If you’re pursuing personalization as part of your marketing strategy, you’ll know how important data is to the end result.

After all, it’s hard to give each customer a tailored experience if you don’t know who they are, how they shop or what they’re trying to achieve.

But knowing that data matters is only the first step on the path to personalized CX. It’s how you manage that data that determines whether you find success.

So how do you make sure you’re managing data in the right way?

It comes down to having the right data and being able to use it at any touchpoint. Sound simple? Actually, it is – so long as you have the right strategy and the right technology behind it.

Chapters:


Planning for Personalization

Before you do anything else, define what a personalized customer experience should look like in the context of your business.

You probably already have an idea of the types of interactions you’d like to personalize. Still, it’s worth documenting some concrete scenarios.

Start by working through a few key questions:

  • What are your brand’s touchpoints and how will you personalize the experience at each?
  • What do your customers value in a personalized experience? What helps them and what creeps them out?
  • How will personalizing these interactions create value for your business – and how will you measure it?

Your answers to these questions will form your personalization strategy. And that will help you decide what data to collect, who needs access to it and what tools you’ll need to make it work.

The most important thing to keep in mind as you do this is value. Personalized experiences must create value for the customer in order to create value for your business.

As you plan, ask yourself: “If we personalize this, will it help the customer do business with us and build a connection to our brand?”

This helps you ensure that you’re not personalizing things for the sake of it, plowing effort into areas that will have little impact, or coming off as creepy.

It’s also important to make sure that you’re considering the whole customer experience – even those moments that aren’t owned by marketing. When the customer journey is only personalized here and there, it won’t make customers feel recognized or appreciated.

So, collaborate with other customer-facing departments (like the support team, for example) to map out what a consistent experience looks like.

Once you know what you want to personalize, and how, you’ll be able to manage your data in a way that serves these goals.


Collecting the right data

How well your personalization strategy plays out often depends on the quality of the data you have to work with. And this is where many businesses fall down.

Whether SMEs or large enterprises, a lot of organizations simply don’t have enough of the right data about their customers to do any meaningful personalization.

There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • A lack of clarity around what data needs to be gathered
  • Legacy technology that doesn’t capture much information
  • GDPR / legal concerns or a lack of consent

Fortunately, if you’ve already mapped out what your personalized experiences will look like, you should have a clear idea of what data you’ll need.

At this stage, it’s worth doing a data audit to see what information you already hold and whether there are any gaps. Remember to involve other relevant departments in this process, to get a clear view of the data you have across the business.

From there, you might find that some of the systems you use aren’t collecting the right types of customer data. If that’s the case, consider upgrading to a new platform with more advanced capabilities.

Of course, even when you know what information you need and how you’ll collect it, there’s still the challenge of convincing customers to share it. The key here is to make the value clear.

Your strategy should outline the benefits that personalization brings to the customer – things like making their shopping experience more convenient or helping them find the products they’re interested in faster.

The key is to communicate this value to customers at the point of data collection. When you can do this effectively, they’ll be more likely to give consent.


Breaking down silos

Having the right data is essential – but if you can’t apply it across the customer experience, it won’t have much impact.

Yet in many businesses, each team relies on its own siloed data to shape whatever aspects of the customer experience it’s responsible for.

The digital marketing team uses data collected by the marketing automation platform; the ecommerce team uses data gathered through the website; the customer service team uses data stored in the CRM and so on.

But when this happens, the customer experience is much more likely to become fragmented and impersonal.

If the marketing automation software doesn’t know that John just bought Product A yesterday at full price…

…or if the customer service team doesn’t know that Sarah, who’s trying to return Product B, spent twice as much as the average customer last month…

…their experiences of your brand are never going to be as personalized and seamless as they should be. And that impacts the customer relationship.

For end-to-end personalization to become a reality, each team (and the systems they use) must have a single, consistent source of customer data to drive their decisions.

The solution is part technology and part culture. To get everyone working off the same set of data, you’ll need a platform that facilitates sharing information between various systems.

Some of your platforms may already be able to link to each other (ecommerce and marketing automation is a common pairing, for example). But a few connections here and there won’t be enough.

Consumers expect your brand to remember the relationship they have with you on every channel.

And that means hooking everything up to a single, centralized database.

Depending on your organization’s attitude to data though, this might take some convincing. Whether it’s risk-averse management, concerns about data security or simply a siloed mindset, many businesses find that culture is a challenge when it comes to sharing data.

If that’s the case for your organization, start by making a good case to senior management. Look for industry reports, analyst perspectives and examples of other businesses that have had success.

You may also find that if you can show the impact of a few teams sharing their data, it will be easier to get others on board. It’s ok to start small as long as you’ve got a plan in place to expand your efforts across the business.

Talk to vendors and see if you can find a low-cost (and low-risk) way to test things out.

Without business-wide buy-in, you’ll struggle to see your personalization efforts truly succeed.


Choosing the right platform

Once everyone’s on board, how do you go about selecting the best platform to manage your data?

At the very least, the solution you choose should be able to do three key things: integrate your data, unify it, and make it accessible to other systems.

Start by looking for a platform that offers APIs, not just packaged integrations. When it comes to joining up business-wide data, you’ll want the flexibility that APIs can offer.

And because the data will likely be in a variety of formats, your chosen platform will also need to have a solution for unifying it.

Look for software that can link behavior, preferences, and other data from different systems to the same customer. The aim is to have a single profile for each person, not a central database full of duplicates.

Finally, you’ll want a platform that can share the compiled data with other systems that might need it to personalize an interaction. Look for a solution that can push data out as well as ingest it.

You’ll find plenty of platforms out there that can meet these basic requirements. But ideally, you’ll want something that goes a step further – both to create better experiences and simplify your tech stack.

So look for a data platform that can do the actual work of personalization. One that, in addition to centralizing data, can also draw out key insight and predict the best action for any customer.

You can leave those decisions to individual teams or platforms, but ultimately they’re just that – individuals. And even working from the same set of data, two individuals might take different approaches to a customer interaction.

And those inconsistencies will undermine the personalized experiences you worked hard to deliver.

But when all your systems are relying on the same decision-making engine – not just the same data – the end result will feel seamless.

It’s kind of like giving your brand one brain, instead of 15. And that allows for personalization that feels truly one-to-one.


Next steps:

  • Define your personalization strategy – and make sure it’s woven into your overall marketing strategy. Decide what the ideal personalized experience looks like for your customers and use this to work out what data you need.

  • Do a data audit and figure out what you already have and what’s missing. Where there are gaps, find out if your current tech platforms or solutions can start collecting this information.

  • Get relevant stakeholders across the business on board with the idea of a centralized database.

  • Start shortlisting potential software solutions for managing your data and creating a joined-up profile for each customer. Consider looking for a platform that can also generate insight and do the work of personalization.