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Frustrated by Personalization Challenges? Learn 3 Ways to Improve Your Customer Journey

To overcome personalization challenges, marketers work together to share resources and improve the customer journey.
Often, the biggest factor that leads to personalization strategies failing is a breakdown of coordination across departments and teams. [tirachard / Adobe Stock]

We’ve heard from marketing leaders about their biggest personalization challenges. Here’s how to overcome these hurdles and give your customers a more tailored experience.

Let’s face it: If you’re not offering personalized experiences, you’re probably losing valuable customers. However, even with countless resources available to improve personalization, marketers still face many hurdles when executing their strategy. If you’re just starting this journey (or tired of hitting roadblocks), we’ve outlined some personalization challenges to watch out for — and how you can overcome them.

In our recent Trends in Personalization survey, we found that 94% of marketers say customers expect a personalized experience. Still, only 26% of marketers are confident that their organization has a successful strategy for personalization. So what stands in the way of personalized marketing? 

What’s shaping the future of personalization?

Our latest infographic shows what marketers are prioritizing to give customers what they need. 

Obstacle 1: Lack of organizational alignment

Often, the biggest factor that leads to personalization strategies failing is a breakdown of coordination across departments and teams. Our survey found that 42% of marketers say a lack of organizational alignment stands in the way of personalization. 

“If you’re not aligned, the result is that customers get a very siloed experience,” said Leigh Price, a Senior Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce. 

Our State of Connected Consumer report reveals that 66% of customers often have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives, and 60% say it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company.  

But when that customer journey is uniform across departments, people can tell. In our State of the Connected Consumer report, 83% of customers say they’re more loyal to companies that provide consistency across departments. 

The solution is to identify stakeholders for the three main functional areas of personalization: strategy, channel execution, and product management. Then build your strategy and program and collaborate. 

Not sure where to start? Here are the stakeholders you need working in harmony and how they align with the three functional areas: 

You’ll need an executive sponsor to help you strategize, own the overall program and provide support. This may be your VP, Marketing, CMO, or even Chief Customer Officer. 

After you develop a strategy and appoint an executive sponsor, you’ll need several stakeholders to help you implement and manage your overall personalization program. Some of these roles include: 

Program Manager: This person will oversee the personalization program by managing and maintaining schedules, coordinating groups across departments, and providing resources. 

Product Manager: Working in alignment with the program manager, the product manager will oversee the day-to-day management of the program and will act as an expert for your personalization product.

Tech Lead: Although marketers can run many aspects of personalization campaigns independently, it’s still essential to appoint a tech lead or establish a relationship with IT. They will set up the initial integration and be available as a resource when technical issues arise.  

Analytics Lead: An analytics lead can synthesize data and owns all program insights. From the beginning, you will need this key stakeholder to stay on target, meet your goals, and innovate new approaches to personalization. 

You’ll also need a channel execution team to help you coordinate and execute campaigns. They may start with one channel and then extend your personalization efforts across channels little by little. 

“If you’re not aligned, the result is that customers get a very siloed experience.”

Leigh Price, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce

Obstacle 2: Not being able to access the right data

Once you’ve got the departments aligned, you have to make sure they’re working with relevant data. Our report shows that 39% marketers believe the lack of data stands in the way of adopting personalization. 

Organizations often have a wealth of data available to them, but marketers don’t always have access to that data, according to Victoria Calkins, a Product Marketing Manager at Salesforce. 

“In order to drive connected experiences, it’s important to consider all of the data we have on that individual,” she said. “For example, we want to know when they’ve browsed on our website or contacted customer service. As marketers we often don’t have access to all of this data because it may live in other parts of an organization.” 

Siloed data — when departments don’t have the same information — leads to disconnected customer experiences. Here are two ways you can overcome this. 

  • Break down your data’s barriers: Invest in technology that will house your customer data in one place, such as a customer data platform. This allows departments to work from the same set of data, giving them a 360-degree view of the customer journey.
  • Start Small: You may not know where to start when you have a lot of data at your fingertips. Rather than looking at all your data, focus on simple use cases to get started.

    “People think, ‘I can do one hundred things with personalization,’” said Price. “But just focus on your website and simple use cases, focus on your email program, and you can iterate and grow from there.” 

Obstacle 3: Lack of knowledge and skills

With coordination and access to proper data in place, now it’s time to ensure your department has the proper technical skills to build a personalization strategy. Personalization requires a team of people with both technical and creative skills. Some marketers don’t have the technical skills to deliver end-to-end personalization, while others lack the creativity to provide relevant and engaging content.

Our Trends in Personalization survey found 43% of marketers say a lack of knowledge and skills is their most significant personalization obstacle. Embracing technology like artificial intelligence (AI) can help take some of the more routine tasks off your department’s plate, letting them tackle big issues.

“We are coming out of the age of managing marketing campaigns manually, and you no longer have to do it all yourself because of artificial intelligence,” said Calkins. “Using AI will allow your marketing efforts to go further without adding extra work to your teams.”

Learning about AI can help marketers advance customers toward a purchase, sending messages that are relevant and timely to them. For example, you can use triggered messages, emails that are automatically sent when a customer takes a certain action — like placing an item in the cart, but not making a purchase.

There is only one solution when it comes to this obstacle: investing in the education of technologies that can do the heavy lifting. Companies should empower their talent by expanding their understanding about personalization, giving them the knowledge they need to succeed. 

Personalization is a work in progress. Tech tools are evolving, and so are our processes and skills (not to mention customer expectations). Now that you’ve identified the three top challenges to personalization, take stock of your own organization and build a path to success – both for  yourself and for your customers. 

Brandi Holness headshot
Brandi Holness Content Marketing Manager

Brandi Holness is a Marketing Content Manager, leading the content strategy for Marketing Cloud learning content on Trailhead. She also contributes to Marketing Cloud editorial content. Brandi is passionate about writing and storytelling. She enjoys finding new ways to draw readers in and inspire them with good storytelling and word choice. When she is not working, you will find her spending time with her husband and two young daughters and exploring her new city in Richmond, VA.

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