Author Shana Pilewski explores why personalization is a full-fledged discipline, requiring proper education of all internal stakeholders and building of robust ecosystems to get it right

When McDonald’s announced in late March that it would acquire Dynamic Yield and use its technology to personalize restaurants’ drive-thru menus, the news underscored that whether you’re an ecommerce retailer or a 64-year-old fast food chain, serving your customers well means delivering them more tailored, personalized experiences.

That holds especially true in marketing, where personalization has become integral to customer outreach. Personalized marketing has come a long way since the days of leveraging CRM data to insert a customer’s first name into the body of an email or extending a promotional offer on their birthday. Drawing on a veritable treasure trove of user data, brands are making record investments in sophisticated personalized marketing tools, harnessing deep insights into user behavior to engage customers at the most impactful touchpoints and drive results.

The tailored messages, customized offers and timely alerts that power personalized marketing can deliver significant ROI. As McKinsey points out, personalization can drive acquisition costs down by 50%, boost revenues up to 15%, and make marketing spend 10 to 30% more efficient.

But personalization is no silver bullet. In a world where eight in 10 consumers expect the offers and promotions they receive to be personalized, there’s a big difference between simply declaring your brand’s commitment to personalization technology and delivering personalized messages that will actually resonate with your customers and inspire them to perform desired actions.

So how can brands get the personalization formula right? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, personalization can only be successful if retailers properly educate all internal stakeholders and build robust ecosystems that reflect a fundamental reality of today’s digital world: Personalization is no mere gimmick—it’s a full-fledged discipline.

By focusing on these three building blocks of an effective personalization ecosystem, brands can help themselves stand out in 2019’s hyper-personalized ecommerce landscape:

1. Executive Buy-In
False starts are inevitable for any company investing in innovation, but with persistence and a shared vision of success, brands can meet the challenges of personalization head-on.

That’s why it’s essential for marketers to secure executive buy-in. When a business’s leadership fosters an internal culture of experimentation and growth, it unleashes ingenuity and innovation. A willingness to devote more marketing spend to personalization isn’t enough: If executives aren’t committed to ensuring that all players within the organization have the knowledge, competencies and support necessary to make personalization work, then there won’t be a true culture of personalization.

2. Rich Data
Underpinning all effective cultures of personalization is rich (and well-managed) user data. What types of content do users gravitate toward? When is the most impactful time to re-engage a customer? Which customer interests can be leveraged to drive conversions? No less important: Is an organization’s customer data siloed or well-integrated?

The answers to these questions—and whether an organization has enough reliable data to answer them in the first place—will play a major role in determining personalization ROI. Once again, buy-in from the top is crucial: If the C-suite won’t devote resources to breaking down data silos and leveraging the best technology to harness insights from customer data, any personalization efforts will meet subpar results.

3. Well-Rounded Personalization Teams
Think about the many moving parts of a well-oiled personalization machine. In addition to executives committed to making necessary investments and inculcating a culture of innovation and experimentation, companies need stellar data scientists and analytics specialists to make sense of customer data; front-end developers and software engineers to build tools that actually work; product professionals to design best-in-class user experiences; and a variety of marketing and merchandising professionals who know which content to put in front of customers and when.

From idea generation—say, for a personalized push notification—to the mock-up, to the experience design, to the audience segmentation, to the functionality testing—the personalization machine can only function if it’s operated by a well-rounded team. And for companies to achieve personalization at scale, brands must ensure that each team member’s role is thoroughly integrated into the larger business strategy, with personalization as a core element of the company’s vision for long-term performance.

Shoppers expect brands to engage them with timely, tailored and relevant communications. It’s what builds sustainable customer engagement and brand loyalty—and by building the right personalization ecosystem internally, retailers can reap the benefits of the personalization revolution.

Lead image: stock photos from Yaoinlove/Shutterstock