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How to Activate Personalization for Your Business

Lately, the conversation around personalization has been less about if you should personalize, and more about how you should be executing your 1-1 communications. Personalization is easier said than done, and knowing how to execute a strategy can feel overwhelming. 

It’s important to not only have the right tools in place to help, but to also have a plan in place that incorporates the right elements of channel, content, and timing for a successful personalization strategy. 

Before you begin, you need to take these three steps in preparation: 

  1. Get your data right. This means having the appropriate first party data collected, especially with third party cookies going away. Preference centers are a great way to collect the relevant data for personalization. 
  2. Line up your content. You will need to think through what different versions of copy and graphics you will need, for each iteration of personalization. 
  3. Start small. It's about progress, not perfection. It's okay to start small, learn from the process, and then iterate and phase into the approach.

The Path to Personalization: Channel, Content, and Timing 

Often, we only think about personalization from a content perspective, but channel and timing are equally important in terms of where you can activate your personalization. 

Every couple of years the phrase, "email is dead” makes the rounds. I don’t think email is dead, but I also don’t think email is for everyone. Just because someone is subscribed to an email, it doesn't mean email is their channel preference. So, how can we personalize the channel if email isn't for them? How can we ensure we're getting our message delivered at the right place, at the right time?

This is where some really great tools in Marketing Cloud can help. For example, by using Journey Builder, you can create a journey that allows subscribers to opt into SMS. If they do, it could be an implication that mobile communications are their preferred channel. Their next communication will be a text promotion, and it will be monitored to see if the response is better than email. 

At this point, I think we are all frustrated by content that is not personalized. There's a value exchange of, "I understand you're using my data, and I'm willing to give it to you, but I expect some personalized content in return." 

One of the main ways to personalize, from a content perspective, is to lean on AI by incorporating Einstein. You can use product or content recommendations fueled by Einstein within Marketing Cloud Personalization (formerly Interaction Studio), that are learning based on the rules you've created. Einstein Engagement Scoring is a feature that looks at behavior in emails (weighted more on clicks versus opens), and assigns a score that buckets users into one of four segments ranging from loyalists to dormant. This allows you to personalize based on behavior, and lets Einstein do the heavy lifting of determining the personalization criteria.

It seems like everyone has an opinion about when you should be sending an email. It can be tricky to nail down a definitive answer, especially when trying to personalize. 

Einstein’s Send Time Optimization is a great tool that pays attention to what subscribers are doing, including when they are actually opening the email. It looks at when the email is opened, and when it is being clicked into. It takes a lot of guesswork and testing out of the process, and allows you to get a personalized send time that a subscriber is more likely to open, click, and convert because of the personalization from a timing perspective that you've delivered to them.

On a final note, it’s important to let your customer be your guide. You want to make sure  you are not just making assumptions and doing things based on your personal preferences. Listen to what your customers are saying and observe their behavior. It's about progress, not perfection. You have to start somewhere and that's a great place to start. And then you can iterate, test and go from there. 

To watch this entire session from Ultraviolet 2022, check out, What, Where, and When: How to Activate Personalization For Your Business.