, measurable targets. It allows you to assess how well your strategy is performing. To experiment with different approaches. To take corrective action.

Without establishing and implementing goals, you have no way of knowing whether your digital estate is driving unprecedented success or sending your business off the rails.

Many businesses build another website or another app without ever stopping to articulate why customers would want to use it, and how to know it meets those wants. Setting goals forces you to look hard at these basic questions.

Many technologies only support this concept at a tactical level, linking goals just to the next customer action in an optimization test such as “Does making the button green make more people click it?” or “If I use a different banner image, will more people read more?” To excel, you need to make goals about more than just the next action, focusing instead on the culmination of consumer activity that leads up to the key moment when a visitor becomes a customer or a potential client becomes a lead.

Only a clear strategy underpinned by goals can truly unlock the potential of personalization.

Data-driven personalization strategies

Many organizations are already adopting tools that make personalization incredibly easy with just a few clicks to create alternative versions of any component on a page and simple rules to control who sees which content. However, it's all too easy to apply personalization for personalization’s sake. Anyone can do that. Doing it effectively takes considered, strategic thinking.

We’ve all heard the mantra of delivering the right experience to the right customer at the right time. But what makes it right? How do we know we’re actually delivering business value? That we’re not only demonstrating ROI, but continually improving on it?

This is why it’s so important to have personalization strategies that prove the value of the technique and enable you to refine and evolve your digital experience to deliver more while getting the most out of your existing assets. For us, effective personalization lies in:

  • Identifying the business objectives we’re trying to deliver from day one
  • Understanding our audience
  • Exploring the customer journey to see how and where our audience is interacting
  • Creating personalization rules that will drive our objectives from revenue and engagement through registration and loyalty

No personalization strategies should begin without first defining objectives and linking them to specific goals on your digital estate. Implementing these goals from the outset provides a rich source of data that informs how your estate is performing and paints a clear portrait of the different customers who trigger each goal. As you build a picture of your audience, you can gain deep insight about their actions and the paths they take. Then, armed with your objectives and data, you can identify opportunities to enhance the digital experience for your customers, reduce friction, and guide different audiences to the right content for them.

It is critical to test these opportunities by putting in place personalization rules to provide different experience to different audiences as well as a robust testing program that assesses each rule for its impact on your defined goals and the customer’s overarching experience with your digital estate.

The rapidly changing digital landscape can easily lure us into mistaking taking action for delivering results. Establishing clear goals and testing our endeavors against them is the only way to make the most of our existing assets as we learn, adapt, and improve.

In a climate focused on ROI, it’s more important than ever to ask yourself “Why?” Without personalization strategies, you’re only scratching the surface of what you can achieve.

Paul McCormick is senior consultant, data and personalization for TH_NK. Find him on LinkedIn.