Personalization is no longer just a buzzword, but a critical part of online marketing and sales strategies for increasing sales and customer satisfaction by creating a more personal customer experience. Many studies have come out over the years to validate this, including this recent 2019 report by Researchscape International and Evergage Inc. that surveyed over 300 marketing professionals from both B2C and B2B digital commerce companies to try to understand the common thoughts and trends surrounding personalization. The survey summarized the feeling these marketing professionals had towards incorporating a personalization strategy into their practices.
Marketers overwhelmingly agree (98%) that personalization helps advance customer relationships, with 70% claiming it has a “strong” or “extremely strong” impact. And 85% state that their customers and prospects expect a personalized experience.1
While the respondents have indicated the importance of personalization, they also say that there are significant challenges for implementing their personalization strategies. When asked are marketers getting personalization right, only 32% of the respondents agreed1. When asked how would you rate your organization’s personalization maturity, only 9% felt they were advanced with just 1% feeling they were best-in-class1. As we can see, the overall sense is that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
In this post, I’ll go over the personalization implementation challenges indicated by survey respondents and offer my opinion on how they can be overcome. Let’s get to it.
Why do ecommerce companies struggle with personalization?
Respondents were asked to select from a list one or more answers for what are the greatest obstacles to making personalization a bigger priority in your organization? Here are the top 10 obstacles based on the percentage of respondents that selected them.
- Lack of personnel (46%)
- Lack of budget (43%)
- Lack of knowledge/skill (38%)
- Lack of organizational alignment (32%)
- Access to data (30%)
- Poor technology solutions (28%)
- IT department constraints (25%)
- Too many technology solutions (24%)
- Low-quality data (23%)
- Lack of executive sponsorship (20%)1
Making a case for personalization
The top 4 options (and also number 10) are really all budget and strategy issues. If you have a lack of budget or you need to add people/knowledge internally or via a third-party service provider, all of these have a cost. Without buy-in from stakeholders, budget won’t be made available to pursue a personalization strategy at a higher capacity. So how do you get budget and buy-in? Justify your case that an increased budget to execute your personalization strategy will result in an increase in revenue. Then follow up with some accurate reporting to validate your strategy.
Commerce architecture for aligning technology
The remaining 5 options are all based on utilizing all available data effectively. This is a technology issue where data and platforms are siloed and disconnected. We see this in the report when respondents were asked which of the following describes your company’s approach to omnichannel personalization, 74% stated that they had less than half of their channels connected and only 3% indicated that all channels were connected1.
The solution to this is actually something that will benefit the business in more ways than just personalization – commerce architecture. Commerce architecture is what we use to describe the entire ecosystem of software and technology a business uses to conduct business, including sales, accounting, support, marketing, inventory, fulfillment, etc. How well all of the different components are integrated is the critical takeaway here. If proper technology selection and integrations are in place, a foundation is built in which all of the data you need is at your fingertips across all channels. By defining a commerce architecture strategy and working towards its full potential, best-in-class personalization capabilities are just one of the many useful results.
Commerce architecture even plays into the other points, too. When a commerce architecture strategy is understood and accepted at all levels of business, executive sponsorship and organizational alignment are much easier to achieve. This is because it’s easier to understand and communicate how data flows throughout the organization, including the impact each technological component has on the business as a whole. It’s all about running efficiently with integrations and automation. When a cohesive commerce architecture is achieved, a minimal bottom line supports business growth and scaling. The result is more capital available to invest in strategic initiatives such as personalization. Suddenly, budget might become available to get the personnel and knowledge that your personalization strategy needs. So really, commerce architecture, in my opinion, is the answer to overcome all 10 of the obstacles for personalization.
Set up for success: The link between personalization and commerce architecture
Elli.com, a web-to-print company providing personalized designer wedding stationary, was in a tight spot. Their business depended on a customer-facing personalization tool that allowed their customers to add the finishing touches to wedding stationary designs. The problem was that this tool was nearing end-of-life, meaning Elli had to upgrade to a newer version or replace it with something else. The new version had an increased cost to use it, not to mention there had always been annoying usability and workflow issues that would persist after they upgraded. For the team behind Elli, it was time to look at other options.
After an initial discovery and strategy phase with Acro Media, Elli decided to revise their commerce architecture by swapping out the web-to-print personalization tool that had put them in this position in the first place and by migrating to a new ecommerce platform. Out with the old, in with the new.
The new personalization tool, Customer’s Canvas, was all around a better tool for what they needed. It provided their customers with an improved user experience and eliminated the usability issues they had experienced in the past. Personalizing wedding stationary went from awkward and challenging to fun and intuitive. A wedding is one of the most incredible personal experiences in life, but planning a wedding is stressful. Elli’s refined personalization of the shopping experience helps take away some of the stress.
The new ecommerce platform, Drupal Commerce, also suited Elli’s business goals better. The integration with Customer’s Canvas was already created, so that part was easy. The new platform gave Elli the technical flexibility their growing business needed to further optimize their workflows and web-to-print process, integrating directly with their printing partner. Site administrators now have a more enjoyable backend environment to work within that also made managing custom products easier. Elli’s leadership team is now in a better position to scale the business efficiently, supported by an improved commerce architecture.
Check out the full Elli case study for more details about this project.
Next steps for your personalization strategy
If you like what you’re hearing and want to explore commerce architecture further, just scroll through the various articles within the Acro Media blog. Digital commerce architecture is a big part of what we do at Acro Media, both in consultation and in implementation. While we might not be the ones to take your personalization strategy to the next level, we’re definitely the ones who can help you get your technology aligned and working for you, so that you’re team has the capability to do what it needs. Take a look at our commerce architecture services page and drop us a line if you want to talk.
If you’re pumped on personalization and looking for some ideas for your personalization strategy, checkout this blog titled Personalization: Different Types and How They’re Used in Ecommerce. It will give you a good high-level overview of what’s possible.
1 - Source: Researchscape International and Evergage, Inc., "2019 Trends in Personalization Survey Report,” April 2019.