Digital marketers today know the importance of personalization. It’s on their radars, their roadmaps, and their Google Alerts notifications. However, with personalization vendors using the same buzzwords and marketing language, it can be difficult to evaluate which solution is the best fit for your business, and how each option differs.
From speaking with marketers in the e-commerce, technology, and financial service spaces on a daily basis, one thing is certain: they want to crush their competition. However, I have come to realize that the way each marketer plans to use personalization to achieve this objective is very different, and it comes back to how they understand the word “personalization” itself.
It should be obvious, but at the root of the word “personalization” is “person.” The best personalization solutions create and store individual profiles for every person on your site, including all anonymous, named and logged-in visitors. That profile should be filled with rich behavioral data including clicks, affinities, actions, and active time spent across the current session and all previous sessions combined. When put to use, this data can be used to drive unique experiences for each person.
It’s also important to note what personalization is not. Personalization is not A/B testing. It is not Account-Based Marketing. And it is not recommendations of the “most popular” or “trending” products. To help you better evaluate personalization solutions out there, here are five questions to ask your prospective vendor. After you’ve defined a shortlist of vendors by researching their websites and their reviews on TrustRadius and G2 Crowd, ask these questions to help you make your final choice.
1. Is your solution truly “real-time”?
Real-time is one of the most vital components when it comes to achieving lift in conversions or average order value. The most important things you know about your visitors should be incorporated into their experiences immediately, including their current session behavior. Yet, some personalization solutions require additional time to process the data. In many cases your visitors’ intent, if it is used at all, will not be factored into the experience until the next time they visit. What if the visitors don’t return to site? What if they return, but this session they are interested in something completely different?
When you ask a vendor “Is your solution truly real-time?” the answer should unequivocally be that the solution considers all data for each visitor from the current and all past sessions, applies any and all personalization logic, and renders the personalized experience – all in milliseconds. For a deeper dive in the importance of real-time, check out this blog post.
2. Once I sign the contract, how long does it typically take to get up and running?
There’s no question that choosing personalization as part of your digital marketing strategy is a commitment of budget and time. So the quicker the software is in place and running, the quicker you can deliver improved results and prove it was the right decision.
Some vendors have very complicated personalization solutions, sometimes taking several months to implement and integrate with existing platforms. Others will only take a week or two. This upfront time is precious. Rather than wasting weeks or months, you should be getting to know your dedicated customer success manager to start brainstorming your first campaigns to smash the competition.
3. How much time per week do I need to spend in the platform to be successful?
We’ve already established that marketers’ time is valuable, so how much time do you need to invest in this platform to see success?
We have found that, depending on the campaign, some of our customers can spend as little as 1-3 hours a week inside the platform and achieve significant lift. They are leveraging their customer success managers to execute the strategies that other customers have already proven work. Yet, other vendors require teams of full-time marketers and technical staff to run their solutions. It’s worth asking each vendor you speak to which bucket they fall into.
4. How can you help me scale my business?
You can’t add a tool to your tech stack every time you have to put out a fire. You might be looking to impact just one area right now (such as reducing bounce rate), but it’s important to think ahead so you don’t have to add another product for your next initiative.
And while you may start with a simple segment-based campaign like showing all visitors whom you detect are in the healthcare industry healthcare-specific content on our site, you want a platform that can do more. You want to have the option to grow into dynamic, machine-learning-based campaigns, shift from website campaigns to omnichannel, and expand from recommendations on product detail pages to search and other areas of your site.
5. What does your attribution reporting look like?
How a solution attributes campaign success will give you a good idea of the depth and power of the platform. Every personalization campaign that you run should be tied to specific goals (such as increase average order value, improve blog sign-ups, etc.), and these goals need to be measured differently. Ideally, you should have complete control over these measurements, so you can get as granular as you want with the data.
Marketers don’t need another homework assignment to figure out the attribution and ROI of their efforts. You should be able to easily determine how much lift each campaign generated to present at your weekly meeting without doing any extra work.
Be wary of black box solutions. Without the connection to a specific campaign or message, these solutions often just provide one number in their attribution reporting: revenue they claim they generated for you. Without a way to drill down, how can a marketer demonstrate the effectiveness of a campaign? If a marketer presented this report at a company meeting, “Solution X made us Y dollars,” the first question would be, “how did you get
that number?” … Sounds like more homework.
BONUS QUESTION: How do you use your own product on your website?
Even if you’re a B2C company, you can still learn a lot about how a personalization technology vendor leverages their own product. If they don't use their own solution on their own website, why would you trust it on yours?
At the very least, a vendor should be able to cite specific examples of personalization on their site when you ask. A better vendor will have at least one dedicated marketer who focuses on using their personalization solution. And a great vendor should be able to give you a comprehensive demo of personalization in action on their own site, showing you how the site changes to provide the most relevant experience in real time and explaining what business strategies each personalization campaign supports.
Choosing a personalization vendor does not have to be overwhelming. Beyond the smoke and mirrors of buzzwords, these 5 questions will help marketers separate fact from fiction, determine what’s real-time versus “next-time” personalization, and distinguish a comprehensive 1:1 personalization platform from a mere point solution.
If you’d like to learn more about what real-time personalization can do for your business, book LB for a personalization strategy session here.