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Personalizing Your Personalization System

October 10, 2016 | By Gil Canare

  • There are three different types of personalization that can be used in marketing
  • A company’s personalization needs will vary depending on their specific goals and circumstances
  • Matching company needs and personalization types is critical to successful and effective personalization implementation

For more than 10 years, personalization – the capability to deliver targeted content to individual Web site visitors – as a concept, approach and technology has tantalized marketers with a vision of delivering focused relevant content to every visitor at every stage of the buying cycle. Achieving this vision has driven technical innovation in the personalization space, spawning a wide range of technologies and approaches. For marketers looking to deploy personalization to meet their specific business needs, navigating this complex landscape can be challenging.

Making the right choices with personalization efforts requires understanding the different types of personalization, as well as what each type can accomplish and what it requires:

  • Explicit personalization. This type of personalization relies on data provided directly by the user to determine what content and interactions should be presented. Because users must provide information themselves, this type of personalization is most useful for well-defined segments where users can easily provide the identifying data in a reasonably consistent way. Typical types of data used include title, role, company, industry, and geography. Explicit personalization is supported by a wide range of technologies, including content management systems (CMS) and marketing automation platforms (MAPs). Of the types of personalization, it is the simplest to deploy, but success requires an ability define the segments and the rules to determine what content to show, and validate the information provided and the overall quality of the targeted content.
  • Implicit personalization. Implicit personalization, which represents the next level of personalization, is often deployed in addition to explicit personalization. This type of personalization relies on tracking user behavior across a wide variety of marketing vehicles to infer what type of content to present to the user. Because this type of personalization relies on a wide range of data collected without the users’ direct input, it can build a more complex picture of a user. This picture can be used to personalize on characteristics that are more complex and less defined than explicit personalization – including segmenting by stage in the buying cycle, interests or business need. These qualities make it extremely useful for companies looking to drive progression or create opportunity based on complex circumstances. Compared to explicit personalization, implicit personalization requires more complex technology that can collect and analyze a stream of heterogeneous data from multiple sources. Many – but not all – CMS and MAPs support this technology. Therefore, it is important to determine how current or proposed systems can provide this capability. Marketers must also be able to create insight from this data in order to define and refine segments and create relevant content and interactions. Doing so requires the ability to work with large data sets and the use of statistics to determine relationships and correlation. For companies without this capability in-house, agencies or service providers can fill this need.
  • Augmented personalization. This type of personalization, which uses data that does not come directly from the user to drive personalization decisions, represents the most advanced form of personalization. It includes data from third-party sources, such as LinkedIn, and other demographic and behavioral data sources. With this data, the user profile can be expanded to provide more information that can be used to present more targeted content and interactions. When used in conjunction with explicit and/or implicit personalization, augmented personalization can increase the accuracy and speed that relevant content can be delivered. While this type of personalization has clear and obvious benefits, it has steep requirements for deployment: It requires technologies that can support explicit and implicit personalization and integrate additional data seamlessly with the data collected directly. It also requires a source of useful and reliable third-party data that can provide relevant information on Web site visitors. While these technologies and data are available, finding and selecting them can be challenging given the relative immaturity of the market. Care must be taken that the organization’s technology, process, people and skills are ready before this type of personalization is deployed.

As outlined above, personalization has evolved into distinct but interoperable types. To effectively deploy and utilize personalization to meet your business goals, evaluate the types of personalization you should deploy, using this categorization to ensure success.

Gil Canare

Gil Canare is Senior Research Director of Marketing Executive Services at SiriusDecisions. Gil has 15 years of experience defining and implementing marketing strategy for multinational companies across traditional and digital vehicles and channels. He has architected and managed global marketing teams and infrastructures, including online, marketing automation, globalization and marketing operations. Follow Gil on Twitter @gcanare.

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