Joining us at DMEXCO, Sitecore Solution Partner Avanade will be at our Sitecore booth to answer your questions. We caught up with Avanade to help you get started with the conversation on one of today’s biggest digital marketing buzzwords: personalization. Be sure you stop by the booth in hall 6 and meet with us to continue the conversation on personalization and how to execute a winning digital marketing strategy.

This Q&A features Avanade thought leaders: Kai Neumaier, Director, Avanade ASG; Michael Jacobi, Sr. Consultant, Avanade; Amir Dehnad, Sr. Director, Digital Marketing Offering Lead, Europe.

Q: Why should personalization be included in a digital marketing strategy today? What sets personalization a part?

Amir Dehnad: The important thing today is that the whole customer experience (CX) is driven by customers’ demands. They are looking at spending time with brands that actually recognize them as individuals rather than a random person, and that is why personalization is extremely important—to be able to attract and engage on a one-to-one basis with each customer and each individual.

Kai Neumaier: We believe this human-centric approach is a crucial aspect for brands. The enterprises serving customers face strong and highly dangerous competition, so each brand needs to take the action to understand their customers in detail to be selected by the customers in this competitive landscape. And on the other side, these customers also expect that they are being considered enough and that their cares and requirements are being considered in detail. Afterall, customers today expect an extraordinary experience, and this is something that brands simply cannot and should not ignore.

Michael Jacobi: There is a logical conclusion that there is no longer a customer journey from product to market, but there must be personalization. It doesn’t change the customer journey, but it simply makes more pathways on the customer journey. The customer journey is a chain of touchpoints that align, and they need to guide your customers from being an unknown person to a lead to a fan. In this way, each touchpoint needs to be individual for each persona or target group for each phase of the customer journey. You need more promotion, more support for your personas to go on your customer journey. That’s why you can’t say there is one journey from product to market anymore. There are several ways with the same aim.

Q: We’re aware personalization is a journey. How do you work with clients to overcome their challenges with personalization?

Amir Dehnad: What we see with our clients, they easily get overwhelmed with personalization. What we suggest to help drive engagements:

  1. Companies need to start really small when introducing personalization into the process. It’s enough to start with maybe one or two personalized experiences – maybe a banner or a call to action – maybe something that is small, but effective. What could be effective is the key part of this. We focus on that at the very beginning. We begin to identify what is the most impactful action for the customer at this time. And we conduct research to see the difference between what customers are looking for versus what they are getting on the web site. Starting and identifying those areas are very important.

  2. Get the content strategy right. Often, we go into conversations and we realize that there is no strategy around content. Content is growing or being published organically, and that’s one of the headaches and inefficiencies that can cause problems for clients. They tend to put a lot of content into production without realizing this is only going to make life more complicated for the marketing team without benefiting the customer. One of our strategies, we always go in and we look at the content that they have, how we look at the content they have, we assess its performance, and help clients create a content strategy that starts small and actionable and becomes increasingly more comprehensive and automated.

  3. We empower businesses to do personalization independent of IT. That is where Sitecore is quite powerful -- giving the content editors and the content authors the ability to run the personalization without relying so much on IT.

Q: Why Sitecore? How does the Sitecore platform support personalization and your clients’ digital journeys?

Amir Dehnad: One of the strengths of Sitecore as a leading platform in this space is the fact that it is all built on one data source. It helps to bring all the data together in one location, and that is one of the main challenges companies have when they are talking about digital transformation and how they are facing challenges with data silos. Sitecore as a platform allows all the data from all those different data sources to be collected into one central location, and then you add the visit data from the online channel and from the other channels to the same data base. You start to think about how you want to personalize content and how do you want to make the content relevant and to use all that data to get insight into visitor behavior online. That is a big plus for Sitecore in this space.

And with the other capabilities that Sitecore provides in terms of getting similar data from other sites that are not built in Sitecore, you start to look at and broaden the conversation into looking at digital transformation across the organization – not just your web site. What are other behaviors you can also collect and apply this principle? From a platform perspective, it definitely provides the ability to understand the customers and prospects, identify who are good targets and how to segment visitors, and provide personalized content based on visitor type and what their interests might be. Ultimately finishing that with experience-based commerce to close out the transaction.

Q: Can you share a customer success story?

Amir Dehnad: One of our clients is a leading car manufacturer. As a result of our implementation with Sitecore, this client is now live in hundreds of countries and they are now managing 142 million visits a year. That’s a massive uptick from where they were a few years ago before they started to embark on this Sitecore journey and transformation journey with us.

As the results of what we have done with this client, they are not only delivering personalization online – for example they completely personalized a section of the website based on visitor interests and purchase history – versus coming in as an anonymous person and trying to navigate the website. We’ve also extended that to personalizing the experience when booking a test drive or configuring a car online. You can create your ideal car online, and immediately ask the showroom to take you on a test drive. That is the type of personalization that is going on across channels connecting the digital and physical worlds together, giving the customer the feeling of “I am not one of many “or “it is more related to me”.

As a result of all these changes and personalizations we have implemented on the website, their sales have gone up nearly 13%. And that’s what we want to repeat and see with many other clients as well. We look at starting with the strategy and what content can we personalize on the website. We look at how the experience can be personalized across the channels and that’s what’s really going to get us to the next generation of the customer experience.

Content publishing was a massive piece of what we and Sitecore delivered into them. We have accelerated their ability to publish content much faster given the number of markets they operate in, as well. We managed to launch new content on their website and different websites across 96 markets, and that was around a new car model that was being unveiled. And as part of our delivery into this we also supported those 120 content editors, who used the Sitecore platform, with training and onsite Help Desk Support. We really helped them to get the content out. And getting the content out to 96 markets in under one hour, it an incredible success story for us and the client.

Q: What are factors for executing a successful personalization strategy?

Michael Jacobi: Content is successful if it is distributed correctly and if it relevant. This cannot be achieved through an assessment process but through conclusions. With content it is also particularly important to provide calls to action. Content is only a touch point but must function in its entirety. So, it is clearly not only about creation, but above all it is about management and experience on what consumers are looking for. Content needs strategy and to continuously refresh information that adds value.

Clients also need a powerful system that meets the requirements of the users and the employees, allowing them to easily operate it and draw important conclusions. At the same time, the system must also support the entire process, including the sales and marketing funnel. That is incredibly important for a marketing tool today—that you have a good overview and the ability to work with that.

Amir Dehnad: Ultimately, in our experience, what we have found is that people are the most important factor, along with the culture, to make these transformations a success or failure – that’s both on the skills and the variety of the skills required to achieve success. How involved are people within the organization – from the C-Suite down to the people who are executing on the strategy on a day-to-day basis? It’s critical that the expectation of customers is translated into the activities that are executed by people within the organization.

Kai Neumaier: It’s not only to get connected with your customers so you can sell your products and services, this connection delivers valuable insights for also designing future products and services. So, in order to understand what your customer really needs, you might at some point end up finding out what this customer really needs is something that might not be available.

And lastly, when enterprises understand their customers correctly, they for example reduce the time they need to close a deal. So, all these aspects can be applied to KPIs and strategic directives. You will receive higher customer retention, achieve more business with new clients, and get more efficient when serving clients.

This might be quite disruptive from an IT perspective. You might have to use new technology in the context of application intelligence and automation. Most importantly, you will need to integrate currently disparate systems and information sources, so you have a single view of the truth. So, you have one source of information, which is up to date and which is validated. It also has an impact on processes, which means the way people work with each other. In the enterprise, the units are marketing, sales, and customer services might not work as integrated as it is required to serve customers in the best possible way.

When defining a customer-centric strategy, this will also have an impact on the way people work and how they collaborate, how openly they discuss, and the part of culture to be changed. You need to make the people in these enterprises aware that all this is part of a strategic benefit. Building of a customer-centric strategy is just the start. There is still a lot of work ahead so all the activities and measurement that needs to be taken out of this are significant after all.

Kai Neumaier, Director in ASG, Avanade, leads the Business Applications Advisory offering at Avanade for the Austria, Switzerland, and Germany region, which focuses on CRM, digital marketing solutions, and consulting and advising clients.

Michael Jacobi, Sr. Consultant, Avanade, has a background in marketing from the view of the markets, concentrating on a 360-view of the demands of customers. He is passionate about combining digital touchpoints with offline touchpoints to speed up the customer experience and to analyze and identify the aim for content creation.

Amir Dehnad, Sr. Director, Digital Marketing Offering Lead in Europe, Avanade, focuses on looking at how to deliver digital experiences across the entire customer journey. His background is in customer experience, customer engagement, and customer relationship management working closely with clients on CX strategy, marketing strategy, and how to remove friction points in the customer journey.