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

We’ve heard from marketing leaders about their biggest personalisation challenges. Here’s how to overcome these hurdles and connect with your customers.

Let’s face it: If you’re not offering personalised experiences, you’re probably losing valuable customers. However, even with countless resources available to improve personalisation, 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 personalisation challenges to watch out for — and how you can overcome them.

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

Want to create your own personalisation strategy?

Obstacle 1: Lack of organisational alignment

Often, the biggest factor that leads to personalisation strategies failing is a breakdown of coordination across departments and teams. Our survey found that 42% of marketers say a lack of organisational alignment is one of the biggest personalisation 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 personalisation strategy from the start, so your customers don’t end up frustrated? Identify stakeholders for the three main functional areas of personalisation: 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 strategise, 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 personalisation program. Some of these roles include: 

  • Program manager: This person will oversee the personalisation 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 personalisation product.
  • Tech lead: Although marketers can run many aspects of personalisation 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 synthesise 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 personalisation. 

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 personalisation 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 personalisation. Different teams working off different data is one of the major personalisation 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 organisation.” 

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 personalisation,’” 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 personalisation strategy. Personalisation requires a team of people with both technical and creative skills. Some marketers don’t have the technical skills to deliver end-to-end personalisation, while others lack the creativity to provide relevant and engaging content.

Our Trends in Personalisation survey found 43% of marketers say a lack of knowledge and skills is their most significant personalisation 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 personalisation challenges. 

Obstacle 4: Finding the right mix of messaging 

Once you’ve got your organisational 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 personalisation 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 recognises 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 personalisation challenges

Personalisation 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 personalisation challenges, take stock of your own organisation and build a path to success – both for yourself and for your customers. 

Learn what customers expect from their personalised experiences

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

Nick Feldman Content Marketer, Marketing Cloud

Nick Feldman is a senior copywriter with fifteen years of experience in marketing and branding. These days, he's sharing that experience as a writer for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

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