Simon Farthings
Simon Farthings 7 November 2017

Prepare for the unexpected: organisational challenges are one of the main obstacles to true one-to-one personalisation

The concept of personalisation to increase customer loyalty and achieve revenue growth has been around for some time, but with the development of machine learning technology we have now entered an exciting period for marketing teams, as technology is enabling retailers to come within reach of the holy grail of personalisation – an individualised experience tailored to each customer.

However, despite the technological advances, the journey to create truly personal experiences for online shoppers is not always straightforward.

In planning for the transition to the top level of the personalisation pyramid, marketing teams often anticipate and prepare for technical hurdles, such as automating at scale or data integration. However, our 2017 Personalisation Development Study reveals that 91 per cent of senior marketers cite organisational constraints as one of the chief obstacles when moving beyond testing and segmentation. Factors such as earning and sustaining commitment from important stakeholders across the wider business should therefore be considered just as important as the technological aspects of the process.

While personalisation providers can help marketers navigate the technical challenges of implementation, it takes a marketer’s deep understanding of the structure and culture of the business to anticipate the environmental factors that will be equally crucial to success. Based on the findings from our study, we have identified a number of actions marketing teams can take to ensure that their organisation is fully on board and ready to support the personalisation strategy.

Start from the beginning

To make sure the one-to-one personalisation processes work successfully; marketers need to ensure they have strong data about their customers to start with. Understanding your customer segments and analysing the data from your website provides a solid foundation to identify and prioritise the best areas for personalisation.

With a structured process to understand which insights are valuable, you will not be building a personalisation strategy on guesswork and assumptions. This will give your plan the credibility it needs to get buy in from key players within your organisation and ensure your resources are focused on addressing the key areas that need attention.

Document your strategy

A number of studies attest to the fact that that those who write down their goals accomplish significantly more than those who do not – marketers striving to achieve one-to-one personalisation are no different. Setting clear objectives that describe what you want to achieve from personalisation, such as maximising a specific KPI, and incorporating milestones for the journey ahead will go a long way in securing your organisation’s ability to execute against the strategy.

Our Personalisation Development Study showed that documentation has a direct correlation to an organisation’s commitment to a personalisation strategy and its subsequent success. Some 79 per cent of businesses that exceeded revenue goals have a documented personalisation strategy, compared to only 31 per cent of those that met goals and 8 per cent of those that missed revenue goals.

Create financial incentives and budget allocation

Nothing communicates organisational priority like clear dedication of finances. Among the companies represented in our study, those that exceeded revenue goals use financial incentives for personalisation 83 per cent of the time, compared to 23 per cent for those that met and 17 per cent for those that missed revenue goals.

Along with financial incentives, another indicator of an organisation’s commitment is having a budget allocated to personalisation. Companies with a dedicated personalisation budget are the most successful revenue generators, exceeding their goals 83 per cent of the time, compared to 28 per cent for those that met and 33 per cent for those that missed revenue goals. By budgeting and creating financial incentives related to personalisation, brands are making it clear to their teams that personalisation is a priority.

Don’t assume you need huge human resources to achieve results

You might expect that companies with the highest percent of people dedicated to personalisation would have the highest rates of success. In fact, the opposite is true. Nearly half, 48 per cent, of those that exceeded revenue goals don’t have a dedicated person on personalisation, compared to 23 per cent for those that met and 17 per cent for those that missed their revenue goals.

At first this sounds shocking, but it’s a reflection of the organisations’ maturity: it is a sign that they have moved away from experimenting with personalisation and have ingrained the practice throughout the operation as a normal course of business. The most successful businesses view personalisation not as a side project, but as an integrated part of their ecommerce and marketing operations. It is a charter for everyone, not just someone.

However, if you are just starting on your personalisation journey it can be helpful to have an internal champion, so you may want to assign a dedicated resource. As your programme matures, the goal will be to incorporate personalisation into the day-to-day responsibilities of marketing and ecommerce teams.

Following these actions will help you cultivate a shared investment in personalisation to drive the success. Our study shows that anticipating and addressing organisational challenges is linked to revenue gains that far surpass companies which focus solely on the technical hurdles. If you dedicate time and effort to aligning your business culture with your business priorities in the ways listed above, you will be in a strong position to offer better experiences for customers and reap the financial benefits that follow.

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