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When it’s Time to Involve an Agency in Your Personalization Efforts

Agencies can help accelerate personalization efforts, but is hiring one the right decision for your brand? Here are all the important factors to consider.

The information shared in this article comes from a webinar hosted by Dynamic Yield with Diff Agency – to listen to the entire recording, download the on-demand webinar.

Businesses across industries all agree how important tailoring unique interactions with consumers is within the context of the larger digital strategy. A recent study on The State of Personalization Maturity found 96% of executives and marketers do, in fact, believe in the value of personalization (up 4% from 92% the previous year).

But while a top priority, unfortunately, many have still yet to invest in building a personalization program. As with any new marketing initiative, incorporating personalization within the organization is a large undertaking – magnified by the fact that the practice is still relatively new and unfamiliar to many, this can often paralyze attempts to adopt a more customer-centric approach.

We see this all the time at Diff, where we work with eCommerce teams to enhance the customer experience. As they embark on their personalization journies for the first time, the most common issues they face are:

  • Time, availability, and resources
  • Skills and expertise
  • System integrations
  • Process and personalization framework

I’ll dive into each of these a bit more in-depth later on in this post, as well as address the individual impact on an organization’s success with personalization. Finally, I’ll break down the different options available to help accomplish objectives, and why some brands ultimately decide to partner with an agency in their efforts.

Assembling the right talent

Let’s say for a moment, an online retailer wanted to launch a relatively simple experience, such as this shipping threshold alert:

Then, let’s consider all of the tasks that would need to come together in order for a small notification such as this to be implemented:

  1. The idea for this notification needed to come to fruition

  2. The idea needed to be prioritized amongst other projects

  3. How it looked on the site needed to be mocked up and specced out

  4. The experience needed to be built in HTML, CSS, or Javascript

  5. The segment who received this message needed to be defined

  6. Conditions and parameters for the experience needed to be set up

  7. The experience needed to be QA’ed and then set live

  8. The results needed to be validated to continue running the experience

As outlined in Vision to Reality: The resources, processes, and cultural mindset required for personalization success.

Now, which functions would be required to take the experience from A – Z, and what their role in that process looks like:

Executive Leader – Strategic alignment, prioritizing campaigns

Optimization & Analytics Role – Improving performance, conversions, revenue

Marketing & Merchandising Role – Designing, curating, targeting high-impact experiences

Development Role – Improving cross-channel experience development

Product Role – Implementing user experiences quickly and efficiently

These folks can be made up of existing talent within the org or hired on to ensure a well-oiled machine. But no matter what the scenario, these roles should be accounted for. This, in and of itself, involves a huge amount of time and effort. Shifting responsibilities to a current employee can take weeks of integrating new concepts, mentalities, workflows, and even KPIs, whereas filling a new position easily add up to months depending on the role and its prerequisites / qualifications.

Weighing the options

Companies of different sizes and industries will experience varying levels of available budgets, resources, and talent when developing a personalization program. Therefore, choices made around exactly how to go about it are extremely personal.

Consider the following options:

Allocate stakeholders for personalization from within the organization, either cross-functionally or all housed under one department, and educate them on the intricacies of deploying experiences on a one-to-one level.

Build a team from the ground up and work to establish a whole new set of processes, vet and introduce new technologies, and instill a culture of personalization throughout the org for continued support of the program.

Scale current efforts with the help of a growth agency, who can assist in both the strategic and tactical execution of a personalization program.

Outsource personalization entirely, employing a dedicated growth agency to manage personalization deployment from start to finish.

There’s obviously a lot to unpack and more than meets the eye when it comes to the approaches above. For the purpose of this article, I’ll now cover the potential of adding an agency to the mix and its impact on the entire decision-making process.

The pros and cons of utilizing an agency for personalization

Increasingly, both sophisticated FORTUNE 500 enterprises and rising eCommerce brands are turning to dedicated optimization agencies to manage personalization deployment. Many of these companies were born with digital in their DNA and have grown significantly with the proliferation of marketing technology.

By working with an agency dedicated to optimization and personalization, you gain access to a team of customer experience junkies who spend their days immersed in different technologies. Great optimization agencies assist with both the strategic and the tactical, helping define ideal user journeys and managing the day-to-day execution of your personalization efforts.

The benefits

Immediate impact – with a wealth of experience working to set up personalization and optimization programs, impact will be felt right out of the gate.

Industry knowledge – not just when it comes to trends in different markets, but specifically around the technology and implementations tested over time.

Hands-on expertise -possess skills in data analysis, coding, merchandising, UX, conversion optimization, and other key areas personalization success is reliant upon.

Robust network – access to industry contacts, including leading practitioners and technology partners, enabling a team to learn from and grow with the best.

It’s easy to see the opportunities that come with hiring an agency for personalization. That being said, most clients we provide personalization services for at Diff utilize us in different ways. For some, we will drive the whole initiative, and others, we will take on the role of copywriter, marketer, or executive leader. Because the makeup of every organization is different, a good agency will work with the resources a team does or doesn’t have to accommodate their specifics needs in a hybrid fashion.

But there are also some downsides to consider.

The pitfalls

Less owership – knowledge of how to run the program won’t exist inside of the company, meaning teams will continually rely on outside help for personalization.

Agency relations – a poor or overloaded agency might result in slow implementation, with projects either not prioritized or set up correctly for maximum impact.

Education gap – without knowledge of personalization or expertise around how to apply a tailored approach in a given industry, outsourcing not only becomes expensive, but inefficient.

Agency checklist

Understanding the important aspects of the agency / client relationship will minimize the pitfalls and ensure a positive experience. Therefore, the following questions should be asked as part of the evaluation process before moving forward with any agency for personalization-related services.

1. The process they employ for personalization

  • What framework do they use for prioritizing tasks?
  • What is the budgeted amount of time that will be utilized?
  • What do their dev team sprints or projects look like and how long do they take?

2. The work they have done with other industry clients

  • What are similar clients they have provided personalization services for?
  • What results have they generated from those personalization efforts thus far?
  • What are some proven use cases they can implement right away?

3. The knowledge they possess of tools and systems

  • What technologies do they leverage for personalization?
  • Can the technologies they use be well-integrated within your current stack?
  • Do they have experience working with the tools you currently use
  • Can they offer advice on how to optimize your stack for personalization?

4. The communication style they adhere to

  • How quickly can you expect to hear from their agency POC if you have a question?
  • How often will they check-in to share results?
  • What are their main means of communication (phone, in-person, email, text)

5. The metrics they use to measure success

  • What KPI’s will they focus on for each personalization project or test?
  • How will that information be shared with you?
  • How will they reconcile data discrepancies and can you trust their reporting mechanisms?

At Diff, we have our own framework for personalization, whereby we utilize client data and come up with specific KPI’s in order to most effectively benchmark activities against an industry.

Summary

The success of a personalization program involves many different components, much like any other marketing area. Outsourcing the process can help companies overcome some of the major obstacles faced around time, personnel, resources, expertise, and technology – with the right agency allowing them to reach new heights from a one-to-one approach.

When assessing an agency, the org should think of them as a partner and understand exactly how they will build or assist in supporting initiatives, as alignment is key to maximizing the agency / client experience.
 

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