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GUEST COMMENT How to move from failure to success in your personalisation efforts 

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James Brooke, founder and chief executive officer at Amplience

There’s a good reason why organisations want to deliver personalisation at scale: it increases sales, drives loyalty and share of wallet and delivers memorable customer experiences. Companies have invested heavily in personalisation engines to this end, but when these fail to produce the desired results, it’s not the technology that is to blame but how it synchronises with their channels and their content strategy. 

Personalisation has evolved from the days when it was simply about providing product recommendations. Now it is a process of understanding the journey that customers take. While it can include customised landing pages and targeted ads, its overall aim should be to anticipate what a customer wants, or might want as part of their engagement, and deliver it to them in a timely fashion. 

During a recent webinar, Ryan Skinner, a Forrester analyst, described how the team behind the Microsoft Xbox personalises aspects of the gaming experience by processing gamers behaviours. This might be based on when they last played, their achievements or their gaming style. They used an algorithm to inform the gamer’s next experience to make it personally and contextually relevant. By doing this their gamers spent a lot more time on the Xbox and felt that they were getting more value from it to the extent that their engagement increased by 40%. 

The challenge for retailers lies in consistently providing this detailed level of personalisation. The combined use of AI and data can help to create contextual communications and experiences and provide a vital insight into customer behaviours, which in recent years has been hard to achieve. Since the introduction of stricter privacy regulation, in particular GDPR, there has been a huge shift in the availability of rich data. Cookies, for example, are no longer a reliable source of data, and even Google’s federated learning of cohorts approach, which gains information by studying groups of customers based on certain criteria, falls short of the mark. 

Individualising the customer experience means looking beyond traditional data sets towards unstructured data including image, voice or visual-based and from a wide range of touchpoints such as apps, store systems, social channels and websites. AI helps to pull this data together in real-time so the experience being offered to the customer is relevant for them immediately. 

Serving up modular content

The other vital element to this change in customising experiences for customers is content, and more specifically modular content.  Where previously content was served up in unwieldy static chunks or blobs that were hard to manage and update, modular content comes in discrete components that are more flexible and therefore easier to assemble quickly and be responsive across multiple channels. This flexibility, with content that is no longer bound by templates for example, allows marketing or eCommerce teams to meet the needs of customers in a more nuanced, and therefore more satisfactory way.

To put this into context, a customer may be using a retailer’s website to look for a blue hat. Traditional content management might have been set up to show a wide range of different blue hats, but in a more personalised journey, facilitated by modular content, it is clear that the customer’s journey began on Pinterest where they were looking at outfits for a day at the races. In this context, it would be appropriate to display jackets, shoes and multiple other accessories to the customer whilst at the same time sending them a special offer by email because they are a member of the retailer’s loyalty programme.  

Modular content, therefore, is vital to customising experiences for customers. It helps to facilitate their discoveries and accomplish their goals to make a good purchase decision and engage positively with the brand. To enable retailers to respond to customers contextually content must be flexible and manageable so it can be assembled in any number of channels. 

There is a caveat. Modular content if it is to be broken into smaller elements and deployed instantly across multiple channels, must be kept separate from presentation. To achieve this means adopting a more flexible framework. Increasingly retailers are turning to a headless approach which decouples the front end (the part that customers interact with such as apps, social channels and web pages) from the back end that makes commerce function. This then allows pages, visual elements, offers etc to be updated quickly, allowing unique experiences to be created that better meet the personal needs of customers. 

Achieving a personalised, or even better a hyper-personalised, experience for customers is the holy grail for retailers. They can achieve this by freeing themselves from the restraints of legacy infrastructure and embracing a modular content strategy. This is the key to being a contender in the race to deliver outstanding customised journeys.


James Brooke, founder and chief executive officer at Amplience

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