The Practitioner's Guide to Personalization

March 1, 2018 | John Telford
The Practitioner's Guide to Personalization

Personalization. Go to a conference, read a blog, or talk to a software vendor and you will hear that personalization is key to engaging customers and increasing revenue. But what is personalization really and how do we achieve it?

Personalization is the second most overused term in digital marketing (second only to experience). When terms are used this way, covering everything from an email subject line to what type of eCommerce platform you should choose, they lose their meaning and descend into jargon.

At Bounteous, we know that personalization can drive increased customer engagement and greater revenue. What differentiates Bounteous is that at the start of any client discussion around personalization, we define some concepts and capabilities that are needed for sustained success.

When Bounteous talks about personalization, we talk about Personalized Experiences and Personalization Capabilities as two related but distinct items. A Personalized Experience is a unique customer engagement that uses customer insight to deliver the right content at the right time via the right channel to get a user to undertake the desired behavior. Personalization Capabilities, however, are the combination of organizational capabilities including the processes, platforms, and people necessary to produce Personalized Experiences. Put even more simply, an organization's Personalization Capabilities enable them to deliver Personalized Experiences to their customers. Additionally, if you want to create truly engaging Personalized Experiences, you need to focus on expanding your Personalization Capabilities.

Personalized Experiences

When we talk about Personalized Experience, we are really talking about how your brand and/or company are communicating with your customer. The confusing thing about Personalized Experiences is that many people talk about them as if it is black or white; an experience is either personalized or not.

In reality, personalization exists across a spectrum. There are a wide variety of experience types that can justifiably fall under the label personalization.

Bounteous has decomposed the landscape into six main types of personalization that can be viewed as a spectrum from Personalized Experiences that range from Static (yes, that is really possible) to Manually Updated, Optimized, Targeted, Individualized, and even Adaptive.

This is all well and good, and probably reinforces what you already know, so let’s discuss the next factor in the personalization equation, which is Personalization Capabilities. These are the tools and resources that your organization needs to implement a Personalized Experience.

Personalization Capabilities 

Now that you have a general understanding of the broad spectrum of personalized experiences, it’s important to differentiate them from personalized capabilities. If you don’t have strong personalization capabilities, your personalized experiences will be limited. You have to envision the personalized experiences that you want to create and develop the personalized capabilities in your organization to create these experiences.

Through our experience with leading brands defining, designing, developing, and deploying Personalized Experiences, we have determined the six main capabilities that an organization needs to have and improve upon for success.

These include:

  • Recognized and Integrated Customer Profiles

  • Codified Learnings via Models and Scoring

  • Automated Decisioning Systems

  • Intelligent Content

  • Orchestrated and Integrated Platforms

  • Feedback Loop of Analysis and Measurement

Think of it this way: In order for a painter to be successful, he or she at the most basic level needs to be equipped with the adequate resources to complete the task of painting. The painter can’t create a great work of art without the right tools - paint, brushes, and a canvas.

The painting is the personal experience. The supplies are the capabilities.

Taking the analogy one step further, if you already have a great brush and lousy paint, where should you invest your money in improving? You need better paint, right? Personalization Capabilities are the same way. The Personalized Experiences you create will be constrained by the weakest of your Personalization Capabilities.

If you want to deliver more meaningful and relevant experiences to your users, you need to focus on developing the Personalization Capabilities within your organization so you can create that masterpiece of Personalized Experiences.