“Personalization” is a term you hear a lot in marketing these days. Research analysts regularly release great new findings that indicate customers want personalized experiences. For example, according to Forrester, 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.

And marketers are doing their part to create personalized experiences. As concluded in our our own report earlier this year, 85% of companies are now implementing some form of personalization. This is great news for both marketers and customers.

But since personalization is so hot right now, every vendor is looking to incorporate it into their solutions to stay on trend. But when everyone is calling everything “personalization,” it can be overwhelming and difficult to decipher truth from marketing claims. So we have written this handy, totally unbiased, humorous guide to help you pick the best personalization vendor for you.

To start, imagine your retail, finance, tech or travel website as a physical store. There are three types of stores you can have:

No Sales Associate in the Store

Not having personalization on your site is like having no sales associates in your store. Potential customers have a generic experience and are left on their own to find what they’re looking for. They come in, browse around, and leave quickly if they don’t find something they want. Only a few find what they are looking for and buy.

guide to picking a personalization vendor

Manipulative Signage on the Exit Door

Perhaps what you need is to make it harder for those customers to leave. What if you could make the door sticky so it was hard for them to leave? Or, what if you could put up a sign that made them feel guilty or stupid for leaving? Something like: “Stop. Keep shopping! How could you not find something to buy?”

Vendors like Bounce Exchange can help you with that. They provide you with some JavaScript for your site and a software program to aid you in creating bounce prevention messages – a sticky door and related message when someone tries to leave your site And for this alone, they charge roughly the same as the major personalization vendors.  

guide to picking a personalization vendor

A “Person” in the Store

You could, of course, put a virtual person in the store to help your customers out. That’s what a personalization solution can give you. However, there are many different vendors on the market that can provide you with a “salesperson.” And they are not all created equally. Let’s meet a few of them.

guide to picking a personalization vendor

Uncle Harry: Selling by Last Week’s Stereotypes

Targeting solutions like Monetate and Optimizely are happy to provide you with a person for your store. But that person only knows how to profile your shoppers and respond according to stereotypes. This salesperson is like your Uncle Harry, constantly making snap judgments about people based on how they look. He is performing segment-based targeting. He is saying that all first-time visitors to the store should get a certain message. And everyone who has looked at shoes should get another message.

Also, like your Uncle Harry, Monetate’s store clerk is incredibly slow on the uptake. He can’t respond to what your customer is doing in the store right now. It takes up to four hours for him to process and understand the actions taken by the customer. Don’t worry, next time the customer comes in, the stereotypes will be applied.

Your job, using an “Uncle Harry” tool, is to load it up with as many stereotypes as you can. This takes a lot of time and effort, and it can feel a bit uncaring.

Aunt Gertrude: Making Irrelevant Recommendations

Solutions like Certona, RichRelevance, and the other legacy recommendation engine systems also provide you with a store clerk.  As your customer browses through your store, this store clerk will make suggestions based on what other people who looked at that same product bought. This store clerk is like your Aunt Gertrude. She’ll say, “did you know that your cousin Tommy looked at that very same neck tie, and he ended up buying this one here. It looked so handsome on him.”  Or, “did you know that just last week, cousin Sheila was here, and she read 3 of these interesting articles on underwater basket weaving right after reading the very article that you are reading now.”  “Did you know….”  

But your customers aren’t Tommy or Sheila. Each customer is an individual person with his or her own unique interests and goals.  

On top of all this, “Aunt Gertrude” is expensive, hard to set up, and very high maintenance.

Frankenstein

You may think that turning to the big players could be the answer. Vendors like Adobe, IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce can provide you with a sales associate too. The problem is that these are Frankenstein associates, cobbled together from multiple body parts hacked off of multiple prior acquisitions and stapled, glued together with a continuous supply of your dollar bills.

Frankenstein takes Uncle Harry’s stereotypes for its left arm, Aunt Gertrude’s irrelevancies for its right arm, combines two separate attribution and analytics systems for a head, and tries to walk around your store with an army of high-priced consultants for legs. Not only is Frankenstein ugly, he is even slower on the uptake than Uncle Harry, taking up to 48 hours to process and understand actions taken by your customers. Your customers will not be impressed, and you’ll want to pull your hair out.

Would you seriously hire Frankenstein, put him in charge of your store, and walk away? Of course not. You will spend all your time managing Frankenstein, checking up on him, fixing him, complaining about him, and hoping for the next release to come out.

A CIA Agent

Finally, you have the overly stealthy sales associates from the “black-box machine learning” vendors. These sales associates don’t allow you to give them any guidance on what to recommend to shoppers. They won’t take direction, and they’ll ask you to trust them to make the right choice because they, and their algorithms, know your business better than you do. Then they’ll tell you how much money they made for you. Not surprisingly, they often claim to have made you more money than is possible.

This is what “black box” solutions are like. They don’t allow you to learn, build, implement, customize and test your own recommendation algorithms to ensure that you are creating the most effective experiences possible for your business.  

Evergage: The Best Option

If this completely unbiased guide has led you to believe that there is no good store associate out there, don’t worry, there is. The answer, of course, is Evergage.

Core to “personalization” is the word “person.” With Evergage’s real-time personalization platform, you can systematically understand and interact with each person that visits your digital channels – one at a time, “in the moment” and at scale – to deliver a maximally relevant, individualized experience. We call this The Power of 1, and we can empower you with it to deliver truly personalized experiences into your website, web app, search, mobile web, mobile app, and email, and empower your sales, support, and customer success employees to personalize their customer conversations too!

We are doing this for leading B2C and B2B financial, tech, e-commerce, travel and media companies.

Don’t settle for a store with manipulative signs, or bad or non-existent sales associates. Discover the Evergage difference. Sign up up for a demo today or, better yet, sign up for a free 15-day Proof of Concept. We’re the only ones offering that too, by the way!

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