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Frustrated by Personalization Challenges? 4 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

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 connect with your customers.

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 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? 

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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 is one of the biggest personalization challenges. Customers can tell when different departments at your company aren’t sharing the same data.

“If you’re not aligned, the result is that customers get a very siloed experience,” said Leigh Price, senior director of product marketing at Salesforce. 

Our State of the Connected Consumer report reveals that 56% of customers often have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives, and 55% say it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company.  

But when that customer journey is uniform across departments, people take notice. In our report, 79% of customers say they’re more loyal to companies that provide consistency across departments. 

So how can you build a cohesive personalization strategy from the start, so your customers don’t end up frustrated? Identify stakeholders for the three main functional areas of personalization: strategy, channel execution, and product management. Then build your strategy 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 vice president of 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. 

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 61% marketers believe the lack of data stands in the way of adopting generative AI to improve personalization. Different teams working off different data is one of the major personalization challenges that companies face.

Organizations often have a wealth of data available to them, but marketers don’t always have access to that data. 

“In order to drive connected experiences, it’s important to consider all of the data we have on that individual,” said Victoria Calkins, product marketing manager at Salesforce. “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 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 move 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 what customers want to see, giving them the knowledge they need to overcome personalization challenges. 

Obstacle 4: Finding the right mix of messaging 

Once you’ve got your organizational alignment, data, and knowledge bases all in order, you still need to figure out how to best connect with your customers across a multitude of channels. You don’t just want to blast them with a firehose of branded content or redundant messaging, either. The key is to speak to them on a personal level. But how do you use your customer data to scale your efforts, yet still tailor your messaging

This is where AI can help with one of the biggest personalization challenges. It isn’t realistic for a single marketer in most businesses to keep track of every piece of outreach, content, and engagement on a per-customer basis, but it’s a breeze for a properly trained AI. With a well-trained generative AI drawing off good data, your customers will receive ongoing engagement tailored to their personal preferences, not only in terms of which content they see, but when they see it, and how often. 

For example, take a customer who’s mostly responsive to email outreach but also tends to jump on special offers on social media. They would see a regular content drip in their inbox, but might only encounter your messaging on social when there’s a special offer that echoes items in their purchase history.

When you do it right, every interaction will feel like part of the same pleasant, ongoing conversation with a brand that recognizes them as an individual, rather than just a faceless customer. It makes sure everyone gets what they actually want out of your brand, and it makes sure your brand gets the most out of your customers. 

Time to start overcoming personalization challenges

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 four top personalization challenges, take stock of your own organization and build a path to success – both for yourself and for your customers. 

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Editor’s note: Brandi Holness contributed to this blog post.

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