Let’s start by reviewing the progress made with content personalization. Content Science Founder Colleen Jones explains, “I remember talking about it in 2000 as a priority for a big website redesign. But the right technology and the content architecture weren’t there to support it. Also, users were not quite ready. Users were not using the web enough to generate enough behavioral data to drive personalization, and they often weren’t willing to share other kinds of data.”
Fast-forward to 2022, and businesses envy the level of personalized content Amazon and Apple have reached. Personalization matters more than ever. Consumers don’t just want personalization, they demand it. A recent McKinsey survey found 71 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions and 76 percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.
“The benefits of personalization both to business and users tend to outweigh the drawbacks, so personalization will not go away,” Jones explains. And how are we doing with customer privacy concerns compared to 2000?
The word that best describes the privacy/personalization tradeoff is ‘resignation.’ Meaning that regardless of the type or quality of the supposed benefits we received, Americans widely believe that there is little to nothing we can do to stop the wholesale Hoovering of our private data or the use and misuse of it by those entities that gather it. And they’re not entirely pissed off—yet. — Michael Hinshaw “Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive, and How to Be One of Them”
That ‘yet’ could arrive sooner than we think. Salesforce notes an uptick in customer anxiety around privacy issues and in response, an increase in marketers exceeding privacy standards and laws. Their most recent State of Marketing research report notes that “61% of consumers feel like they’ve lost control over how their personal information is used (up from 46% in 2019).”
To further complicate matters, organizations must be aware of both personalization and customization opportunities. Nielsen Norman Group explains: “Customization gives control to the user and personalization gives control to the site. Both can enhance users’ experiences, but only when carefully implemented.”
“Personalized experiences = Creating, managing, and delivering contextually relevant experiences that speak to your customers on a personal level, helping you deepen relationships and meet rising expectations.”—Adobe
Personalization tools rely on advanced analytics to build an understanding of a specific customer and their evolving needs. As explained by Bain, “Marketing and innovation teams then use the data to create unique and dynamic messages, offerings and experiences. They send personalized content at the ideal time to engage the customer, or adapt the content to the customer profile on a website or mobile app. Personalization engines thus can enhance the customer experience, make advertising more effective and increase retention, loyalty and sales.”
Here’s an example of how we’ve implemented personalization at Content Science Review.
“Marketers need access to personalized data for insight into individual customer engagement. Businesses can use information such as the content a customer has engaged with and which products they’ve purchased to help the customer decide what they should do next.” – Salesforce
According to Deloitte, “As a CMO’s focus becomes more customer-centric and data-driven, AI-powered hyper-personalization provides the appropriate solution.”
Scaling is a concern for many aspects of content strategy, especially personalization. Amazon is one of few companies that excels at offering personalized recommendations, and consumers are becoming conditioned to want this kind of personalization in all aspects of their lives, including streaming music, movies, TV, and more.
As this Inc. article states, “It’s much easier to start wide at scale and narrow down as you go than to do the opposite. Personalizing your content and your audience’s experience is important, but remember your process for scaling. Do what you can to set yourself up for success in the long run.”
Gartner points out, “Personalizing even a single aspect of the customer experience, such as marketing, takes sustained investments in customer data and analytics—including spending on data management and analytic tools, hiring the right analytical talent, and developing or revamping marketing processes. It also requires technology and techniques that allow marketers to apply insight to execution, such as prioritizing marketing channels and platforms that enable audience segmentation and targeting over those that only support generic customer engagement.”
According to the Salesforce State of Marketing report, 82% of marketing leaders credit personalization with a major or moderate boost in customer advocacy, and 92% say the same for its impact on brand building.
Nearly 90% say they are more likely to continue shopping on a website that offers a personalized experience, and this includes 96% of Gen Z and 97% of Millennials. Moreover, 84% say personalization influences their purchase choices. — Elastic
The results from personalization efforts speak for themselves. McKinsey reports that companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players.
Personalization can also aid in hiring the best content team members and requires telling a candidate why you’re contacting them. “You have a great background” is the same line a dozen other recruiters have used that week. Explaining why s/he has a great background, and how it aligns with the job and company is a much more personalized (and productive) way of reaching out.—Forbes
If brands fail to offer a personalized experience, 45% of consumers say they’re likely to take their business elsewhere. — Segment
Obviously, one of the most challenging aspects of personalization is respecting consumer privacy. Half of Americans have decided not to use a product or service because of privacy concerns. High-profile data breaches have made privacy a concern for both consumers and brands.
There is light on the horizon, however, for companies looking to engage in personalization without alienating consumers over privacy issues. According to Salesforce, privacy is becoming less challenging for marketers, allowing them to comply with regulations and balance personalization with customer comfort more easily than in years past.
While ‘overpersonalization’ can easily be perceived as creepy, going too far with personalization can actually result in homogeneous experiences for users. “Placing users’ interests into a narrow segment can cause content to feel boring and even dated,” Nielsen Norman Group states.
Finally, personalization also requires a commitment to agile ways of working through cross-functional teams. The ability to recruit and retain relevant tech talent will be vital for any organization seeking to develop cutting-edge personalization capabilities.
“Personalizing spaces, moments, and ecosystems will require very different skill sets from those of the traditional marketing operation today. In addition to data scientists and engineers, marketing organizations will need analytics translators who can communicate business goals to tech stakeholders and data-driven outcomes to the business.”—McKinsey
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