In my six-plus years consulting for Adobe Target, I have had the absolutely humbling opportunity to work with hundreds of unique and amazing customers spanning every industry under the sun. After countless meetings and calls with teams large and small, it was hard not to notice common threads that wove through conversation after conversation. “We want to personalize our site,” the customer would say. “Awesome!” I would retort, knowingly anticipating the follow-up. “We have these great personas, and we want to target content to them.”
“Hold up” (my inevitable reply).
In this post, I will discuss how to drive true value out of personalization and how to build a program based on data-driven decision-making to make the case that simply targeting content does not a personalization program make. I will also highlight key Adobe Summit sessions that will help you get your personalization PhD. But first — Personalization is not always persona-ization!
Personalization is awesome; let us start there. I get warm and fuzzy when a site or app starts to know me enough to recommend things that I did not even know I wanted. I had been Googling “how long to cook chicken” more than a few times lately after having just bought a new frying pan. The meat thermometer that was recommended to me looked fantastic because I certainly did not want to die eating my first chicken pot pie. So I bought it. True story. Thanks to personalization, I live to blog another day. I also firmly believe that Spotify’s “Discover Playlist” is one of the coolest breakthroughs in music since the start of streaming and that every company on the Internet should be taking lessons from them — a blog post for another day, perhaps.
That said, personas pulled out of a meeting room or boardroom may or may not be valuable, and even if they are, they may be less valuable than simple targeting based on device type, time of day, or marketing channel, for example. The beauty of Big Data is that it empowers us all to let our customers tell us how — and if — they want to be identified, organized, and messaged.
So what am I trying to say? Resist the temptation to think that you and your team already know how to organize and personalize to your visitors. Stay strong and data driven by following these three easy steps to get from testing to personalization.
Test and Learn First
One of the most common places personalization seems to pop up is on homepage heroes; and oftentimes, those are homepage carousels. I dislike carousels, and I would wager that you dislike carousels, too. Most of the data I have collected over close to nine years of testing indicates customers do not like carousels. Does anybody know why we still use carousels for our websites? If you do, email me, and we will write a blog post together — and, likely, make millions.
Ranting about the finer points of web design aside, my point is why try to personalize your homepage carousel if your visitors do not like it in the first place? The road to personalization is paved with the countless lessons learned from having a highly disciplined testing program. Before you start engaging your design team or agency to create personalized content, it is important to understand the parameters that they need to design under first.
So what do I do? One of my favorite things to do is imagine webpages as a blank canvas. Where a business stakeholder sees a 900×500-pixel rotating banner with three slots, I see opportunity. From here, devise a strategy to attack this piece of real estate by focusing on layout, functionality, look/feel, and visuals — the copy, call to action, colors, etc. Perhaps your carousel should have five items instead of three, or three instead of five. Perhaps they should auto rotate — or maybe they should not. How fast is too fast until the next panel appears? How slow is too slowly? Should they rotate? And — wait a minute — should this piece of real estate even be one large offer? What if we have one large offer and one smaller offer? What about six offers in a grid? Is blue better than red? Is Snapchat still cool? What should this thing look like? Above all else, what key business metric are we trying to drive, and how does this design or layout support that goal?
As you can see, the questions add up quickly, and the answers are always fun and extremely valuable. It is also easy to see how your entire personalization strategy can change if you suddenly have a grid of six offers in a space that used to house one at a time. All of these questions relate to just one tiny piece of the puzzle that is your web property or app. Run through this exercise on every part of every page for optimization nirvana. For even deeper insights on consumer psychology and behavior, check out S904 at Adobe Summit this year and learn the 3 key steps to cater to the customer and turbocharge conversion.
But you are not done yet!
Build on Your Tests With Insights From Segmentation
Before you start executing your shiny new optimization roadmap, take the time to add segments to your tests so you can best suss out high-value consumers — no matter what they look like, where they appear, or how they engage with your digital platforms. Even better? Learn about how Adobe Target was redesigned for powerful optimization and marketer control in S905, integrate Adobe Analytics with Target as the data source for your reporting, and unleash the full power of segmentation. This session — Adobe Target: Redesigned for Powerful Optimization and Marketer Control — will help you make the most out of the unexpected groups that pop up who do not look quite like the folks you are normally personalizing against. Paydirt!
The takeaway, in a nutshell? Do not panic about the strangers — AKA, the anonymous site visitors — lurking around your site, the ones who maybe are not getting the kind of relevance delivery they are craving. With Adobe Target’s out-of-the-box targeting capabilities surrounding mobile, geolocation, temporal, and behavioral data, it is easy to augment your own data with third-party info to take your personalization to the next level. And those anonymous users? Soon enough, you will be delivering relevant touchpoint after relevant touchpoint, taking in the real-time twists, turns, and pivots and connecting these consumers with a high-value, highly personalized experience. And just like that, they are not strangers anymore — they may even be your next best pal and brand advocate. Who knows? But without culling insights from segmentation, you will definitely never know.
Soon enough, Target will even be able to take things a step further with automated Segment Discovery — more on that to come, but here is a hint: it is awesome. Check out S906 to learn more about automated segmentation and continuous optimization “Because You Have Bigger Fish to Fry Than Testing Button Color.” If you are a true data geek, we have sessions for you. Keep reading to learn the final piece of the personalization puzzle.
Personalize the Right Way (for Value)
Last — and definitely not least — is personalizing for maximum value, maximum value for both sides. During your testing and segmentation, there is no doubt that some segments or segment combinations shined while others fell short. Next up? Leverage Target Premium’s automated personalization feature, unleashing the machine and ensuring the right consumers are getting the right touchpoints in the right context — all hallmarks of effective relevance delivery. You can even layer in personalization as part of an A/B workflow; it is that user-friendly and compelling to the end user. Learn more about the algorithms used to optimize consumer experiences at Summit in S351, Algorithmic Techniques for Personalization in Adobe Target. If you prefer to go even deeper, unleash your inner data scientist in S909.
So, yes, I stand by what I said at the beginning of this post. Personalization is the best, plain and simple. But to make the most out of the data, resources, platforms, and even talent you have on hand, you have to build out the right personalization program — and that goes a lot deeper than simply targeting content or recommending a meat thermometer. Test and learn, use segments to build on those results, and be sure you are personalizing for all-around value, and without a doubt, you will be on the path toward optimization success. To see what all of this looks like in real life, check out S911 at Summit to make your vision a reality and build a personalization roadmap.
Until then, though, can we cool it with the carousels? Thanks. (edit)