How to Succeed with Personalization


In recent interviews with 10 leading chief marketing officers (CMOs), OneSpot was able to gain more insight into why marketing organizations are prioritizing personalization in 2019. Through our research, we learned that CMOs agreed that they need personalization to build and maintain an engaged customer audience. They also agree that personalization is an investment across technology, content, people, and processes to build new and relevant experiences for customers.

At the same time, their understanding of how to achieve personalization at a technical, tactical, and strategic level was less clear. In some cases, CMOs were taking a leap of faith to get started with personalization.

To get started on the right foot with personalization, below are a series of actions and strategies CMOs and their teams can take, based on our work with hundreds of content leaders and brands.

Lay the Right Foundation

While CMOs and their teams are ready to get started right away, personalization is a long game. Therefore, it’s important to establish a strong foundation before advancing into individualization

techniques. Throughout our strategic services work with brands and marketing leaders, we’ve established several foundational layers you should consider before making an investment in a personalization strategy.

It starts with building a roadmap, which we recommend breaking down into three phases:

  1. Prepare and operationalize: During this initial phase, think about how you will establish your brand and content in the first year or phase. Establish your vision for content and personalization. Evaluate your digital ecosystem. Define your customer journeys and how you will enhance the experience through personalization.
  2. Personalization and pilots: During this execution phase, you’ll be focused on carrying out the plans you’ve prepared for and operationalized around. Use your audience insights to consider where content can really help. Start with the pilots that most align with top business objectives and the learnings you’ll need to optimize your content marketing programs. Aim to find success early to build confidence and momentum with personalization.
  3. Scale: Take the learnings and frameworks established in the first two phases and execute at a broader scale to drive greater impact. Also use this phase to optimize and evolve your content marketing strategy into a sophisticated program that has measurable business impact.

One of the major benefits of the roadmap is to aid collaboration with multiple stakeholders, who then agree and support your efforts. You can also use the roadmap to manage up and keep your executive team in the loop on your aspirations (and when you’ll be asking for more support and resources).

Prepare Your Tech Stack

With your roadmap in place, the next critical step is identifying the right technology to help you execute and optimize your personalization strategy. But the marketing technology landscape is vast, and it can become overwhelming for any marketing leader to separate the wheat from the chaff and identify a personalization solution. Here are the four most critical functions and capabilities a personalization platform needs to be most effective:

  1. AI Capabilities: When evaluating a potential vendor, dig into what technology they are using to personalize your content, products, and/or offers across channels. At minimum, some level of machine learning is necessary, but the most robust platforms leverage natural language processing in addition to machine learning to fully address a deep content-based use case (such as encouraging deeper engagement with long-form content). Make sure they have real tech chops behind the pretty user interface.
  2. Content Specialty: Some solutions refer to “content” as images, buttons, and copy on the website. Some might refer to articles and white papers. And others might refer to “content” more broadly as products and offers. Be sure to understand which content type the potential partner is talking about, and if that’s appropriate for your use case.
  3. Personalization Methodology: As more brands invest in personalization, many are confusing it with segmentation. There are many different types of content personalization, but it’s important to make sure your definition and personalization strategy align with the type the technology vendor is set up to deliver.
  4. Data Sophistication: Since personalization relies on customer data, make sure you understand which data the vendor’s system is using to make decisions. For example, are they taking in your data, third-party data, or creating their own as users engage? Are they open to discussing incorporating the data you have or want to power your personalization initiative?

Check out our ultimate personalization technology checklist here.

Dial In on Actionable Metrics

Standard content and engagement metrics like views and visitors won’t tell you if your content is actually resonating with readers who see it. With a personalization strategy, your success is dependent on the ability to measure and track deep engagement. There are four actionable engagement metrics that can give you true insights about your most engaged audience:

  1. Engaged Pageviews: This is the number of viewers that scrolled down the page at least 25% and remained active on the page for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Engaged Time: This is the amount of time a user is actively looking at the page as indicated by scrolling, mouse movements, and clicks.
  3. Click-to-Open Rate: This metric compares the number of people that opened the email to the number that actually clicked.
  4. Active Content Users: This is the key metric that identifies your most engaged visitors who are consuming at least three different pieces of content in a single session

Use these metrics to track a user’s actual engagement with your content, and then the desired action post content consumption.

Find the Right Partners

Rather than take a leap of faith with personalization, brands can leverage partners with deep marketing and personalization expertise to guide the development of a strong foundation and technology implementation. With OneSpot’ Strategic Services, for example, Fortune 500 brands have established highly effective strategies around personalization and content. Through a quantifiable technology and services approach, OneSpot enables marketers to secure a measurable return on personalization (ROP) through deeper content engagement.


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