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Personalization Pitfalls & Best Practices (Pt. 2)

Uday Kumar Lakkoju

MACH Growth Lead EMEA

Jay Dantinne

Director Experience Consulting
Blog

In part one of this blog series, we outlined eight common personalization pitfalls you need to avoid and discussed best practices for your content, data and teams. In part two, we’ll provide you with 10 best practices for your technology, analytics, messaging and more.

1. Rely on Behavior Analytics

A few years ago, predictive analytics were considered more valuable than behavior analytics in personalization strategies. While they’re still important, you should now rely more on behavior analytics because they define what you need to show users next. Focusing on behavior analytics also helps you capture user preferences in real time, giving you higher-quality data that enhances your personalization efforts.

Another key benefit of behavior analytics is they improve account security by enabling you to quickly detect irregular actions on user accounts. After you have identified unusual behavior, you can then flag or freeze the compromised accounts. This enhanced account security is a major benefit that provides peace of mind to your customers.

2. Personalization Must Happen in Real Time

Personalization can’t be as slow as it was in the past. If your customers finish their journey on your website or app, and then a personalization algorithm determines how to give them better results on their next visit, that is not quick enough. Today, you need to have technology, systems and algorithms in place to ensure that personalization is happening in real time during the customer journey.

3. Experiment with Your Personalization Models Regularly

A person’s sentiment evolves and changes as events happen around them, which can impact their decision-making. To keep up with ever-changing audience sentiment and recommend the right content, you need to experiment with your personalization models over and over so they can become more adaptable. One way many companies do this today is employing A/B testing to experiment with different interfaces. By testing interfaces, you get input and feedback from users that can help you continually enhance your product to keep your systems alive and relevant.  

Another way you can overcome the challenge of changing user sentiment is by employing machine learning models. These models detect a user’s sentiment based on usage patterns and then adapt content to it, to provide a frictionless user experience.

Before you experiment with any personalization models, it’s best to have a dynamic and flexible ecosystem in place.

4. Invite Users to Customize the Point of Interaction

Giving your users the ability to curate content and customize their experience not only keeps them coming back, but also can enhance your personalization strategy because it provides you with the best insights you can possibly get.

However, many users are aware that customization is a method to build profiles on them, so it’s advisable to provide transparency and insight into where the data you’re collecting is going. If you’re transparent, people will be more inclined to customize their experience because they’ll see the value in it.

Additionally, do not force customization – use it only where it makes sense.

5. Don’t Overlook Incognito Journeys

You cannot only focus on logged-in customer journeys in your personalization strategy because many of today’s users access your website or app in an incognito or private browsing mode. Further, there are some large companies that are pushing to use cookieless browsers.

To provide better experiences for incognito users, you need to perform user behavior-based or data-driven personalization rather than trying to build profiles because you will never get data from these users. You should also design your recommendation systems so they can adapt to incognito journeys. To do this, apply unusual methods to your recommendation systems that can tolerate a certain level of inaccurate data, such as heuristic rules or educated guesses about your users. If you use these methods and base them on geotargeting or the time-of-day users interact with your online platforms, they can help when you can’t identify a profile.

6. Don’t Over Message or Over Recommend

Many companies message their customers too much or constantly send the same product recommendations without interest on the other end. If people haven't responded to a message you sent or clicked on a certain product you continually recommend, there's a reason. You need to review your messaging and product recommendations and how they’re being received to avoid this.

7. Don’t Misuse a Great Personalization Strategy

Some companies have a personalization strategy that is so good that it gives them too much useful data about their customers. If this is your situation, you need to limit how much information you expose or how well you personalize content or you may scare them away from your brand.

Companies with exceptional personalization strategies also need to avoid echo chambers. While people are creatures of habit and often outwardly indicate they want more of the same, they tend to grow more as valued customers when they’re nudged into unexpected content. An example of pushing someone into different content in the media and entertainment space is matching someone with a completely new genre of music based on collaborative filtering. Pushing customers outside their comfort zone increases overall engagement and expands their customer profile. 

8. Think of Personalization from the Customer Perspective

Most of the time, companies try to approach personalization solely from a business perspective. If it feels too obvious what business motivation is behind your personalization, you can turn customers off. Therefore, you should try to use personalization when it's going to make things easier for customers and positively reinforce brand perception. For example, if you’re a grocery chain, you could consider using personalization to support your customers’ dieting goals. If you’re a clothing retailer, you could use personalization to enhance your sustainability strategy. Regardless of your industry, you should think of how to use your personalization to support customer experiences or lifestyle goals because doing it successfully is a major brand booster.

9. Leverage These Five Personalization Quick Wins

These five quick wins can help kickstart your personalization journey:

  • Implement real-time content behavior. Link content and intents within your content platform so users always see the most relevant content.
  • Personalize marketing campaigns. Create campaigns that send users to pages that reflect their persona or intent and serve them personalized content.
  • Set up events. Create real-time interactions on pages based on the user journey and use that for personalization. If someone signs up for your newsletter, change the sign-up component to the next best action.
  • Use cookies. Store data on user devices and use the data you collect to enable your personalization.
  • Create buyer journey stages. Develop scoring frameworks to move users forward in their journey based on previous decisions and change content to be relevant to their journey stage.
10. Implement MACH Technology to Jumpstart Your Personalization

The best personalization strategies all leverage microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native and headless (MACH) technology because it:

  • Enables you to overcome the common issues legacy personalization technology presents
  • Allows you to choose exactly what technology you need to meet your business requirements
  • Enables you to roll out personalization rapidly
  • Makes personalization much faster and more flexible
  • Enables you to easily experiment with personalization models and tweak according to feedback
  • And much more

Read our eBook, Unlocking Personalization with MACH Technology, to learn how MACH can simplify, accelerate and elevate your personalization. You’ll also discover how EPAM used MACH technology to launch an agile personalization showcase in just 12 weeks. 

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