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.
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?
There’s really nothing more irritating than lazy marketing. It’s when a marketer expects you to just hand over your money to them. The marketer is behaving lazily — they don’t invest their time researching and developing a compelling offer that drives consumers to purchase the product/service.
So imagine my frustration when a lazy marketing email arrived in my inbox from Netflix, a company that I’m a big fan of and I’ve written about in the past. It was a win-back offer asking me to renew my recently cancelled subscription. I had closed my account when Netflix announced that their 1-DVD rental/unlimited streaming service was increasing from about $10 to $16 per month earlier this year. Actually, I considered subscribing only to their streaming service but felt that the value wasn’t there at the $7.99 per month price point. While I am a believer that streaming media is the wave of the future, I felt that the Netflix library (or anyone else’s these days) is a bit anemic. So shortly after shutting it down, the win-back emails started rolling in and while I ignored the first one or two, I started to notice a surprising pattern.