AFTER WORKING FOR some time now in the digital marketing industry I thought it would be helpful to share some thoughts about what to consider when developing a strategy for website personalization within a structured process. The model is based on process management and four-phase process model, which has its core principles, based on the Shewhart/Deming PDCA/PDSA cycle.
Process Model for Digital Marketing Personalization offers a way to address the context in which the process of managing digital marketing personalization is continuous in nature. It pulls together specific tools and a step-by-step approach for assessing, planning and integrating the Strategic, Tactical and Cultural elements of a successful personalization initiative.
The model’s flow is based upon an iterative four-box model of process management (figure 1). Depending on how you think
about digital marketing personalization process management, one either begins with Where Are We? by thoroughly defining and understanding the current situation or, alternatively, with Where Are We Going?, creating a vision of a preferred future of your digital marketing personalization program. How you begin is somewhat a moot point because the second step is the step you did not begin with.
The third step, How Do We Get There? consists of creating detailed plans that address the main elements that need to happen as well as the supporting elements that are critical to the quality of your digital marketing personalization program.
Finally, you must ask How Do We Know If We Are Getting Closer? and answer that question by showing progress through continuous analysis of actionable results.
The iterative nature of this model is that it is continuous and never stops asking those four questions. The current situation is updated as the personalization program starts to move in the desired direction, the goals or targets are refined and clarified as goals are achieved, plans are modified to meet unexpected demands or changes in user behavior or other outside influences, and whatever progress that has been established is kept front and center to keep the initiative on track in order to know when adjustments to the process need to be made.
Where Are We?
The digital marketing personalization process for success consists of four sections built around this Process Management Model. The Where Are We? Section provides specific tools to help assess:
Current State of the Digital Marketing Personalization Program – First and foremost it is critical to understand the current state of the digital marketing personalization program. Defining opportunities for success or improvement help identify how much time is needed for initial set-up or reorganization and how soon to expect results. However, it is critical to remember to focus on the process first. Focusing on process should ultimately produce desired results.
Current Measurement Drivers – A new or revamped ecommerce personalization program almost always involves some change to the key measures that used to drive the business. Before new measures can be created, the existing measures that people use to drive the business must be mapped. For example a switch in analytics software or a switch from calendar to fiscal month reporting should be fully understood and validated before moving forward.
Process Initiatives Map – Another factor that makes changes to an existing ecommerce personalization program so difficult is that marketing managers often try to make several significant changes at once. If all of these efforts hit at the same time, it becomes more challenging to measure the planned improvements and derailment of one or more of the changes is likely. Further, what can also make matters worse is that the initiatives are sometimes working at cross-purposes to one another. It is critical to know that in some cases it can take anywhere from weeks or months to fully understand and realize the impact of dramatic changes made to a website by making it more personalized for the customer.
The Where Are We? section concludes by constructing a plan of what needs to be implemented or revamped. By going over all of the various assessments, the manager can begin to create a picture of the various elements that will need to be set in place, changed and improved.
Where Are We Going?
The section Where Are We Going? consists of tools and other approaches to paint a picture of the preferred future that the ecommerce personalization program is trying to move toward. Elements that need to be identified here are based on the targets and goal metrics (KPI’s) for digital marketing personalization. Some questions to consider asking are:
Which are the right audience segments to target?
Are the program goals targeted towards top-line or bottom-line results?
Are these the right goals?
What is an acceptable ROI?
What does the competitive landscape look like?
Does your current business model make sense for this type of personalization?
What are the overall short term and long term goals for digital marketing personalization?
Do we have the right resources in place to fully commit to the program?
Taking a systems thinking view of were you want to take your digital makreting personalization program is critical. All the elements, from data analysis and audience segmentation to resource allocation and commitment, need to be considered and accounted for to begin the journey to where you are going.
How Do We Get There?
How Do We Get There? presents a step-by-step approach to planning and continuous improvement. In the world of digital marketing personalization the success of the program is dependent on:
Integration of Departments and Marketing Channels – Getting to where you want to go requires all departments within an organization to work together for the common goal – personalizing the site experience for the customer. If departments do not work together for the common cause of the customer then you most likely not get anywhere fast.
Marketing channel message is the same way. All marketing messaging should align and communicate consistently offsite and onsite. Offsite marketing is the start of the value stream along the customer journey and messaging should be consistent once a customer reaches the site and begins to browse.
Software – The reliance on software to support personalization tasks should be used in areas that add the most value. Software that has the ability to make audience segmentation thorough and efficient is a great place to start.
Best Practices – Current knowledge of customer segments and industry trends that make the customer experience personalized should be the drivers for increasing revenue, conversion lift and retaining emotionally engaged customers.
Communication – Reporting on the data gathered from a targeting and personalization platform in a way that is actionable should be the only way this information is communicated. Actionable results that are clear and in context are all that is necessary.
Market Stability – As goes the economy, so goes market stability and personalization programs. Positive and negative economic swings will impact sight behavior. In an economic slowdown you might see more customers earlier in the buying cycle who browse but are not ready to buy. In an economic boom you will have more buyers than browsers. Both cases still allow for personalizing the site experience so that it reflects the current economic mood.
How Do We Know We Are Getting Closer?
The final section helps validate and reevaluate the planning and implementation in previous steps, provides a way to track progress and helps with continuous improvement planning around the minor and major successes in personalization best practices. As mentioned earlier, clearly defined and actionable results and other reporting mechanisms that report data in context helps stimulate thinking about new measures or implement countermeasures that can be used to drive the business.
As we know, managing a digital marketing personalization program can be incredibly difficult. The forces conspiring to derail your efforts always seem to outnumber the forces on your side. This Digital Marketing Process Model for Personalization is a resource for leveling the playing field and will help assure your goals are achieved more effectively and efficiently.