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Web Personalization Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

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Nabler's marketing highlights four of the most common pitfalls you may face along your personalization journey. We also provide our approach to skillfully avoiding them to help you come out ahead.

We hope you find this useful and continue to use your brainpower and marketing technologies to continue building great experiences for all of us!

To learn more or speak with us please reach us at http://www.nabler.com/services/testing-and-optimization.asp

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Web Personalization Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

  1. 1. R Personalization Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them Nabler Marketing Guide
  2. 2. Introduction to Personalization Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them Digital personalization has long been something that good marketers strive to do well. Presenting the right content to the right person in the right scenario (or time) always makes for a better experience than showing the same content to all people. Luckily for us, today we have a multitude of marketing technologies that make this process easier than it’s ever been. However, like any tool, the results created by these technologies are only as good as the system they are used in and the people that use them. Good digital personalization requires various activities that can be challenging, even with the right tools. Key elements such as figuring out what your audience segments should be, knowing details about what each segment may want, creating compelling and engaging content for them, setting up the right targeting rules and learning what works and doesn’t work all require some serious planning and brain power. And just like any challenging journey, you will encounter some pitfalls along the way. Based on the learnings we have gained through working with Nabler’s clients and from previous professional experiences, we have put together this resource that highlights four of the most common pitfalls you may face along your personalization journey. We also provide our approach to skillfully avoiding them to help you come out ahead. We hope you find this useful and continue to use your brainpower and marketing technologies to continue building great experiences for all of us! Scott Olivares Practice Director – Conversion Rate Optimization Nabler
  3. 3. Content The stages of personalization: How the Nabler personalization process works.............4 Pitfalls: Common web personalization pitfalls companies face.......................................7 Solution: Focus on important few....................................................................................17 Pitfalls #1: Missing the mark with segmentation..............................................................8 Solution: Build segments from the audience you have...................................................10 Pitfalls #2: Segment overlap and confusion....................................................................11 Solution: Always be MECE..............................................................................................14 Pitfalls #3: Creating a content monster...........................................................................15 Pitfalls #4: Not testing assumptions...............................................................................19 Solution: Learn from data................................................................................................21 Summary.........................................................................................................................22 Personalization Pitfall > 3
  4. 4. The Personalization Process Personalization Pitfall > 4
  5. 5. Stages of Personalization Stages Identify & define audience segments Identify Locations to personalize content Create targeted content Publish segment definitions Define targeting rules Deploy content targeting Learn & calibrate Web personalization is often a multi-step, ongoing process that needs to be optimized at each stage. The graphic below illustrates a common approach to personalization. Personalization Process > 5
  6. 6. Stages of Personalization The process starts with identifying the best locations on your website to personalize content. You must define and flag the audience segments for whom you will be creating targeted content. The members of each segment must be able to be identified in a later step. Once the audience segments have been defined and flagged, personalized content should be created for each segment. After audience segments have been defined and flagged, and personalized content has been created, the segment data and content should be loaded into the personalization platform that will deliver the right content to the right person. With the audience data and personalized content in place, targeting rules need to be configured in order to serve the right content to the right audience segments. For example, Segment A will receive Content A on XYZ pages. Finally, it’s show time. The campaign is launched and visitors begin seeing targeted content. It’s very rare to get this right immediately, hence, there is a need for analyzing results, learning what works, what doesnt work, and calibrating or optimizing, your segment definitions, content and targeting rules. Personalization Process > 6 Identify & define audience segments Identify & define audience segments Create targeted content Publish segment definitions Define targeting rules Deploy content targeting Learn & calibrate
  7. 7. Pitfalls Personalization Process > Pitfall > 7 Common web personalization pitfalls companies face Common Pitfalls
  8. 8. Pitfalls #1 Missing the mark with segmentation Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 1 > 8
  9. 9. Blind segment definition process Your ideal customers aren’t here Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 1 > 9 Pitfalls #1 Low website targeting coverageIdeal segment created A popular approach to creating audience segments is to work with your marketing department or hire an agency to define your ideal customers. The result is often persona-based segmentation, where each persona is made up of various attributes. Unfortunately, this process can completely miss the mark. While the definitions may be valuable, and the personas are often accurate, the people with those specific attribute combinations are often not present within the company’s website traffic. When most visitors don’t fall into any of the predefined segments, the majority of visitors are served generic content and all that segmentation effort is wasted.
  10. 10. Solution Build segments from the audience you have Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 1 > 10 To avoid this pitfall, build segments from your existing web audience. We suggest beginning your segment definition process by mining data from your existing website visitors. This source of visitor data can come from you web analytics platform, or if you have a proprietary data warehouse that has visitor attributes, that can be even more insightful. By starting with data about your existing visitors, you can group people that are actually visiting your website, based on attributes that are important to you. This creates audience segments that are both valuable and actionable. The result is that fewer people go untargeted, and most of the content you create will actually be seen by the people that should see it. Build segments based on the audience you have Pitfalls #1 Start with existing website visitor data
  11. 11. Pitfalls #2 Segment overlap and confusion Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 2 > 11 Just Who is This Guy? Stoned Burglar Awful Burglar First-Year Roommate Breaks Into Houses Leave Things Behind Eats Your Food Santa Claus
  12. 12. Segment overlap and confusion Good segments can still have overlap To illustrate overlap we'll use 4 common hotel industry segments: • Business traveler • Leisure traveler • Price sensitive • Price insensitive This is a real-life and actionable segmentation of guest types that can be used for personalization. Pitfalls #2 Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 2 > 12 Business Traveler Price Sensitive Leisure Traveler Price Insensitive
  13. 13. Segment overlap and confusion Overlap wreaks havoc on targeting rules However, overlap would wreak havoc on a targeting plan that uses just these four segments. For example, what content should be targeted when a business guest decides to stay a few extra days for some leisure time, or when a price sensitive guest is visiting for a business conference? Either of these scenarios can cause confusion if the hotelier’s segmentation plan is too simple or rigid. Interestingly, the problem isn’t that the overlap exists. The problem is that companies often fail to plan for segments that exist within the overlaps. Unfortunately, when they finally realize it, they aren’t prepared with content and/or segment definitions to effectively serve them. Pitfalls #2 Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 2 > 13 Price InsensitivePrice sensitive Business Traveler Leisure Traveler ? ? ? ? ???
  14. 14. Solution Always be MECE We recommend that segment definitions always be MECE (mutually exclusive, completely exhaustive). While this may sound complex, it simply means that all your segments should be completely different from each other and when you add them up, should include your entire audience. The illustration on the top right that contains our hotel guest segments is not MECE, because it defines only the four basic segments that don’t have a clean break from each other. In this case, the segments are completely exhaustive, but not mutually exclusive. The chart on the bottom right is MECE because it makes new segments out of the overlap areas, making all segments completely different from each other. As you can see, the four hotel segments make up to eleven combinations when the overlap segments are accounted for. In this MECE scenario, every single segment is cleanly separate from every other segment and when you add them all up, equal the entire audience. Mutually exclusive, Completely exhaustive Not MECE Pitfalls #2 Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 2 > 14 Price InsensitivePrice sensitive Business Traveler Leisure Traveler A B C D MECE Price InsensitivePrice sensitive Business Traveler Leisure Traveler E G K M JIH A B C D
  15. 15. Pitfalls #3 Creating a content monster Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 3 > 15
  16. 16. Content monster Content requirements grow exponentially Pitfalls #3 As marketers, we often believe in serving the right content to the right person at the right time. That means that if we have eleven different audience segments, then we need eleven different homepage banners to target the right content to the right visitors. As marketers, we also often believe in A/B testing, therefore we’ll want to test each banner against a variant. Given our eleven segments and an A/B test, we’d actually need twenty two homepage banners! Many marketing teams start down the personalization path without understanding the significant increase in content that it will demand. Unfortunately, once reality hits, the need for so much content creates a bottleneck that either cripples the personalization initiative or forces a lot of work to be undone. Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 3 > 16 Hyper segmentation Banner needed by segment Test banner needed by segment 1 2 3 54 6 9 7 8 11 10 1 4 7 10 5 8 11 6 9 2 3 1B 4B 7B 10B 5B 8B 11B 6B 9B 2B 3B
  17. 17. Solution Focus on important few Pitfalls #3 Nabler recommends resisting the desire to hyper personalize when you are first starting out and focusing on an important few audience segments. This will create a manageable workload for your team to get started. Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 3 > 17 Hyper segmentation Important few 1 2 3 54 6 9 7 8 11 10 Business Travelers Leisure Travelers Business and Leisure Travelers
  18. 18. By focusing your efforts on a few important segments, you will achieve benefits that include: You can get started faster Creating a personalization program that includes 2 or 3 segments feels pretty manageable and probably won’t require heavy investment. Therefore, you can start immediately and launch within a reasonable timeframe. If you require a multitude of segments, you probably won’t have the resources at your fingertips to start immediately. The start of your project will be delayed and its launch delayed even further. You will learn faster If you are going to be successful with personalization, then you must be prepared to test and learn. By starting out small, you can test your segments, your content, your targeting rules, and learn what works and doesn’t work for your business. This is much easier to do with just a few segments. Data will start coming in almost immediately and you will be able to optimize your program more easily than if you had launched a content monster. You will show results faster Most likely, you will need buy-in from several people across your organization to launch a personalization program. Executive leadership and other teams will need to put some of their resources into the effort. In most organizations, it’s easier to say yes to a small request compared to a large request. By getting started quickly and optimizing quickly, you will demonstrate the value of the program with hard data. This will provide you with the justification to expand and ask for the resources to put together a more robust program. Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 3 > 18 Pitfalls #3
  19. 19. Pitfalls #4 Not testing assumptions Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 4 > 19
  20. 20. Not testing assumptions Not planning for “learn & calibrate” Creating a personalized experience is a significant investment in time, resources and brain power. Creating segments, defining targeting rules and creating content are all complex and time intensive activities. Once a personalization program is launched, however, your work is not done. It is imperative that you test your assumptions, learn and optimize. After all, when was the last time you did anything for the very first time and had no room to improve? Unfortunately, many companies don’t focus on learning and calibrating the various inputs of personalization. Often, it’s because these activities require so much up-front work, that they have not put any planning or resources behind continuously learning and improving the overall process. Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 4 > 20 Identify & define audience segments Identify Locations to personalize content Create targeted content Publish segment definitions Define targeting rules Deploy content targeting Learn & calibrate Pitfalls #4
  21. 21. Solution Learn from data The best way to avoid this pitfall is to learn from the data and optimize. Often this requires testing, learning and advanced analytics research in your plan. By establishing a plan for testing and learning and staffing your team with people that have the right skills, you will ensure that your personalization program will continue improving. It’s necessary, in this situation, to get help from data analysts or data scientists - people that will analyze results by segment, targeting rules and every piece of content you produce. They will provide the insights and optimization recommendations that will make your program successful. Without scientific optimization, this process is will plateau quickly and not gain the momentum it deserves. Common Pitfalls > Pitfall 4 > 21
  22. 22. Summary In summary, there are 4 tactics at avoiding the major pitfalls when starting your personalization program. Improve audience coverage by using existing audience data as the starting point for defining segments Common Pitfalls > Summary > 22 Avoiding targeting confusion by making them MECE Limit demand for content by focusing on a few important segments Gain value from personalization by always learning from the data and including data analysts on your personalization team
  23. 23. Thank You Personalization Process > Pitfall > 23 Interested in discussing this further with us? http://www.nabler.com/contactus.asp info@nabler.com

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