The world of technology changes rapidly. It’s no different with personalization technology. With each passing day, advances are made that can help you better understand your customers and prospects and deliver more relevant experiences to them. It can be overwhelming to keep up.
To help you get an idea of what will be coming this year, we’ve compiled some predictions for personalization in 2019 from a few experts in their fields and members of the Evergage leadership team. Let’s dive right in!
Marketers Will Look to Improve Targeting with Continuous Learning
The A/B test is a long-standing marketing staple. The challenge with a traditional A/B test, however, is that it only helps you find the best-performing, lowest-common-denominator experience for your site visitors.
The reality is that no two people are the same, so testing to find the experience that works best for most will inevitably miss many opportunities to be relevant to each individual person. The good news is that technology has progressed beyond the traditional A/B test. We now have the ability to rely on machine-learning algorithms to select the best experience for each person — and for those algorithms to continue to learn from each situation to provide better targeting going forward. This is still a relatively new area of personalization, so I expect that marketers will explore how they can deliver even better results with the combination of continuous learning and personalization to produce better-targeted experiences in 2019 and beyond.
A 1-to-1 Approach Will Become a Priority for Paid Media
As organizations mature in their ability to utilize data to drive personalization across their websites and their mobile channels, they are now looking to the next frontier of personalization — paid media. There are two questions companies must solve for:
1. Can I utilize the data that I have about an individual (in a CRM or other digital profile) to drive better intelligence in paid media?
2. Can I utilize information we know about specific media (campaign, products, etc.) that an individual interacted with to determine how to personalize his digital experience going forward?
One of the major impediments to the ability to drive a consumer-centric view of personalization is that many of the platforms companies utilize to understand consumer behavior were configured from the old paradigm of page views and sessions. As organizations move to a customer-centric view to understand all consumer behavior across channels in an easy-to-consume way, there is a need to re-examine not only platforms, but the way in which the data is captured and stored. This year, organizations will work toward getting the right data in place to deliver more targeted paid advertising while driving more efficiency from their display campaigns.
CDPs Will Become a Powerful Weapon for Marketing and Extend Across the Business
The last few years have created more useful data, but proportionally created more noise. 2019 will begin the long trend toward unification of datasets not only within organizations, but across organizations.
In 2019, platform technology will catch up with the personalization needs of marketers today. Data-as-a-Service and Platform technologies will combine, creating a major advantage for organizations that have already moved beyond DMP-stacks and embraced a Customer Data Platform (CDP) approach. Right now, there is more data living inside siloes than there is data that is connected to reveal insights and understanding. That is about to change. In 2019 and moving into 2020, we will see the beginning of that change at scale, as the most technically informed marketing leaders focus on building for the future with platforms that can account for the staggering increase in data.
It's important in these times of change to remember that the information we need for personalization is primarily useful for marketing, but also applicable to other areas of the business. A CDP starts with marketing needs, but unlocks much more. We’ve seen this progression in a few leading organizations already, as CMOs who adopt these platforms find a new weapon to impact the business. The CMO has always been the executive expected to act as the voice of the customer. In 2019, we’ll see CMOs apply that voice outside of marketing, messaging and advertising — and their impact will begin to permeate other functions like logistics, supply chain, even product development. This will challenge executives to work together across teams.
B2B Marketers Will Utilize Machine Learning for Content Recommendations
For years now, B2B marketers have invested heavily in their content marketing programs. The problem is that they’ve created so much content that their prospects cannot easily navigate through it all. They have specific assets for different industries, different buyer personas, different stages of the funnel, etc. But how do they actually get that content into the hands of the audiences it was created for?
That’s a problem personalization addresses, as B2B marketers have discovered, but they have largely focused on segmentation and rule-based targeting. Of course, it has been game-changing to display different homepage experiences to target accounts in specific industries or promote events only to visitors in certain geolocations. But machine-learning algorithms can sift through all the data available on each prospect on the site, or each person in the email list, to select the most relevant content assets for each person in real time. In other words, B2B marketers can leverage machine-learning algorithms to deliver the most effective content recommendations and “next best steps” at the 1-to-1 level.
With machine learning becoming more user-friendly and marketer-managed, coupled with the huge value, scalability and efficiency benefits it provides, I expect we’ll see more and more B2B marketers head down this path in 2019.
Targeted 1:1 Offers Will Become a Reality for Retailers
Retailers allocate millions of dollars to their offer programs each year, yet those offers often are left unclaimed. The challenge is that offers are developed to be one-size-fits-all, as many retailers simply promote store-wide sales to all visitors to drive conversions. But each shopper is unique with her own motivations, preferences, and history with the company. Rather than promote every offer to every shopper, retailers should ensure that an offer is only presented to a shopper when it will actually make the difference between a sale or an abandonment (which adds to the bottom line), not to a shopper who would have purchased without the deal (which detracts from the bottom line).
The dream is to be able to pick the ideal offer – one that has the maximum likelihood of conversion for each individual and the most value to the company.
In 2019, retailers will begin to leverage machine learning to do just that. Machine-learning algorithms can sort through all the data available on the individual, the context of their interactions, each campaign’s performance, and the potential financial impact of each possible offer to select the best one for each person. With this approach, retailers will truly start responding to each shopper individually while simultaneously optimizing the bottom line.
The Financial Services Industry Will Turn Its Attention to Customer Profiles
Within the Financial Services (FS) sector, most organizations cite technology as a barrier to creating personalized experiences. Traditional FS companies have a very well-defined product, but they often lack the technology to market their products across multiple channels quickly and effectively, delivering appropriate content to each individual to meet his or her own specific financial needs.
In my view, 2019 will see the rise of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) in the FS industry. The CDP will become the basis of a clean, well-defined and complete customer profile that the FS industry needs to deliver relevant experiences across channels. This customer data profile, in combination with a personalization engine and a well-defined customer journey map outlining all critical customer touchpoints, will be the key to activating personalized experiences across channels.
Keep in mind that each company adopts new technologies at its own pace. Many companies may just be dipping their toes into the waters of personalization this year. If that sounds like you — and the predictions we’ve outlined here seem overwhelming to you — that’s ok! Take a look at our predictions from last year (many of which are still applicable today) or review other articles on the Evergage blog for tips on getting started with personalization in 2019.