Article

Think small to deliver personalisation at scale

8 Nov 2018

Posted by Helen Whittaker

Consumer expectations for highly-personalised products and services are growing. To stay relevant, brands consider personalisation a key priority for their businesses in 2018.

However, delivering high levels of targeted personalisation with the immediacy that consumers demand can be complex to design, configure and maintain. Many brands find themselves facing a number of barriers that prevent them from delivering personalisation or they become overwhelmed with the perceived enormity of the task and fail to deliver as a result.

At Great State, we believe that delivering in small rapid delivery cycles is the answer to overcoming these challenges and enables brands to deliver personalisation at scale.

Drive commitment from the top

You may find that there is either a lack of customer focus within your organisation or a lack of understanding or commitment from the C-Suite, which is preventing you from implementing personalisation.

Delivering in small cycles can help you gradually provide reassurance to the business, increasingly build confidence to understand the value of a customer-centric approach, define the ROI that personalisation can create and support the business case for further investment.

Don’t use a “sledgehammer to crack a nut”

Even when you do have buy-in from the business, you may still find that you don’t have fit-for-purpose technology within the organisation to deliver personalisation. It is vitally important to lay solid foundations by selecting platforms that support both the immediate needs and future aspirations of your business.

Many brands leverage complex technology platforms such to facilitate personalisation. The Sitecore Experience Platform is used by a number of our clients, for example. It is well-equipped to provide this capability, with a mature and comprehensive suite of personalisation and advanced marketing automation features, enabling brands to drive one-to-one personalisation at scale.

However, with so much promised functionality at your disposal, it can be easy to feel compelled to use all of your selected platform’s capabilities immediately, especially if there is pressure to prove ROI on the investment. This can quickly turn into a large complex project that may never see the light of day. It is essential that you first identify the business challenge(s) you are trying to solve, informed further by any consumer insight you can harvest. From there you can define a programme of short, focused delivery cycles which utilise only the functionality required to fulfil each requirement, get results quickly and progressively build upon it.

Don’t drown in data

The technology platform isn’t the only imperative that is required for personalisation. Data is also crucial, whether it is implicit behavioural data on how your customers are interacting with your brand, explicit customer personal information collected in a CRM system, or third-party data that allows you to personalise on location. Without data, personalisation simply doesn’t work. So, it isn’t a surprise that this needs to be one of the first areas for focus when implementing personalisation. However, focusing too heavily on collecting huge volumes of data can cause a number of ancillary problems.

Firstly, collecting and processing large volumes of data can be a lengthy process. By the time you have sanitised, de-duped, aggregated, segmented, navigated and agreed the necessary levels of security and compliance, it can be some time before you are able to start reaping the rewards. Or, maybe you have already amassed a large repository of data which is out of date or has become unwieldy to manage. In this case, you will find it difficult to get insight from it.

Sitecore does provide support for data collection with the Experience Database (xDB), a managed cloud service which allows you to start collecting implicit, anonymised, behavioural data immediately. This removes the burden on your IT department to worry about the infrastructure and ongoing management of collecting large volumes of data. xConnect, an API service layer, can ingest data from a wider array of data sources (e.g. voice assistant, epos) to further enrich the dataset.

But before you start to draw in all of the wider data sources, first consider concentrating on the known datasets you have available; the low hanging fruit. By building up the data in small incremental steps, you can focus on quality over quantity and test and learn to understand how best to satisfy the business requirement(s) and ensure data accuracy to more quickly see results.

Plugging the skills gap

Finally, the biggest barriers faced by many brands to delivering personalisation at scale is a skills shortage within their organisation and a lack of capacity to maintain the programme. The time required for the ongoing management increases as the complexity of the personalisation rules grows exponentially. As technology evolves, new specialist roles will start to become a requirement and more commonplace (e.g. data scientists, cognitive copy writers).

Sitecore has started to lay the foundations to support this need with Cortex, which harnesses the power of AI and embeds machine learning into the platform to provide advanced intelligent automation capabilities. This will start to reduce the overhead of the on-going configuration and maintenance on the marketing teams.

However, by delivering in small cycles you can understand the level of capacity you require and scale the resources and/or levels of personalisation gradually in a controlled way so not become overwhelmed. You may also find that some of the fundamental skills you need already exist, disparately placed within other disciplines and departments inside the organisation. This approach will enable you to identify where the skills’ gaps are and either recruit for new roles to fulfil them or consider using it as an opportunity to upskill internal members of your team and build the capability progressively.

Helen Whittaker
Posted by Helen Whittaker

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