From one CMO to Another: Personalization

Erik Ford, acting CMO of Kaizen Platform, Inc., San Francisco shares his views on personalization and how it should be approached to truly engage with customers

In the digital marketing industry, people tend to think of personalization as being all about technology platforms, data, and better targeting. At Kaizen, we take personalization one step further — we strive to get to know our audience and to connect with them on an emotional level. Technology platforms and actionable data are certainly required tools for personalization, but I think that knowing and getting through to our audience is what really counts at the end of the day.

I would like to share some thoughts with you about personalization. I’d also like to highlight what I consider to be some great examples of personalization, along with a few best practices to consider applying to your own personalization efforts.

Personalization: What it really means

A very general definition of personalization can be found on Wikipedia, “[Personalization] involves using technology to accommodate the differences between individuals.” There’s so much more that can be said about it. Lately, personalization has become a marketing buzzword representing anything but true personalization. Machines leveraging tagged information about a user and associated content to match said tag is just scratching the surface of personalization. This practice is audience-content matching, at best.

People don’t want to be stalked by content that they have already seen via a templated ad or experience. That’s just creepy. The real opportunity in personalization is to predictively give users what they want. When a marketer really drills into the motivation of the user, they can start to see and build experiences that will go far beyond the boundaries of the most sophisticated machines in the world.

Taking the right approach to personalization

The prevailing approach to personalization emphasizes data and using data to segment audiences and target them in a personalized way. At Kaizen, we also think about when and how to connect with people on an emotional level, and in a more personalized way. We leverage UI/UX experts not only to work on creating a better matched experience for the audience visiting the page, we use actual humans to think through the steps and activity taken to get things accomplished on page.

For example, on a mobile ticketing site, being able to show/hide a venue’s seating chart so the user can move fluidly through the experience makes a massive difference on devices with small screens. Or, for a major airline, it may be something like adjusting the text size and amount of information on the homepage for a more senior audience.

These are things we think about. At Kaizen, it’s about understanding where people come from and what they want to accomplish; and then delivering an incredible experience for those people — that’s what makes a difference.

Here are some other organizations I feel have the art of personalization really dialed in:

  • Google Now. Understanding context to deliver information
  • Ness (acquired by OpenTable). Restaurant prediction service based on places you’ve liked, as well as others
  • The new Foursquare. Expanding upon what Ness did, for all types of services

Personalization best practices

Here are some best practices to consider when developing your personalization efforts:

  • Know who your user is: Know where your user is coming from and know what your user is trying to accomplish
  • Design the user journey with experiences for each step along the way, leveraging input from users ahead of time
  • Set up performance indicators, as well as ways to qualitatively collective feedback along the way; review, test, and optimize

Some of the greatest brands in the world, such as Microsoft and Nestle have discovered that it takes the creativity of humans, plus software to drive the best ROI in the industry. Kaizen has built a platform to unleash the best of both. I hope that you find my insight on personalization useful and I ask that you consider using Kaizen to help enhance personalization of your own brand.

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