Connecting Content to Consumers

Website personalization is a hot topic. However, it’s no secret that getting a smart personalization strategy in place can be overwhelming. On May 17, 2017, Hanson Dodge, Episerver, and inRiver hosted a website personalization luncheon to discuss the actionable insights that will help bring this critical user engagement strategy within reach.
The luncheon, Connecting Content to Consumers, provided key insights into how to begin building a personalization strategy with the customer information you already have as well as the transformational benefits of leveraging relevant and targeted content, including: increased conversion, higher average order values and higher brand engagement and loyalty.
Following are the top six actionable insights from the luncheon that will help bring website personalization within reach.
1. The Difficulties and Benefits of Implementing a Website Personalization Strategy

There is an uncertainty of how to start and how to manage website personalization. This uncertainty might stem from fear that personalization is too difficult or requires too much overhead. There is the concern of not having the appropriate tools and software in place to manage the effort effectively. There is also an abundant amount of high-quality content required to provide a personalized customer experience and this can be taxing on internal resources.
However, providing a tailored and relevant experience to your website’s audience has proved its value through increased average order value and brand engagement. Visitors are more engaged and convert at higher volumes if they can relate to the messaging in front of them. It takes work, but providing users with an effortless and unique experience that accelerates conversion is worth the effort.
2) Website Personalization is Causing a Shift in Consumer Expectations
Just a few years ago, website personalization still seemed mysterious and unattainable. Now, 70 percent of web users expect brands to deliver personalized, relevant content. There has been a seismic shift in brands and retailers in realizing how crucial personalization is to their vision. Now every digital strategy, to some extent, should seriously consider the impact of personalization on their user’s experiences.
Furthermore, retailers and brands are starting to see the return that personalization provides. It’s becoming the norm for visitors to have that experience. If your website doesn’t implement some form of personalization, it could be perceived as dated or behind the times. It could also be less effective relative to your competition.
3) How to Start Implementing a Personalization Strategy
Brands and retailers first need to figure out their reason for implementing a website personalization strategy. Is it marketing-driven messaging? Is it user experience focused? Is it simply to keep up with the competition? Different reasons have different implementation strategies and different personalization management.
Just as important as the “why” is the “how.” Brands and retailers must be internally structured to support personalization. If organizations are siloed by channel or market, this will impede their ability to provide a consistent and high-quality customer experience and/or personalization. Integration and collaboration is critical to success.
To address strategy, brands should begin by getting to know their customers and defining their customer journeys. Analytics, journey maps, personas and other tools can all help with this. Talk to them. Conduct surveys. Engage with them on social. Create a customer panel to help guide the approach. Find out how customers think, what excites them, what concerns they have and what they need. Armed with all of this information, the strategy comes together naturally.

4) How to Avoid the Biggest Roadblock in a Website Personalization Strategy
One of the biggest roadblocks is the lack of an overall strategy. And more often than not, this stems from lack of resources, whether that’s enough time, people or technology. To overcome this, companies must focus on efficiency and break down organizational silos, including: disparate data, conflicting goals and priorities, and, inevitably, rework.
Marketing, IT, product management and business development need to work together to determine goals, priorities and logistics of content creation and strategy implementation.

5) How Website Personalization Can Support an Omni-channel Strategy and Even Advance It

This is where a strong central customer database - a source of truth - plays a crucial role. This can be a content management system (CMS), a custom database, a customer relationship management (CRM) system or a product information management (PIM) solution.
In order to feed that repository, every customer data point matters. For example, it’s important to understand the conversations between the customer and the customer service representative and what a customer is experiencing when they make a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store. The website can feed these data points and also draw from it. Ideally, the content and experience users have on the website is informed by everything the organization has already learned about them. This can help us promote users going to brick-and-mortar stores, or it can effectively complete the conversion for a journey that started in another channel.
6) What It Takes to Implement, Maintain and Optimize a Personalization Strategy

The brand, company or organization does need to commit to doing it, because it takes time, skill and resources. However, it’s very possible to start off smart. If you don’t have top-level commitment or much budget yet, gain early successes to demonstrate the potential and then grow your personalization strategy over time. Start by finding one highly impactful place on your website based on analytics and where it sits in your funnel. Make sure you have the data to read the results. Then apply basic rules to tailor the experience based on your knowledge of users, ideally using content that already exists or can be easily produced. Then measure the results.

Long-term, a mature personalization strategy takes more, including: more resources, more time and more content. However, the ROI is real. The important thing for organizations to remember is that they do not need to do too much right away. Gain some early success, learn along the way and keep building.

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