Evergage - Feed https://www.evergage.comf Real-Time Personalization Mon, 24 Aug 2020 18:12:21 +0000 en hourly 1 See You Again Soon – from Salesforce’s Site https://www.evergage.com/blog/see-you-again-soon-from-salesforces-site/ Wed, 19 Aug 2020 17:51:11 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58318





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As we shared recently, Evergage is now the new and improved Salesforce Interaction Studio. It’s an exciting, new chapter for our team, our customers and the industry – where we can bring “The Power of 1” to many more companies, and see our vision for and commitment to real-time, 1-to-1 personalization realized to an even greater degree. We look forward to having you join us on the journey!

With our new name, post-acquisition, comes a new web presence too: on the Salesforce Interaction Studio product page. We will retire the Evergage website, along with our blog, newsletters and social handles, as of  August 27th. While we bid a very fond farewell to the site and to the Evergage name, our award-winning technology and our promise to innovate, will, of course, persist. 

What will also remain with us are many wonderful memories of the Evergage era! I hope you’ll humor me as I recall a few special, fun ones.

Looking Back

Here are a handful of reflections and prized memories:

  • Our many customer conversations and interactions. This is what’s been most important to us and our driving force from Day One! We’ve loved learning about, addressing and anticipating your needs, and using your insights and feedback to make our product better and better.
  • The Evergage Personalization Summits. In the six years we hosted this event, we saw the personalization space, along with the strategies companies use, mature significantly. The event speakers – from customers and practitioners, to analysts and other thought-leaders, to magicians (!) and more – were inspiring, and told stories that helped attendees genuinely improve their personalization programs.
  • Evergage’s full-length, award-winning personalization book – a true labor of love! Now in its second edition, the book describes how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning enable 1-to-1 personalization at scale, and how companies can deliver on this. Forbes had praised this “first-ever industry publication,” noting that Evergage “literally wrote the book on personalization.” We agree, and we’re very proud of it.
  • The esteemed “Professor E” – Evergage’s unofficial mascot. Let’s put this to rest – he’s a red panda (see 0:33), not a fox!
  • Gatecrashing the Adobe Summit in 2017, in Las Vegas, with some creative and fun-spirited “guerilla marketing.” With a giant mobile billboard (driving up and down the Las Vegas strip), a larger-than-lifesize turkey mascot (representing Adobe), a sense of humor and more, our team aimed to show attendees flaws in Adobe’s approach to personalization, and how Evergage enables 1-to-1 experiences in true real time. (You can reminisce about our exploits, and even see our turkey dancing with “Elvis,” in this 1-minute video and through coverage on The Next Web, CMSWire and more.)
  • The dozens of awards we’ve won over the years (CODiEs, Stevies, etc.), and the analyst reports where we’ve been mentioned. For example, Evergage was named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines1 – all three times, in the report’s three-year history. In this year’s report, we were positioned furthest for “Completeness of Vision.” Evergage was also ranked a Leader in The Forrester WaveTM: Digital Intelligence Platforms, Q4 2019; named “Global Company of the Year in Personalization Engines” by research firm Frost & Sullivan; and included in hundreds of other analyst reports.
  • Sharing the news of our acquisition by Salesforce – first to a jam-packed room of jubilant Evergagers, and then to our customers and the industry at large. This milestone has represented the culmination of years of hard work, building a flexible, industry-leading platform, and it’s only the beginning! Now, combined with the reach, reputation and resources of Salesforce, we’re excited to help many more companies improve the relevance and effectiveness of their customer interactions.

Looking Forward

As Evergage, we’ve never faltered from our mission of personalizing the world; our platform has enabled companies to deliver relevant, tailored experiences to billions of people globally. And now, as Salesforce Interaction Studio, that impact will be even greater, and our mission can be fully realized – reaching organizations from every industry and of all sizes to truly democratize real-time, 1-to-1 personalization.

Thank you, again, for being a part of this exciting and continuing journey. Thanks, especially, to our talented and dedicated team, and to our customers for helping us get here and driving us to continually innovate. And thank you to our blog readers, too, for reading and valuing the content we’ve produced. We’ve always strived to put thought-leadership first, with promotion taking a backseat.

For those seeking more personalization and marketing resources, you can find them in the Salesforce Resources Center. The marketing subset of the Salesforce blog also features helpful tips, tricks and insights too, so please subscribe

Thank you again from Evergage – and, now as Salesforce, see you soon! 

Disclaimer: Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
1Gartner, Inc., Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines, Jennifer Polk, Claire Tassin and Jason McNellis, July 13, 2020.

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Andy Zimmerman
Where Do You Stand with Cross-Channel Maturity? https://www.evergage.com/blog/where-do-you-stand-with-cross-channel-maturity/ Wed, 05 Aug 2020 14:35:11 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58307





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Have you ever had experiences and interactions across a brand’s channels that just don’t connect? Maybe you bought something on a favorite retailer’s website… yet you’re still followed by ads for it across the Internet. Or maybe, after filling out an account application online, you find the call center agent you’ve reached has no knowledge of that, and you’re back to Square One. (Argh!)

As a consumer, you probably wish your experiences like these could be more cohesive. And as a marketer or marketing technologist, you know that’s often easier said than done.

In our annual research study on personalization trends, conducted with Researchscape International, we found that nearly half of organizations (47%) say they have “just a few” of their brand’s channels connected (down from 53% last year). On top of that, 23% don’t have any of their channels connected – precluding the delivery of personalized experiences from one touchpoint to the next, and preventing customers from picking up where they left off.

The issue isn’t that companies don’t want their customers and prospects to have logical, sequential and relevant interactions. Of course they do! Organizations often face challenges though: in the form of a lack of know-how, bad data or seemingly impenetrable data silos.

Cross-Channel Maturity Table

A first step to overcoming cross-channel and omnichannel challenges is to identify where you fall in terms of maturity. In our own conversations with companies, often see them at varying stages, represented below:

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Here’s a quick explanation of these stages:

  • Beginner: Here, marketers are typically personalizing only one digital channel. Only one team is involved in these efforts, and primary challenges include getting started, defining strategies and working out a repeatable process.
  • Intermediate A: Marketers have progressed to personalizing two or three digital channels. Difficulties include coordinating across the various teams involved.
  • Intermediate B: On this other intermediate path, marketers are deploying personalization in just one digital channel (as with the beginner stage). However, they’re syncing data from multiple systems and channels to deliver better-targeted experiences. Challenges typically arise around data coordination and integration.
  • Advanced: Advanced programs and strategies incorporate human elements – such as in a call center, in a store or branch, or from sales and customer success professionals – in addition to digital interactions, to automatically suggest the next best action, offer or experience for a given individual. Both team coordination and technology integration tend to be the key challenges at this stage.

Advancing Your Maturity: The Role of Data

To improve your support and delivery of cross-channel and omnichannel personalized experiences, you need reliable, actionable, accessible and real-time data – that’s a given. In particular, it’s important to have the ability to:

  • Track an individual’s behavior across channels (not just clicks and page views, but deeper, active indicators of interest: hovering, scrolling, engagement with reviews, etc.)
  • Unite data from multiple channels and systems (CRM, marketing automation platform, point of sale system, DMP, etc.) in a central location
  • Stitch this data together to establish a unified customer profile (UCP) for each individual and account – while bridging together information from known and anonymous individuals, once an anonymous person is identified (by logging in, clicking an email, loyalty ID, etc.)
  • Leverage all your data to deliver personalized experiences in each channel, in real time, at the 1-to-1 level

Final Thoughts

Providing logical and cohesive cross-channel and omnichannel experiences is important to organizations and customers both. Consider these statistics from Salesforce’s recently released State of Marketing report (6th edition):

  • 71% of customers have used multiple channels to start and complete a single transaction
  • 69% of customers expect connected experiences
  • 54% of customers say they get annoyed if they are targeted with an ad for something they’ve already bought

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, technology today enables personalized cross-channel experiences and next best actions, delivered in milliseconds and at scale. To learn how Salesforce Interaction Studio can help – and to see if it’s the right real-time personalization and interaction management platform for your organization – request a demo today.

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Sara Card
Noteworthy Personalization Stats: Salesforce’s 6th State of Marketing Report https://www.evergage.com/blog/noteworthy-personalization-stats-salesforces-6th-state-of-marketing-report/ Tue, 28 Jul 2020 14:27:54 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58300





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Customer data can provide the foundation for relevant, empathetic and individualized engagement. That fact is underscored in Salesforce’s State of Marketing report – released in its 6th edition in May – where 78% of marketers describe their customer engagement as data-driven.

The study describes ways to leverage data effectively: “As customers navigate a series of ‘new normals,’ personalized, empathetic engagement has never been more important. Delivering messages and offers that resonate with an individual’s unique needs and expectations requires deep insights.” You also have to be able to access and activate those insights, of course – and in real time.

Today, in this period of uncertainty, we’ve seen many companies apply data for personalization to reshape, reimagine and humanize customer connections for a predominantly virtual world. The report offers insights on why that’s important and how technology is helping.

While the data for this study was collected in January and early February (largely pre-pandemic in many places), as Salesforce points out, the values that marketers cite – including a relentless focus on the customer experience; a commitment to helpfulness, relevance and trustworthiness; and the continuous pursuit of innovation – will remain important as businesses recover.

The study is chock full of interesting findings, with insights from nearly 7,000 senior marketers at B2B, B2C and B2B2C companies across North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We’d recommend checking it out in full if you haven’t already, and have summarized a few noteworthy stats below, as they pertain to personalization.

The Power of Personalization

Marketers have long known personalization is important. And customers, likewise, know it is too. According to the report: “84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.”

This is very much in tune with the concept of the “experience economy” – something that Sheryl Kingstone, research VP for customer experience and commerce at 451 Research, frequently discusses. As she noted in a recent Q&A on Evergage’s blog, personalization is “at the heart of today’s data-driven experience economy… It follows that brand experiences – not product and price – are going to be the battleground of the future.” Kingstone explains that it’s particularly important to connect emotion to experience, which “involves a revitalization of storytelling to drive more personalized, interactive and often video-based engagements across web, mobile, social, etc.”

The takeaways here: Give customers the digital experiences they want. Communicate with relevance, be helpful, and make it easy and enjoyable for individuals to find what they need. Personalization – particularly at the 1-to-1 level – plays a key role.

Connected, Omnichannel Experiences

It’s important to manage customer journeys across touchpoints in a way that makes sense – aiding each buyer and providing fluid experiences that build on each other, from one interaction to the next. The report sheds light on why this is key:

  • 71% of customers have used multiple channels to start and complete a single transaction
  • 69% of customers expect connected experiences
  • 54% of customers say they get annoyed if they are targeted with an ad for something they’ve already bought (I hear you – that can be frustrating!)

The key to preventing disjointed or redundant experiences across channels is real-time access to real-time data. You can use your personalization platform to synthesize the current behavioral and historical data collected on a person from across your touchpoints – along with data from outside systems and sources – into a unified customer profile (UCP) that powers connected experiences.

The Role of Data and AI

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) across marketing functions has skyrocketed in the last couple of years alone. According to Salesforce’s report: “Marketers report a 186% increase in AI adoption since 2018.” 

Interestingly, the report also shows that the most prominent and pressing use of AI in marketing is for personalization. This is consistent with what we’ve seen in the research we’ve done with Researchscape International: how in the last few years, many more marketers are using machine learning, a form of AI, to power their personalization campaigns. Unlike a rules-based approach, machine learning lets you deliver recommendations, offers and experiences at the 1-to-1 level, and at scale – processing vast quantities of data instantaneously and detecting patterns in a way and at a volume that humans simply can’t.

Machine-learning algorithms keep getting smarter the more data they’re fed. In today’s climate, sophisticated algorithms like “contextual bandit” are able to pick up on changes in customer behaviors and buying patterns, and make recommendations that suit individuals’ shifting needs and circumstances.

The graphics below from Salesforce’s report provide more context on the increasing use of AI.

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More Sophisticated Strategies

No doubt aware of personalization’s many proven benefits – for increasing customer engagement, loyalty, conversions and more – marketers have been sharpening their skills and advancing their toolkit.

Salesforce’s report provides a look at how marketers have improved the use of personalization, among other areas, across their various channels over the past year alone. See the charts below.

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Additional Stats

Check out Salesforce’s full report for more details and trends: including on commonly tapped customer data sources and systems; prevalent skills across marketing teams; cross-functional collaboration and, in particular, marketing’s alignment with IT; the impact of rising privacy standards; account-based marketing (ABM) as a key B2B strategy; and much, much more!

To learn more about Salesforce Interaction Studio, too, and if it’s the right real-time personalization and interaction management platform for your business, request a demo today.

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Sara Card
Evergage is now Salesforce Interaction Studio https://www.evergage.com/blog/evergage-is-now-salesforce-interaction-studio/ Fri, 17 Jul 2020 13:25:11 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58295





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I want to share an important update with you and an exciting part of Evergage’s evolution: Evergage’s rebranding as Salesforce Interaction Studio.

Since our acquisition by Salesforce in February, we’ve been working hard: integrating our organization into Salesforce and developing product enhancements to continue to surpass our customers’ expectations. Now, our 1-to-1, machine-learning-driven personalization technology officially joins the robust capabilities and resources of Salesforce Marketing Cloud as the new and improved Salesforce Interaction Studio.

Yesterday afternoon, Salesforce announced a number of enhancements to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, including this exciting news. You can read more details here.

What does this news mean for our customers? We have a new name and the same tireless commitment to supporting their needs with the technology they know and love, and with future innovations. As always, we’re dedicated to helping companies improve engagement, loyalty and conversions – by seamlessly delivering maximally relevant, individualized experiences and next best actions across channels, and all in real time.

To be clear, Evergage is actually replacing a previous version of Interaction Studio – adding depth and breadth of capabilities. The Interaction Studio product page is now updated too, to reflect the capabilities of Evergage.

As Salesforce notes in its announcement, companies and marketers today are operating in and adapting to uncertain times – “forced to accelerate the move to digital to maintain their customer relationships and keep their teams going while working from home” and “reconceptualizing their business models and the customer experience to meet the moment.” As a result, delivering helpful and relevant digital experiences is more important than ever – and for many companies, being able to do so for thousands, millions and even billions of people is key. In these times and always, we’re here to help. We look forward to continuing to service our customers, support and help drive their business goals, and push the envelope of personalization with great speed and scale, with Interaction Studio. Customers can reach out to me or their customer success managers if they’d like additional information. And for others looking to see how real-time personalization and interaction management can drive results for their business, we encourage you to request an Interaction Studio demo today.

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Karl Wirth
Questions to Ask When Planning for Personalization (5 W’s and 1 H) https://www.evergage.com/blog/questions-to-ask-when-planning-for-personalization-5-ws-and-1-h/ Wed, 08 Jul 2020 15:14:05 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58290





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Thinking about deploying personalization or strengthening your program? You may be looking to improve your digital experiences and take advantage of personalization’s proven benefits, related to increasing loyalty, conversions and more. When you treat your audience members like the individuals they are, these benefits often soon follow.

Now more than ever, technology enables you to deliver relevant messages, offers and experiences to your audiences across touchpoints, and automatically trigger next best actions, all at the 1-to-1 level.

It takes some coordination and planning to establish the foundation for success. Especially for companies just getting started, it’s helpful to ask – and, of course, answer – a variety of questions. We’ll look at the 6 key questions as they relate to your personalization planning efforts.

WHO…

  • are we targeting? Think about who you want to reach with your various personalization efforts. This will impact your campaigns and the type of personalization employed (e.g., rules-based, machine-learning-driven or both). In some cases, your targets will be audience segments, personas or industries. You may also want to distinguish between customers and prospects, and new vs. returning visitors. Many times, companies also look to map recommendations and experiences to each individual – and that person’s unique behaviors, history, preferences, stage in the buyer’s journey, etc. – to drive deeper connections.
  •  is involved? Who will help? The size of your company and your marketing organization – along with the channels and touchpoints where you’ll be deploying personalization – will impact the size of your team. We’ve also seen many companies, particularly large organizations, establish an internal Personalization Management Office (PMO). PMOs function as the main personalization strategy, solution and technical resource for the company – serving as the main point of coordination across business divisions. 

WHAT…

  • skills do we need? You likely already have some people on your team who can help implement your personalization strategy – including in roles such as web marketing, email marketing, product marketing, merchandising and analytics. If your personalization solution doesn’t require coding or the involvement of large teams, you can likely leverage the skills and talents of your existing staff. As you dive into more sophisticated strategies, you may want to hire additional resources – such as a director of personalization, to maximize the impact of your efforts. The ideal candidate would have a background in personalization campaigns, as well as experience with other digital marketing campaigns too.
  • content and creative do we need? You probably already have a lot of the content assets, geared toward different personas, industries, etc., within your organization. Still, there may be some gaps, and it’s good to identify these early on, and allocate resources toward their development. For example, if you want to create multiple homepage experiences for different audience segments, you’ll need to write new copy and design new images.
  • data sources will we use? Data underpins a successful personalization strategy. Behavioral data, attribute data, explicit “zero-party” data and third-party data, related to your customers and prospects, will likely fuel your efforts. (See more information on those data types in this recent article.) Organizations often amass and collect that data across their channels, but it can be siloed across teams and systems. Start thinking early about bringing your cross-channel data together into a central system, so it can be part of each person’s unified customer profile (UCP), used to trigger in-the-moment experiences. Even if you’re only deploying personalization in a limited number of channels (for example, just email and in-person), it’s still helpful to collect and synthesize data from other channels (e.g., web and mobile app behavioral data), to determine the most relevant and timely experiences for each individual. 
  • campaigns will we start with? Go for some easy (but still important) projects and wins, such as reducing your homepage bounce rate with a dynamic hero area or boosting clickthrough rates by tailoring calls-to-action. Rather than attempting to boil the ocean, it’s often easiest to start in a single channel, demonstrate success, and then expand the scope and sophistication of your efforts.
  • resources are available to me? It can be helpful to see how other companies in your industry (and even outside your industry) are using personalization, for some inspiration. You can also mine customer forums and knowledge-bases, blogs like Evergage’s, on-demand webinars (like this one) and eBooks. Evergage’s full-length book, One-to-One Personalization in the Age of Machine Learning, is available as a complimentary download, and has information for novices and advanced users alike.

WHY…

  • are we deploying personalization? In other words, what are our goals? Though it’s toward the bottom in this article (because: who, what, where, when, why…), this is actually the most important question to ask – and the first one you should tackle as you begin your efforts. Document your goals with personalization (e.g., improving engagement, increasing email sign-ups, driving more revenue, optimizing conversion rates, etc.), and tie them into larger, corporate goals. Keep these goals front of mind as you evaluate and plan potential campaigns.

HOW…

  • do we know if our campaigns are working? Many platforms natively include A/B testing and multivariate testing capabilities, so you can evaluate your campaigns against a control, measure lift and optimize your efforts. 
  • can we measure success? Think about the goals you set and how you can measure them. For example, do you have a method for scoring customer engagement? How do you measure lift? Is revenue tracking tied to the success of your website? Mapping out the analytics that are essential to supporting your personalization initiatives will enable you to put the reporting aspects in place starting from Day One.

Good luck on your personalization journey! To find out how Evergage can help, request a demo today.

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Sara Card
Case Study: Sweepstakes Company Uses “Smart,” Personalized Surveys to Enrich Knowledge About Users https://www.evergage.com/blog/case-study-sweepstakes-company-uses-smart-personalized-surveys-to-enrich-knowledge-about-users/ Wed, 01 Jul 2020 14:57:33 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58287





Keep on reading: Case Study: Sweepstakes Company Uses “Smart,” Personalized Surveys to Enrich Knowledge About Users]]>
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When you’re on a website and see a survey, does it draw you in and engage you – even adding value to your experience? Although most don’t do this, well-executed survey campaigns should!

The goal of a survey should be to engage the respondent and improve his or her future (and even current) brand experience. As Evergage’s CMO wrote in CMSWire, “taking CX [customer experience] surveys should be a microcosm of what a good customer experience is.”

PCH.com, the web destination for Publishers Clearing House, gets that. The sweepstakes company – well known for its famous Prize Patrol, which surprises winners with oversized checks – is using online and mobile surveys to better understand and serve its users. We’re pleased to share a new case study, detailing the company’s successful approach.

Frustrated with clunky, labor-intensive survey tools, PCH, a longtime Evergage client, turned to  Evergage SmartSurveys instead. SmartSurveys is our voice-of-the-customer (VoC) tool for creating and deploying surveys, and using the responses to improve visitors’ experiences, even in real time. For years, PCH has used Evergage’s real-time personalization platform to deliver cohesive, cross-channel experiences and offers, at the 1-to-1 level, and was glad to consolidate its survey needs with Evergage as well.

PCH provides a great example of how to use surveys to:

  • Communicate with specific users – Previously, PCH was unable to customize surveys with questions relevant to specific segments. Now, the company can show surveys to both broad and highly targeted segments, based on someone’s affinities and behaviors, and also personalize follow-up questions based on the responses.
  • Enrich its knowledge of visitors – PCH deploys about 30 surveys per year, netting more than 150,000 responses that illuminate the needs and preferences of its user base. Each individual’s response is immediately pulled into that person’s unified customer profile (UCP) in Evergage, as additional actionable data points for personalization.
  • Develop best practices – PCH’s team shares tips and tricks for maximizing the power of surveys. Among its advice: keep surveys short, to minimize disruption to the user experience and, when possible, keep them fun! PCH typically doesn’t survey new site visitors, who may still be finding their way around, and also recommends thanking users for their feedback.
  • Plan for the future – Moving forward, PCH hopes to use even more features of Evergage SmartSurveys – including the ability to immediately trigger highly relevant experiences (such as displaying the best-fit sweepstakes) based on the survey responses a visitor just provided, in the moment and while that person is still engaging.

We encourage you to check out the full case study for more details. And to find out whether Evergage can help with your surveying – as well as broader personalization – needs, request a demo today.

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Sara Card
Changes in Personalization – and Personalization During Change https://www.evergage.com/blog/changes-in-personalization-and-personalization-during-change/ Thu, 25 Jun 2020 14:34:10 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58277





Keep on reading: Changes in Personalization – and Personalization During Change]]>
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I love to shop (and I love clothes!). I’ve found, though, that one size never really fits all – any more than one recipe will satisfy all palates or one gift will excite all people.

When I came to Evergage, I saw that “one size fits all” also doesn’t work in the digital realm. Every prospect – who visits your site, uses your app, opens your emails, calls into your call center, uses your chat, enters your store/branch, engages with you on social, etc. – is a unique individual and deserves to be treated that way. What’s more, people often expect to be treated that way, across all their business interactions – as we’ve been accustomed to how helpful personalization can be in our personal lives (thank you, Netflix, Spotify, etc.). 

Of course, deploying a single standard (i.e., uniform and generic) experience used to be the norm for all companies and marketers, but technology has evolved to move far beyond that, and it continues to advance. Now, amidst the turbulence of COVID-19, digital experiences must also become more adaptable to meet customers’ changing needs. 

It’s interesting to explore changes in personalization over time – along with ways that personalization is used during times of change. 

First, Some History

We’ve come a long way since customer experience luminaries Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D, urged marketers to dream of individualized digital communications in their seminal book, The One to One Future, published in 1993. They planted the seed – predicting that “using the new media of the one-to-one future, you will be able to communicate directly with consumers, individually, rather than shouting at them, in groups.”

Still, nearly two decades after their prediction, shouting at groups remained the predominant form of “personalization.” For a long time, online personalization created 1-to-many experiences: that is, one experience delivered to many people based on their shared characteristics (e.g., first-time visitors, repeat buyers, loyalty program members, etc.) and deployed via manually created rules. True – rules can be applied to broad or even very narrow segments. But the more targeted and relevant you want to get, the more rules you need to make – introducing greater (sometimes unmanageable) complexity and requiring significant time investments (for creating and testing rules, and unraveling them to make even minor adjustments). For a long time, fully personalized, unique, 1-to-1 experiences remained beyond reach. 

That unattainability has dissipated though, thanks, in large part, to machine-learning algorithms and real-time processing. Machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence (AI), instantly processes vast quantities of customer and prospect data, and uses predictive analytics to determine the most relevant experience – in real time, at the individual level and, importantly, at scale.

Check out our CEO’s book, One-to-One Personalization in the Age of Machine Learning, released in its second edition late last year, and his blog post on personalization over the last decade for additional history and context.

Changes Today

Advances and other changes continue to shape the industry today. Some of these forces of change include:

Machine Learning – As mentioned, personalization is becoming increasingly advanced as more and more marketers harness the power of machine learning. Our recent research data, collected with Researchscape International, shows the technology’s accelerating growth – with 26% of marketers employing it to power their personalization efforts in 2018, 40% in 2019 and 46% today. Oftentimes, we see marketers use both rules and machine learning for a multifaceted personalization strategy – delivering individualized experiences within specific segments. Marketers also often look for platforms with a “white-box,” human-guided approach to machine learning – where they’re not ceding control and can get insights into (and the ability to adapt) the algorithms that power their campaigns. 

It’s worth noting, too, that machine learning’s impact isn’t static. Algorithms get smarter the more data they’re fed. Plus, more sophisticated forms of machine learning exist today, to deliver experiences with optimal outcomes for prospects and the companies selling to them alike.

Cross-Channel Experiences – Being able to provide personalization across touchpoints is critical for delivering smooth, integrated and cohesive experiences that build on each other, enabling individuals to “pick up where they left off.” While there’s still a lot of progress to be made here (our survey data shows that nearly half of organizations have just a few of their channels connected, and roughly a quarter don’t have any connected), there have been steady improvements over the years. Unifying cross-channel data (and, as a result, customer journeys) remains a focal area for many organizations, impelled in part by customer expectations.

And progress has been made – as more companies, for example, integrate email and website experiences using personalized open-time and triggered emails. More organizations are also deploying personalized, consistent messaging across their channels (e.g., carrying email and SMS offers over to the website experience; see an example here) and integrating next best action decisioning across their touchpoints (e.g., triggering a message to a call center agent based on someone’s online activity or encouraging a customer at an ATM to complete an application started online).

Adapting to a Pandemic We can’t talk about changes to personalization and digital experiences today without discussing the current climate and changes it has wrought. With the sudden emergence of COVID-19, uncertainty enveloped everyday life, at both a personal and business level, and abrupt change is still a regular occurance. 

With many in-person channels suspended or severely curtailed, these times have actually accelerated the importance of a digital-first business posture for many organizations. Digital experiences are often the only way to engage customers now, and it’s important to use them to foster meaningful, timely, sensitive and helpful customer interactions. As a result, organizations are relying on personalization during this time to reimagine their customer connections for an online-only world. Even in the absence of face-to-face conversations and business interactions, 1-to-1 personalized digital experiences enable customers to feel acknowledged, validated and “seen” by the brands they care about. 

As companies strive to meet customers’ rapidly changing needs with immediacy, compassion and fluidity, sophisticated machine learning also plays a role. For example, to present experiences that reflect what a customer needs right now, not what the person wanted a week or two ago, organizations are using “contextual bandits” – which can rapidly detect and adapt to changing behaviors to recommend relevant items.

Though it’s difficult right now to look too far ahead, when the pandemic wanes, purchasing patterns re-adjust, and businesses begin to find their footing again in a more stable environment, personalization and machine learning will likewise help companies adapt to the next “new normal.”

More Change: On a Personal Note

In addition to the global changes we’ve all faced and struggled with, I’ve also experienced a lot of unpredictability lately in my life (granted, on a much smaller scale!). Since I started my internship at Evergage, it seems like a whirlwind of changes have tossed me in every direction! I began working in Evergage’s office outside of Boston in January, transitioned to working from home in March and will already be wrapping up my internship today! 

During my short time here, I’ve witnessed some incredible changes in the industry – including and notably, Evergage’s acquisition by Salesforce. The addition of Evergage’s real-time, 1-to-1 solution to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud reinforces the importance of personalization, and will allow more customers to be treated as the unique individuals they are. I’ve also seen a continued reliance on and evolution in how companies use personalization technology to meet customers’ changing needs and help customers traverse trying times.

A lot can be learned during periods of change. My time at Evergage has been a journey, and it’s one I can definitely say I’ll never forget! Characterized by change, this experience has shown me the importance of being able to evolve – a lesson that’s also at the heart of delivering personalized experiences.

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Camille Ruykhaver
Overcoming Personalization Challenges https://www.evergage.com/blog/overcoming-personalization-challenges/ Tue, 16 Jun 2020 14:05:21 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58274





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Marketers are increasingly deploying personalization to improve customer interactions and take their digital experiences to the next level. Given its strong, positive impact on customer relationships, personalization may already be part of your digital strategy. But if it’s not, perhaps it’s because you don’t know how to approach personalization? Or maybe you’re just facing a roadblock? You might have questions about how to get your organization on board or be unsure of how to collect the right data to fuel your efforts. Nowadays, you also may be trying to implement personalization with fewer resources or with your team members all working from home. 

We recently published our 7th annual Trends in Personalization survey report, in conjunction with Researchscape International – detailing how marketers view and use personalization, along with benefits realized and challenges experienced. 

Among the key personalization challenges that marketers reported were:

  • Insufficient data and insights (56%)
  • Lack of knowledge and skills (43%)
  • Lack of organizational alignment (38%)

The good news, though, is that barriers like these continue to drop, as technology advances, strategies mature, and more stakeholders see and champion the value of personalization – which is even more important for companies today, as they reimagine customer connections in a predominantly digital world. 

Let’s take a look at ways to overcome each of these challenges. 

Collecting the Right Data to Fuel Your Campaigns 

First, it’s good that marketers recognize that data issues and limitations can impede personalization efforts. Think about it: when personalization is based on bad data, the outcome is poorly targeted and offbase communications… which isn’t really personalization at all! 

That begs the question, what is bad data? Data is “bad” or ineffective when it’s incorrect, outdated, inadequate (not telling the full picture) or siloed. Marketers should strive to feed “good” data into their personalization campaigns – data that’s accurate, real-time, in-depth, modeled/analyzed, centralized (often in a unified customer profile or UCP) and actionable. With UCPs, marketers can synthesize their data, bringing together information about each visitor (known or unknown) – including their cross-channel activity, history, characteristics and preferences – and activate it in real time, for effective personalization. Check out Chapter 4, “Garbage in, Garbage out,” of Evergage’s award-winning personalization book for more elements of great data for personalization – and how to get there. Our CEO also contributed an article to CMSWire, “Good Personalization Hinges on Good Data,” that’s a helpful resource.

It’s important, though, not to think you need to clean all your data before deploying personalization. That could be overwhelming! You might begin by cleaning up data and deploying personalized experiences in one channel – focusing on easy wins and mastering those before moving on to the next touchpoint. With the right technology partner and data sources, personalization is much easier. Some important data types you can tap for personalization include:

  • Behavioral data – to help you understand a person’s interests, preferences and in-the-moment intent. This type of data reflects an individual’s site-wide and app-wide behaviors, including clicks and pages viewed, along with time spent and engagement on each page (hovering, scrolling, zooming, interacting with reviews, etc.). Past behaviors and transactions should also be factored in, to form a more complete picture of each individual’s interests. 
  • Attribute data – including a person’s location, referring source, company, browser and device type. This data is often accessed from the web and from connected databases.
  • Explicit data – such as responses to strategically deployed survey questions, to supplement behavioral and attribute data.
  • Third-party data – purchased from third-party sources, and often including demographic and firmographic information.

Knowing How to Proceed

Mastering personalization knowledge and skills can take a little time. Our recent survey results show that marketers who’ve employed personalization for several years are more satisfied with their efforts than those just starting out. And that makes sense. 

But novices can still have great success with personalization, and you don’t have to go it alone. For example, you can tap:

  • Your technology partner – for help and inspiration with campaign ideas and execution, plus, of course, technology know-how. 
  • Resources – including customer forums and knowledge-bases, blogs like Evergage’s with helpful tips, on-demand webinars, articles, and Evergage’s full-length book – One-to-One Personalization in the Age of Machine Learning – available as a complimentary download.
  • Content and strategy partners – who can help you devise, design and implement campaigns.
  • Machine learning – for automatically defining audience segments, predicting next best actions, and selecting and delivering 1-to-1 offers and recommendations at scale. Today, with consumer needs and preferences rapidly changing (e.g., with former shoppers of office attire now often buying athleisure wear), machine-learning algorithms like contextual bandits are able to detect changes in customer behavior and deliver appropriate recommendations on the fly. (In addition, with human-guided machine learning, marketers can have insight into and help adapt the algorithms that govern their campaigns.)

Also, of course, consider selecting a real-time personalization platform that makes your life easier! With Evergage, marketers working anywhere can rapidly devise campaigns, launch them, test them and iterate, all without the need for IT support.

Getting Your Organization Aligned and On Board 

Showing value is typically the most important thing you can do to get organizational stakeholders on board. By setting goals for your personalization campaigns, measuring results and then socializing them, it’s much easier to drive organizational alignment, overcome objections and build momentum.

This might give rise to an interesting paradox – that is, to drive more meaningful results you have to first show results, right? That’s why it’s often important to start with easy (but important) projects and wins – such as reducing your homepage bounce rate with a dynamic hero area, increasing webinar sign-ups with targeted promotions, boosting clickthrough rates by tailoring calls-to-actions, increasing email captures with a time-based sign-up form, etc. Once you’ve demonstrated value, people will likely be clamoring for you to tackle additional priorities.

In larger companies, in particular, a personalization management office (PMO) can also help streamline activities and drive alignment. A PMO acts as the main personalization strategy, solution and technical resource for an organization, serving as the point of coordination across business divisions. By having representation from multiple teams from across channels, the PMO ensures personalization goals and strategies are in sync – preventing disjointed outreach and confusion, and creating cohesive, cross-channel experiences. 

Final Thoughts

Although challenges may arise on the path to personalization (and these challenges may even be exacerbated in today’s times), these tips and approaches hopefully can provide you with tools and support to not just proceed, but succeed. Remember, when implementing personalization, rather than trying to boil the ocean, it’s often helpful to take a crawl-walk-run approach that will prepare you for more sophisticated strategies later on. With effective personalization, you’ll be able to provide unique, helpful, timely experiences along each step of your customers’ and prospects’ journeys – leading to measurable benefits like improved engagement and conversions, and stronger customer relationships. 

We’d love to help. To see if Evergage can be the right real-time personalization and interaction management platform for your company, request a demo today.

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Camille Ruykhaver
Profiles in Personalization: Analyst and Writer Geoffrey Bock https://www.evergage.com/blog/profiles-in-personalization-analyst-and-writer-geoffrey-bock/ Tue, 09 Jun 2020 14:26:20 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58268





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We’re excited to bring you the next featured expert in our “Profiles in Personalization” series. These insights come from technology analyst and writer Geoffrey Bock

Geoff-Bock

Geoff is the principal of Bock & Company, a consultancy and research firm focused on technology innovation and the future of business in the digital age. He is an expert on content and digital experience technologies – having authored hundreds of in-depth reports, case studies and articles on their use cases and business impacts. A frequent writer for TechTarget (covering personalization, among other topics), Geoff also advises enterprises on ways to create, organize, publish and syndicate information online to build business relationships.

We’ve known Geoff for a long time as a go-to source on digital experience trends and topics. Read on for his insights and valuable advice on personalization:

Q: With so much business being conducted online only right now, what’s the role of personalization?

A: Right now, with many businesses open only through online channels, it’s important to use those channels effectively – providing visitors with high-quality digital experiences. This includes making it quick and easy for customers to find what they want, and producing insightful product recommendations, content and experiences tailored to each individual’s preferences and affinities. Personalization can help make this happen.

Post-pandemic, personalization is going to become an even more important part of companies’ branded experiences. When time is of the essence (and even when it’s not...), it’s certainly nice when an online store remembers what you bought last time.

But personalization is only one aspect of branding, and remembering past purchases is different from predicting what other things customers might want or need. Digitally savvy firms are going to map customer journeys – designing the steps that customers will take as they engage and do business. Firms will streamline some of these steps by personalizing decision-points – in many cases, employing machine learning to anticipate customers’ actions and also recommend the next best actions to take.

 Q: You’ve reported on personalization quite a lot over the years. What changes and trends have you seen that marketers should pay attention to? 

A: Personalization is becoming much more pervasive and easier to accomplish. So much of our digital identities are available online – every visit, every web page viewed, and every click is likely to have been recorded. 

Collecting data about digital events is the easy part – making sense of the data is much harder.

Marketers are going to need better tools to model personalized experiences. This begins by identifying the significant signals they should be tracking and then designing the processes for interpreting the results.

Q: What are some benefits companies can expect to achieve from personalization?

A: The anticipated business benefits of 1-to-1 marketing are rapidly coming to fruition in today’s digital age. When companies help their customers save time and get what they want at a price they can afford, firms are invariably going to increase sales. At issue is the cost of sales, the upfront investments required to deliver the personalized results. 

Companies should develop a roadmap charting a two-to-four-year plan into the digital future and then make strategic investments in light of these plans. And they should build in the agility to be prepared for unexpected events – such as the recovery from the pandemic in which firms around the world are now engaged.

Q: What’s next for the field of personalization?

A: Companies are going to need better modeling tools for transforming customer data into personalized experiences. These tools are going to help marketers recognize patterns in their data that they might not necessarily have noticed. Machine-learning algorithms, for example, are showing promise in automatically defining audience segments and continue to aid in delivering 1-to-1 personalization at scale. 

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Sara Card
How to Use Personalization to Strengthen Customer Connections https://www.evergage.com/blog/how-to-use-personalization-to-strengthen-customer-connections/ Wed, 03 Jun 2020 18:24:39 +0000 https://www.evergage.com/?p=58261





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Raise your hand if you know how to thoughtfully and successfully execute marketing campaigns in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Twelve weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic and it still feels like we are in uncharted waters. Both personally and professionally, every day presents new challenges – and at the same time, new opportunities – to demonstrate empathy, compassion, helpfulness and humanity, amidst waves of uncertainty and change. 

For e-commerce marketers (as well as others in the marketing field), this means reevaluating how you’re communicating with your prospects and customers. From the language you use in website copy to the products you promote on your homepage, there are many ways to demonstrate to your customers that you’re able to meet them where they are (which is likely quite a different place from where they were just a few months ago). 

Last week, we held a webinar with Evergage Chief Customer Officer Jonathan Ranger and e-commerce leaders Brandon Cohn from online men’s retailer Huckberry and Asim Shaikh from skincare and beauty products site Dermstore. During the discussion, the speakers examined how marketers at leading companies are changing the way they operate and using personalization to strengthen connections with their customers and prospects online. In this blog post, I highlight a couple of simple-yet-powerful use cases that were discussed and show how e-commerce marketers are responding to changing customer behavior and delivering relevant, individualized experiences in the current business climate.

Boost Newly Trending Categories 

It’s safe to say that collective shopping habits have changed quite a bit over the past few months. Products that were popular back in February might not be in such high demand now and vice versa. For example, a clothing retailer that typically deals in office attire has likely seen a shift in buyer behavior toward more comfortable, work-from-home-friendly products.

Machine-learning algorithms can detect and respond to changes like these in customer sentiment and behavior, creating relevant experiences for right now. In addition, this is a good time to use human-guided machine learning to extend the power of your algorithms. By “boosting” different product categories (that is, prioritizing them based on each individual’s behaviors and preferences, current trends and corporate objectives), businesses can communicate to their customers that they’re listening attentively and responding with care.

Then:

Then-Top-Categories

Now:

Now-Top-Categories

You can use machine-learning algorithms to adjust to and reflect customers’ current browsing and buying behaviors. 

Respond to Change Swiftly

It seemed like the work-from-home switch flipped overnight. When that happened, Huckberry, which provides men’s clothing, accessories and home goods, thought about what would provide the most value to its customers. The company decided to launch a sale dedicated to the products its customers would be looking for in that moment

As effective campaigns do, this one started with the customer in mind, enabling the team at Huckberry to remain true to the brand while also engaging customers on a deep level –  in turn, driving loyalty and business impact. Of course, and especially in times of great change, maintaining that level of agility may be easier said than done, but it goes to show that decisive action with a customer-centric point of view can really go a long way.

WFH-SALE

Huckberry used machine learning to show relevant product recommendations to engaged customers (via email and online) as part of its work-from-home-sale campaign.

Engage with Relevant Conversation 

Another example of how to thoughtfully engage with customers came from Dermstore. With site visitors spending more time on the company’s product pages, the Dermstore team decided to start promoting content alongside its products, in the hopes of better engaging customers. 

The goal was to get customers reading more about the products they were viewing and empower them to make informed, confident choices – underscoring Dermstore as a go-to site and resource for skincare and beauty. Using behavioral data to determine individual-level affinities and interests, Dermstore was able to present relevant content to shoppers to engage them in a meaningful way, while at the same time increasing brand loyalty.

DSTORE

Using individual affinity and intent data, Dermstore can engage its customers on more than just a transactional level, displaying relevant content (like what’s above) that educates shoppers and answers their questions. 

Final Thoughts 

There are, of course, many different ways to adjust to the current business climate, and the solutions are not one-size-fits-all. The best way to think about how to respond to changing buyer behavior is to look at the behavior itself, and respond from a place of empathy and understanding. Give customers what they are looking for, even if it’s different from what they’ve been looking for in the past. In addition, use the data that’s available to you to create scalable campaigns that serve both the customer and the business. 

Strengthening these connections and relationships is well worth the time and effort, and it’s something that will serve businesses well even after this pandemic has waned. For more information and ideas, check out our previous blog post, “E-Commerce Marketing Reimagined: Maintaining Connections During COVID-19” and the full webinar replay: “Leading Through Change: How Brands are Using Real-Time Personalization to Maintain Connections with Customers During Challenging Times.”

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Suzy Dolan