Co-authored by: David Kross, Director of Marketing at eZ Systems

Many organizations today are looking to implement digital content personalization, particularly in the B2C space. We’re seeing personalization in e-commerce more and more, and merchants are generating significant increases in revenue from carefully planned, data-driven personalization strategies. Publishers are also exploring ways to use personalization techniques to increase content consumption and grow subscription and ad revenue.

Personalization is more than just a feature or a tool—you can’t just press a button and turn it on.

There’s plenty of value for businesses and users alike, but only if personalization is approached with the right mindset, strategy and resources. There are five essential requirements you should fulfill to get it right, and in our recent webinar, UX thought leader Kevin Nichols, the author of Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide and the co-author of UX for Dummies, gave an overview of each of them. 

When we first heard Kevin discuss this topic, we knew we wanted to share his expertise with as many organizations as we could. So, courtesy of Kevin Nichols, we present the five keys to preparing, planning and launching effective digital content personalization.

1. How to create a roadmap for your personalization strategy

personalization roadmap

When planning for personalization, think short, mid and long-term to meet goals and objectives. Having a roadmap in place provides a firm foundation that allows you to start small and scale for the future. It’s important to plot out your plan with an end goal in mind. A roadmap also gives you a framework to know what you will need to learn about your stakeholders. Some key stakeholders (decision makers and influencers) may be a mix of Marketing, IT, Sales and Editorial. But don’t forget your personalization strategy can go beyond those teams into other business functions such as Customer Support.  

2. How to get your organization ready for personalization 

personalization strategy phases

Being organizationally ready means having all the mechanisms in place to support a personalization strategy. As you can see in the above example, there are many phases to launching personalization and across the board you need the right resources, strategy and mindset in place.

Some key people resources include:

  • Editorial- Your editorial staff are essential to your effort. After all, you need the right people to create compelling content for your target personas.
  • Marketing- It's important to have a team to develop material to promote your products and content as well as measure website analytics and the return on personalization. 
  • Product Management- You also need product managers to oversee the website from a user experience perspective and to address business goals. Product management also bridges the gap between the editorial team and other lines of business.
  • IT- To effectively integrate new technology, a dedicated IT team can address technical demands on your website and related digital assets. 

3. How to plan your content for personalization

Content calendar

Content is absolutely critical for a successful personalization strategy. You should start by conducting a content audit and figure out which type of content you are going to personalize.

As a rule of thumb: 

  • There should be recent content that is updated frequently
  • The number of content (objects) should be higher than 1,000
  • The number of distinct visitors should be more than 100 per day. 

You want to plan your content strategy at least a year in advance. Specifically, you should plan a cadence of new content creation, as illustrated above. You will need to invest time and resources in the creation of new content so this must be carefully considered. Having a content calendar in place will help align your content creation with other stakeholders beyond marketing and editorial, such as sales, finance, legal and operations.

Some questions to get you started are:

  • Is there a documented content creation process?
  • Do I have enough resources in place to create the content?
  • Is my content mapped to our target personas?
  • Is there a governance structure in place to determine if content is truly relevant?
  • How should the content be tagged and weighed?

4. How to leverage governance for personalization

personalization governance structure

It’s critical to bring together a cross-functional team to discuss the strategy, get buy-in and determine how to support it. Form a governance committee and, as a best practice, ensure different lines of business are represented.

Once you launch personalization, there will be an on-going effort to assess how your content is performing and incorporate learnings into your personalization experience. A strong governance  team can make appropriate decisions to your content strategy and improve its effectiveness.

5. How to tie editorial strategy to performance and ensure your personalization is paying off 

personalization editorial strategy tie to performance

We recommend you get your user data in order as much as possible before you go too deep into implementing a personalization strategy. If you can define your target personas and categorize your content (ie. by persona, geo, or pain point), you’ll be in a strong position to succeed.

Since personalization is an ongoing project, you’ll want to use a combination of your  customer and website analytics to inform your decisions as you optimize your approach over time. Does your organization have access to accurate, up-to-date customer data on website engagement, orders, subscription management and funnel status?

Once you launch a personalization strategy, you need to define an ongoing process to assess if the content is performing well and to make informed decisions on your content strategy and the configurations of your personalization technology. Web analytics and sales data are essential and you should also  look at business needs, industry insights and competitive trends.

Remember that metrics only say what is happening, they don’t tell you why. Kevin recommends having regular meetings to assess and understand these metrics. Internal stakeholders should collaborate to define KPIs and create a measurement strategy. Are you implementing product recommendations to drive revenue? Or content recommendations to drive traffic and content consumption? Agree on your goals and then work on how you can use your data to measure against them. Ensure your objectives are measurable and objective.

Read our new Personalization eBook!

If you’re interested in learning more, download our new Primer on Personalization and be sure to watch the webinar above. In the recording, you’ll hear more from Kevin on how to plan, prepare and launch  an effective personalization strategy, and you’ll get some guidance from Michael Friedmann, VP of Personalization Products and Services at eZ, on how to implement recommendations on your site using our cloud service, eZ Personalization.

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