By Sunil Menon
What could be more mouthwatering for consumers than to see a picture of their favorite ice cream on a hot summer day? Ben & Jerry’s recently launched a new ice cream delivery app and wanted a simple way to personalize the experience for their customers. With more than 150 ice cream flavors in 38 markets, the company realized that having the experience reflect its customers’ favorite choices could be a recipe for success.
Ben & Jerry’s needed to get cooking. The company initially gathered information about flavor preferences from people who visited the company’s website and used that information to cater to those same folks using personalized imagery, putting those ice cream flavors front and center.
Since making the adjustment, the ice cream brand has achieved 50 percent growth in its delivery app downloads. In fact, companies that extensively personalize their messaging report greater than 20 times ROI, according to the Adobe Personalization Survey 2020. Personalization also improves customer loyalty, retention, and conversion rates.
Ben & Jerry’s personalization program sounds like a pretty simple idea to execute, but there are several components needed to bring the marketing plan to fruition.
To become a center of excellence (COE) for personalization, marketers need to establish a framework that empowers teams across the enterprise to create personalization programs, while maintaining governance over processes and the company’s technology foundation. Here’s the playbook marketers should follow to get there.
Engage: Getting Started and Laying the Foundation
To form a personalization team, brands must invest in the right people. Marketers need to ask: What are the key roles and responsibilities to create a strategy fueled by personalization? What initial activities should the team focus on to drive quick wins for the business? Which KPIs should the team try and improve?
CMOs will need to evangelize the program benefits, benchmarks, and successes to their C-level brethren as well as VP-level stakeholders. Marketers must also ensure the program lead is supported by requisite resources, including technology.
Marketers need to develop a comprehensive, forward-thinking personalization strategy that moves away from tactical, ad-hoc campaigns. They need a broader set of goals and objectives for personalization across different touchpoints. CMOs have to combine those goals and objectives with the company’s overall business objectives and demonstrate that marketing is both working in tandem with the analytics and business intelligence teams and has devised a roadmap for success. Among emerging marketing capabilities, personalization ranks as the top opportunity to drive better customer experiences, and the discipline needs to be prioritized accordingly.
To support marketing goals and use cases, technology systems being deployed must provide foundational capabilities for data, content, and intelligence.
Personalization starts by building a relationship of trust, in which value is delivered in exchange for data that is used with consent. “We think it’s important to use technology, digital channels, and content to provide value to our fans — not post things customers would find annoying to their newsfeed for the sake of being seen,” says Mike Hayes, Ben & Jerry’s global head of digital and technology.
To deliver a personalized experience, marketers must first identify groups of customers who behave similarly by leveraging first-party data to understand the customer journey and build customer segments. They will then need to identify the right content for each of these segments, for which they’ll need a digital asset management system (DAM) to help create, update, or remix assets for many variations on content.
A content management system (CMS) supported by a personalization engine enables marketers to adapt experiences for those customers segments. What’s more, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be used to make decisions and streamline the delivery of the best experience for each segment.
Expand: Growing in Sophistication Across Channels and Use Cases
After marketers have executed some quick wins and evangelized the program’s success, they should expand their personalization efforts. Identify key stakeholders responsible for establishing business teams and developing marketing channels, including websites, mobile apps, email, and paid media. Better yet, if the brand has dedicated teams focused on customer experience across various stages of the customer journey, marketers should closely partner with those teams.
With the help of new stakeholders, brands will be able to expand to new channels and enrich their customers’ journey. Marketers can enhance their program roadmap with predictive analytics, which determine the propensity of visitors to convert (based upon key attributes). Perhaps visitors from email campaigns who view more than three pages are more likely to buy certain items; marketers can promote the right content in real time or at the right time.
AI can also be deployed to discover untapped and valuable consumer segments or gauge what kind of content is most resonating with customers and likely to generate purchases. “It’s helpful from a creative perspective to have information from analytics so we know the decisions we’re making aren’t arbitrary,” says Gail Cummings, global digital design lead at Ben & Jerry’s. “We know what fonts and colors are performing best, and we can see the results in real time.”
Marketers will also need to ensure their digital foundation can support more complex use cases as they grow. Establish a unified visitor profile including personal and company data. A customer data platform (CDP) can help manage new datasets and audiences and personalize experience delivery to individuals in real time, based on their preferences. To support content across channels, the company’s CMS and campaign management solutions will need to provide flexible interfaces.
Embed: Scaling The Effort and Achieving Excellence
As the center of excellence (COE) for personalization, marketers can now establish a framework that empowers teams across the enterprise. Ideally, CMOs should establish a federated program that provides enterprise governance and administration for processes and technologies and provides teams embarking on personalization projects with the best practices.
With teams set up for success, the company’s COE can focus on broader, strategic initiatives and use cases. For example, use cases can move “beyond the browser” and focus on personalization initiatives reaching new devices such as connected home assistants or point-of-purchase kiosks. Marketing teams might also create time-sensitive offers that are triggered when a customer is near a retail location. They can also determine when to suppress certain offers or messages if a customer has opened a customer service ticket.
To achieve one-to-one personalization at scale, marketers also need to ensure their systems maintain high-quality data and privacy standards. New data sources can refine customer profiles, while layering in second-party data can expand the target market. This may include potentially sensitive information, such as GPS location, so data governance is critical. CMOs should partner with their legal and privacy teams to make sure marketers are following best practices.
Marketers also need to make the content easily accessible, at scale. The more personal and one-to-one the experience, the more variations the company’s content management and asset management systems must handle. Automated workflows and AI-powered meta tagging are essential. AI-driven generation of content variations can also help reduce the burden on creative teams or reduce dependency of external agencies. Lastly, provide APIs for connectivity to multiple touchpoints, including but not limited to IoT (Internet of Things), OTT (over the top) platforms, VR/AR (virtual/augmented reality), and digital assistants. “We’ve gone from producing a couple thousand assets annually to now needing to produce over 25,000 in a given year,” says Ben & Jerry’s Hayes. “We had to figure out how to increase our scale — simply — but also keep the quality up.”
Implementing these strategies and tactics to create personalized marketing campaigns and omnichannel experiences can lead to tangible business growth. More than that, amid growing concerns among consumers regarding online privacy, taking the steps toward a consent-driven personalized marketing strategy also builds trust and establishes deeper connections with the company’s customers and prospects.
About Author: Sunil Menon is head of product marketing and GTM Strategy/B2C Customer Journeys portfolio at Adobe, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program.