Personalization Talks #14 with Marianne Stjernvall

Marianne Stjernvall, Founder of Queen of CRO, discusses the potential drawbacks of personalization, the significance of using standard terminology, and how to effectively manage personalization as part of a CRO program.

CRO & Personalization
5 min readFeb 7, 2023

In Personalization Talk #14, we interview Marianne Stjernvall, the Founder of Queen of CRO, a consultancy specializing in CRO, personalization, and experimentation.

During the conversation, Marianne discusses the potential drawbacks of personalization, the significance of using standard terminology, and how to effectively manage personalization as part of a CRO program.

Why do companies need to implement and use personalization?

First, I want to clarify that I will cover web personalization. And by personalization, I mean smaller targeted segments with feeds or optimizations that are not primarily done by a product team.

What we do know is that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to websites. There is no way you can create one version of your website that will be relevant and answer the questions of each user.

It is also essential to establish that no matter what product or service you sell, you always have two different kinds of competitors. The first one is, of course, your industry competitors. The second one is your technical competitors.

No matter what technical elements or functions you have on your website — your users will have a general understanding of how it will work based on many other websites. The users set the general standard based on what they need to have a good user experience.

One of these is recommendations on e-coms, such as “other people also bought.” The proof is in the pudding. Since your users expect a smooth user experience by using these kinds of recommendations, if they do not get that, their user journey on your website might be complicated.

What is your favorite personalization example?

I want to share an example that shows us what can go wrong if we take it too far.

It’s essential to have dialogues about how your company should use personalization and how to use and analyze the data being used by the algorithms to provide the best possible experience. Because if you get too creepy or perhaps show things that you might not want others to see at the very start page, that might prevent you from ever visiting that site again.

Therefore my favorite example is when Target started with their “pregnancy scoring” model, sending coupons for baby items to pregnant women. And this resulted in her father finding the coupons and finding out she was pregnant. Perhaps too invasive in their privacy?

I love this example because we learn so much about how important it is that every organization sets its rules of what to do and not to do. What analysis will we do with our customers’ data so we can be relevant but not creepy?

For example, when I was working at a big grocery chain, we set rules about which kinds of products would never be shown at first glance. Products like condoms, cigarettes, and alcohol were never provided in a recommendation. Not only because another person might see it first but also because it might send a negative message to the user about their lifestyle, which their perception might not agree with.

What is crucial to take in mind working with personalization?

If we step away from the customers’ view of personalization and go into the organization, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Working with personalization is great. But there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the term personalization project or similar. The same definition of it must be used. And that is done by simply discussing it.

Many think of personalization as recommendations, which is true, but it’s only one part of it. Recommendation blocks are populated with products managed through algorithms, often used by a “personalization tool”.

But the personalized experience of a website often reaches further than that. It’s about individual journeys that are based on either your customer data or your interaction data.

The thing to remember here is that it’s not a quick fix. And to be absolutely sure of how your personalized experiences are performing, you need to A/B test it.

Personalization is just another part of the world of experimentation and should be treated as such.

Remember that the segment you want to create a personalized experience for might be small and perhaps too small to create A/B tests for. And it will take a lot of time and effort to create tests for every single new experience and segment. So before jumping into the deep blue sea of personalization, ensure your website is optimized first.

From what do you recommend companies start working with personalization?

As stated before, you need to understand what type of personalization your organization is actually talking about.

  • Is it only recommendations? That is, recommending different products on PDP- or PLP pages. Or are there also more complex solutions?
  • What data are you going to use? Interaction data from the web only, or will you tie it together with customer data and perhaps your CDP?

Personalization can get complex fast. And with that complexity comes new architecture and data feeds that must be implemented. So you also need to think about the following:

  • What is your budget? What resources do you have available for this project? A complex personalization project also can get expensive and time-consuming.
  • What is your business case? It is useful, as explained earlier, to see personalization as part of experimentation. You most likely have a CRO program running — and know how to test and run control groups to measure your impact.

I recommend starting with CRO, and perhaps recommendations, if you’re not doing anything today.

Which roles in the company should be involved in the successful personalization project?

If you have little or no experience with personalization tools, it could be a good idea to contact an agency that is an expert in implementing these solutions. But if you’re fully committed to doing this in-house, I recommend having a dedicated project lead to keep it all together.

Then, of course, you need the affected product team and developers, an architect for data feeds, UX/UI designer, and, not to forget: your CRO team/person.

As said before, web personalization should be viewed as a part of experimentation involving both CRO and personalization.

Then it depends on the business side of the organization. Who will be managing your web personalization? Web managers, marketers, e-com team?

The personalized experiences will touch on different areas such as campaigns, seasons, new functionality, products, stock counts, user behavior, and higher conversion rates. So based on your use case, different roles will need to be involved.

And your personalization team will need to — just like the CRO team — work horizontally across the entire organization.

About the Queen of CRO

The Queen of CRO is an independent consultancy that operates within the areas of CRO, personalization and experimentation for all types of organizations to help improve their testing and data-driven program.

The work of a CRO is much more about getting a specialist and a tool. It’s a culture of experimentation and getting all areas of product development to make data-driven decisions, improve customer experience and maximize business revenue.

Services offered range from consulting & coaching, workshops & keynotes to audits & research.

More about CRO & Personalization on our LinkedIn page. Subscribe



CRO & Personalization

Trends I Benchmarks I Insights I Technology I Cases I Education | Personalization Talks