As the first quarter of 2015 closes, a big theme has emerged in digital marketing: personalization. Personalization isn’t necessarily new — digital giants like Amazon, Netflix and Facebook aggregate historical data to suggest products, movies and friends — but digital personalization is now accessible to all. Marketers and brands are pursuing personalization for three reason:
1) The consumer is more elusive than ever. Back in 2010, Forrester’s Josh Bernoff spoke about the emergence of digital consumption on mobile. At that point, 25% of consumers were using mobile only once a week (PDF). Fast forward to 2014, mobile accounts for 25% of every day. Beyond mobile, consumers are spending 40 minutes a day on social so their attention is further divided by other screens.
2) Consumers expects brands to contextualize their content. According to a new report from IBM/Econsultancy, 4 out of every 5 consumers say that brands don’t behave as if they really know them—the translation is the marketers aren’t marketing effectively to consumers. As a marketer, this last point actually stings the most.
3) Consumers have more choices than ever before. According to an article by Consumer Reports on retail, there are 27 varieties of Crest and 25 varieties of Colgate at the supermarket. Brands have a difficult time differentiating their products.
Marketers are also looking for an edge. Research from Adobe of 1,000+ US marketers showed that personalization is the most important priority for companies (PDF). And the payoff for personalization is big. Brands that focus on customers outperform their peers by 2X the revenue and see a 15% reduction in expenses.
In the subsequent posts, I’ll discuss what are the different levels of personalization (hint — are 4 handful), the process to follow to successfully personalize your website and the technologies and platform that enable personalization.
As a consumer, you probably don’t pay much attention to the profound impact that technology is having on our behavior. For example, wearable tech like the Nike FuelBand is improving our awareness of daily activity. And the more we monitor, the more easily we are encouraged to remain on track. But technology is also having the opposite effect on marketing. According to Jay Baer’s book Youtility, technology is making top-of-mind awareness, or keeping a product or service in front of a consumer, ineffective. This shift is forcing marketers to become more creative in how do they connect with consumers. Baer stitches together several arguments that have resulted in this shift:
- The media landscape has severely fragmented. Almost 40 years ago, a commercial airing alongside the #1 show Happy Days would capture the attention of 30 million viewer in the US. Nowadays, a “hot” show like The Walking Dead at best would have half that number of viewers. That number doesn’t seem so bad until one considers that in the US half of all cable/satellite subscribers have DVR’s and DVR users tend to skip half of all commercials. So the overall reach of TV has dropped by 75% over the past four decades.
- Consumers’ distrust of brands continues to grow. According to Edelman’s Trust Index Barometer, trust in businesses continues to fall year annually.
- Consumers are extremely diligent in making buying decisions. On average, consumers rely on 10.4 sources of information before buying. While that’s a lot of research, brands have to be one of the go-to sources or miss out on the buying opportunity.
The issue at hand is the new friction between brands and consumers: today’s consumers are more elusive. And given that they are also less loyal than ever before, it is not surprising that marketers today are desperately looking for ways to deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience. From Baer’s perspective, brands focus on being helpful have a fighting chance to connect with consumers. Brands can reach this goal by producing high-quality content. That requires more than an army of one — it requires brands to mobilize their entire team. One of the striking examples in the book is OpenView Venture Partners, a 30 person shop that publishes a tremendous amount of content:
- Daily: 1 article, 1 video
- Weekly: podcast, newsletter, interview with business or marketing expert
- Quarterly: 2 ebooks, 2 case studies, 2 reports, info-graphic & online assessment tool
So does this strategy actually work? Beyond reading about the case studies in the book, I’ve successfully applied this strategy in growing awareness for my agency channel. In my line of work, I help deliver technology solutions to agencies so I need to know who’s who. Early last year, I created and published a slide to Slideshare that highlighted network and non-network agencies in Atlanta. And that version of the slide received over 3,000 views in just a month! Since then, I’ve updated the slide a few times based on feedback from the agency community. Collectively, the slide has received close to 6,000 views on Slideshare over the past year. That is why I think that Jay’s book is a must-have for anyone that’s serious about marketing! Thanks to Mathew Sweezey, a marketing strategy evangelist at Pardot, who suggested that I read this book!
Earlier this week I met up with a couple of agency colleagues over lunch to discuss their challenges with a client’s global content strategy. The client, which has offices across the globe, recently decided to redesign their website. As part of the redesign, they also invested in an enterprise content management system (CMS) platform with the goal of globally rolling out the newly designed websites on the same technology platform.
The client had already completed their initial discovery/strategy, worked out a new website taxonomy and was pretty far along in approving the website creative. Everything was coming together until the US marketing team shared their plans, taxonomy and designs the Asia Pacific marketing team. On the worldwide marketing teams call, the Asia Pacific team raised a red flag: initial feedback for the creative indicated that the new designs did not resonate with users in the Japan market. Specifically, those users wanted the designs to have “more imagery and less text.” Furthermore, the Asia Pacific marketing team was concerned that the proposed site taxonomy did not align with the products/services that were offered in that region. This meant that their plan to globally clone the sites using the US website (aka, the Master site) in each locale (aka, country and language) was not viable. So what was the US marketing to do? How could they develop a new website yet make the site templates flexible enough to support the Asia Pacific region?
My solution to this challenge was to switch from a global cloning approach to a regional cloning approach. The client could proceed developing the US website and leverage that for other countries in the Americas region. And, the Asia Pacific team would develop a custom website (aka an alternate Master site) which could then be leveraged for countries within their region. To take advantage of the global CMS platform, a shared assets folder would be created so that each region can re-use common functionality on their sites. This way, the Asia Pacific region could leverage as many, or as few, assets from the Master site as they wished (see image below).
Why use this approach? Because the Asia Pacific websites require a unique taxonomy to support their products/services. If the regions agreed to the same taxonomy, then the initial plan to globally clone the Master site and then personalize the websites (aka, update messaging and imagery) based on the region would have sufficed. Again, these paradigms of world-wide cloning and regional cloning are not uncommon among global websites. For example, Atlanta-based PGI (telecom industry) uses a unique look and feel for the US website yet the PGI Japan website uses an alternate look and feel.
Conversely, EMC (Data Storage Devices industry) uses similar taxonomy across the globe (see the US vs. Japan).
What are some other solutions to this global website strategy problem?