IT Involvement in Website Personalization Critical
IT Plays an Important Role in Personalization from Start to Finish
The trend toward website personalization is undeniable, and if your organization's leaders haven't discussed it yet it's likely they will sooner rather than later. To eliminate preventable technology issues upfront, the information technology (IT) team needs to be part of those discussions, as well as personalization process each step of the way.
The list of brands using personalization techniques reads like a who's who of digital marketing — USAA, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Sephora, and the names go on and on. And it's easy to see why.
A 2019 SmarterHQ survey found 72% of consumers only engage with marketing messages that are customized to their specific interests. Similarly, research by Maritz Motivation Solutions and researchers with the Harvard Business School found consumers were 40% more likely to click on items recommended based on information they'd shared with the brand, and they spent 31% more time on the product page.
To achieve the desired results, however, the IT team needs to be — and stay — involved, from the earliest planning discussions to implementation to ongoing monitoring and analysis.
Gather Data to Influence Segmentation
The first step of any personalization strategy is to create and define audience segments. While marketing may lead this effort, the IT team can be an invaluable source of information.
Customer relations or membership departments can provide demographic statistics and other insights, such as past activity. But this is only the start of segmentation.
IT has a wealth of technical information to help flesh out the picture. For example, Google Analytics data can reveal user behaviors to help identify what types of content is valuable to certain groups.
Then make sure your website is integrated with your organization's customer relationship management (CRM) or association management systems (AMS) or both to pass the data between systems and leverage the best-in-breed technology you already have. A big item that is often overlooked is that your systems may have different names or attributes for your segments. So you will need to homogenize the naming conventions and segment attributes or have strict data mapping to ensure integrity among systems and make it easier to get the right data centralized and organized to facilitate the next step in personalization process.
Putting the Pieces in Place
Once the audience segments are in place and content has been created for each distinct group, IT will have to eliminate any obstacles that prevent users from seeing the items that are of greatest interest to them.
Of course, your website will need to identify users and assign them to the appropriate audience segment. Although these automated programs work well, you can also augment this process by encouraging users to create online profiles in which they tell you the types of content they want to see.
Mapping out user journeys also will help your organization understand the pitfalls users face. Not only will this provide some level of validation that users and content are being correctly matched, but understanding the challenges users face could lead to changes in website architecture, structure, and functionality. After all, what good is creating unique user experiences if people can't access the desired content?
The End is Just the Beginning
After the personalization system is in place, the IT team must stay actively involved in order to ensure smooth functioning systems and data integrity. Plus, the ongoing monitoring and analysis can lead to further refinements of the audience segmentation and content strategy, as well as possible changes to the website's structure.
Website personalization is no longer the wave of the future, but the current way of doing business online. With an IT department that is committed to the success of the program from the very start, your organization is bound to reap the rewards of deeper audience engagement and higher revenue.
President Vanguard Technology