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Time, Effort & Expertise Impede Personalization

Most marketers see data as the primary impediment to targeted marketing -- and with good reason. Data can be unwieldy, challenging to collect and even more difficult to organize across channels.

Data presents very real challenges to marketers, but a recent survey by Iterable. found that most respondents cited time, effort and expertise as the major roadblocks to their future plans for personalized marketing.

According to the study, 47% of respondents cited technical resources as being of primary concern, while 41% cited time as the major factor limiting personalization efforts. In contrast, only 24% of respondents chose data as their primary challenge.

We often forget that once the data is collected, the real challenges begin. How do you provide personalized marketing content that is profitable to the brand and valuable to customers?

The reality is that most people talk about personalization and their efforts to bring new strategies to fruition, but very few are good at executing it well. Issues usually occur as complexities increase. A welcome series is one thing, but product affinity becomes more problematic -- even Amazon can struggle at times, as it often displays similar products even after customers have bought their intended items.

Every added decision-point creates a layer on the next and chaos can ensue very quickly for personalization. It’s best to move deliberately and map out friction points from the customer’s perspective to keep experiences seamless.

Customer-journey mapping

Marketers can save time, energy and headaches by mapping out customer journeys. This can also save your entire program. Cue the eye rolls. But journey mapping is extremely valuable. It’s not just a tool for user-experience zealots to pat themselves on the back and show their self-importance. The biggest issue brands encounter with personalization is unforeseen journeys that lead to very poor experiences for customers.

No matter where you are in the process from infancy to maturity, take an in-depth look at your journeys; my guess is you’ll find some areas that could be causing friction with your customers. You simply need to look at things from their perspective and not as a numbers game.

Points of friction can be very bad for brands -- one of our most important goals in today’s climate is showing value to customers for their willingness to give us data. Poor execution can either be seen as creepy or as if the brand simply doesn’t value that customer.

The consequences are often long-lasting and highly detrimental. Merely mentioning Facebook these days brings an unintended shudder, whereas only a mere six months ago, Facebook was still a darling of the tech world. Safeguarding data is paramount, but using it cautiously, when it provides value, benefit and incentive, is just as important.

Keep it simple
Technology has a way of making marketers completely overthink everything. It also has a way of making us invest more time and energy into something we thought would help us save those resources.

Just because the ability to do something exists, doesn’t mean we have to do it. Who said we have to go crazy with dynamic content, GIFs everywhere, product recommendations splashed on every email and 10 different channels spraying the same specific message to customers about why they didn’t complete their carts?

Keep it simple; have a reason for your messaging. Don’t just do it because it’s cool, or because you’re looking over your shoulder at a competitor, or because some agency is pushing you to try exciting new options. Marketers have a way of marketing... marketing. We drink the Kool-Aid too often instead of finding our inner customer and rationally thinking about an experience. Be picky: justify it to yourself and your program, and you’ll not only find a more receptive customer, but you’ll also save time and energy in the process.

Find a partner, not an agency

Perhaps the most important step any brand can take to overcome the challenges around personalization is finding a great marketing partner. Similar to a greedy stockbroker, so many agencies have a one-track mentality when it comes to growing their sales and they’re always pushing “new” possibilities that will make them money, but may not be a great fit for your brand.

Don’t get me wrong, agencies are full of smart people -- I work for one -- but too many have lost sight of their priorities. Great agencies provide great solutions, and they don’t create the problems in the first place. Find a partner that not only provides expertise and a solution to your resource constraints, but that also values your success as much as you do.

Personalization’s future

Personalization has a bright future, but it faces an uphill climb. Those same issues that respondents to Iterable’s survey said were pain points -- time, effort and expertise -- are also causing pain points for customers through bad experiences. The run-of-the-mill bad experience with a retailer usually means a lower opinion or losing a customer, but a bad experience with personalization triggers data privacy concerns or accusations. Because of the current climate with big tech, the stakes are much higher for all of us.

However, if we can maintain customers’ trust while we test and learn how to provide better value, personalization can create great experiences for them to enjoy. Currently, marketers are struggling to maintain trust and show value. That needs to change for personalization to continue to grow and foster better customer experiences.