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Hyper-Personalization: Why Companies Aren’t Doing it, and How to Get There

BY Pam Mugford

In our previous article, we outlined what we mean by hyper-personalization and its importance in customer communications. The numbers are clear: 80% of customers say they are more likely to buy when their experiences are personalized, while only 15% of Chief Marketing Officers feel their organizations are meeting the mark when it comes to personalization. With so much to gain (and lose), the question remains: what is keeping regulated businesses from delivering?

How can we get to hyper-personalization?

For organizations that try to take their traditional approach to “personalization”,  creating segments and building variations of materials for each segment, the scope can seem daunting. The challenge lies not only in the number of versions of a communication or campaign that now need to be built and maintained, but also the need drive that across channels. What is clear is that the old approaches don’t work.

The problem with the customer communication systems most businesses have in place today, is that they leverage a “document-centric” paradigm. This forces a business to manage every variation they may have of a communication as a unique, distinct communication or document. When it comes to personalization, every segment usually requires a new variant to be created. This practice leads to the proliferation of hundreds — even thousands — of individual templates. This is an incredibly time-consuming and expensive ecosystem to maintain. If a piece of common content gets changed, like a phone number, interest rate, product description, or regulatory disclosure, the business will need to spent time tediously updating every template where it appears.

Compounding this issue, content for each channel is also managed in silos, meaning each communication channel has its own library of content. Each channel is also likely to have different options for personalization and may not even have access to the same customer datasets with which personalization is built from. These silos can result  in inconsistent levels of personalization across the customer journey.  This also creates a massive operational barrier to offering next generation experiences as every new channel adds cost and layers of complexity. It’s the reason too many organizations are still sending customer communications through outdated channels like print or PDFs, which are cumbersome, markedly less dynamic, and offer substantially fewer options for personalization.

Another problem with this approach is a lack of  flexibility to test and experiment. Getting the right balance of personalization, such that it is helpful without being creepy, can be a delicate process. Marketing and servicing teams need the freedom to iterate quickly to optimize the experience for their customers.

Step 1: Switch from a document-centric approach to modularized content management

It’s time to stop thinking about communications as whole documents that need to be created and maintained separately. Instead, customer communications should be assembled from relevant, curated content components. These could be snippets of text (a phone number), regulatory disclosures, product descriptions, offers, images, ads, logos, and much more. These components can be easily shared across all communications, while being centrally created, edited, and controlled from a single point of change. Content components may also have channel specific renditions, so content can be displayed in a way that’s appropriate for the channel while still being centrally controlled. For instance, a message displayed on a website might have a shorter rendition when delivered by SMS.

A modular content paradigm streamlines the creation of communications and cuts down on redundant work. When a content component is edited, the change is instantly reflected everywhere that content is in-use, across all channels and communications. Content components can also have unique targeting rules. Which content components are shown vary depending on a customer’s information, the end result being a more personalized and targeted experience. This approach means that adding new layers of personalization doesn’t require adding a new set of templates to manage.

Step 2: Centralize and manage content separately from the presentation layer

Using a modularized approach, content is managed separately from the presentation layer (meaning the system or channel where the content is displayed). Content is no longer stored in separate channel specific systems and is instead managed centrally within a unified content hub. This is not only more efficient, but it also frees businesses up to add new channels and experiences without introducing the cost and risk of another siloed content library.

For most organizations, where content is already spread out across different systems, consolidating all this content is a daunting proposition. But it is not an impossible task. Today there are AI-based tools that can ingest traditional document constructs like Word and PDFs, then automatically break up the communications into content components. Tools like this can identify when content is duplicated across communications and consolidate them into single content objects.

Step 3: Make your content hub accessible via headless APIs

The key to consistency of personalization is an intelligent content hub able to distribute content wherever needed, across all systems and channels. When content is properly managed, it can drive value. A truly intelligent hub uses headless APIs to easily automate the process of content distribution.

With headless APIs, any front-end tool can display and format the content so that it is suitable for the channel. These APIs make it possible for content to be delivered at very high speeds. Sub-second intervals unlock the opportunity to use personalized content for dynamic digital experiences like web portals and mobile apps, or next generation experiences like chatbots and personalized video.

APIs also allow for scalability. They support not only traditional large-batch processes, for example, sending out a monthly statement to hundreds of thousands of customers, but also on-demand processes such as a single customer accessing a page within a mobile app. Having that range is key to incorporating personalization across the customer journey.

Step 4: Accelerate change cycles by empowering business users

Speed and agility are necessary to effectively implement personalization in customer communications. Life happens fast. Marketing teams need to be able to test messaging, run time-sensitive offers, and experiment with different types of personalization in order to find the most appealing mix. Businesses teams often have to rely on IT to code content and make edits in the systems (CCM, email, SMS, etc) that distribute the communications. With a central content hub, the business users – like marketing and product teams – can have full control over authoring, testing, and implementing content changes.

Hyper-Personalization: It’s Time

Hyper-personalization involves speaking directly to individuals, about products and offers relevant to their needs. That means using previously collected information to proactively anticipate a customer’s requirements, whether in regards to sales or service. Attaining that level of personalization in customer communications builds stronger, more profitable, and longer-lasting customer relationships. But it requires many businesses to rethink their current approach to customer communications.

Until businesses adopt technology built to support hyper-personalization across all delivery channels, they will remain trapped, stuck using broad and unsophisticated segmentation, delivering disjointed experiences to customers who have the means and flexibility to instantly go elsewhere. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

To learn how Messagepoint helps organizations hyper-personalize their customer communications, contact us today.

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