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Sitecore Discusses Study on Trends in Digital Personalization

We are in the age of hyper-connected consumers, and delivering a personalized experience is vital for success. Recently, Sitecore and the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) teamed up to explore the evolution of digital personalization and examine the strategies and tools required to produce the most effective customer experience.

The Global Trends in Personalization Study takes a look at the challenges—along with opportunities—that business leaders deal with when it comes to personalization in the digital experience era. The report shows that digital experience personalization is still an urgent priority, and many business leaders plan to invest in helping to expand their capabilities. They realize how important content is, and the role it plays in the whole personalization game. However, it’s interesting to note that even though this is high on everyone’s priority list, the report stated that business leaders feel that they have overestimated their current capabilities.

I reached out to Paige O’Neill, Sitecore’s Chief Marketing Officer and contributor to the study, to discuss her thoughts as to why business leaders felt this way and what steps organizations need to take when implementing a personalization strategy? To conclude, I also asked Paige to share her insight on future trends in personalization.

The report mentions that “marketing leaders and C-level executives understand the importance of personalization, but the majority have overestimated their capabilities when it comes to personalization.” Why do you think they have overestimated their capabilities?

“Looking at the SoDA report, we were surprised to see a contrast in numbers that pointed to a great overconfidence in marketers’ perceived abilities within personalization. For example, the research found that 67% of global leaders rate their organizations as “Masters” or “Experts” with robust and advanced levels of personalization capabilities, while in actuality, only 40% use even the most basic targeting criteria for personalization. That’s a 27% discrepancy for just the simplest means of customization; like personalizing purchase or browsing history.  Further still, less than 45% are taking advantage of AI capabilities for critical functions like automating routine tasks or improving content targeting. While these may seem like scary statistics, it also means that there is plenty of opportunity for growth. In the past, marketers may have not had the resources or manpower to understand or unlock the full potential of their marketing technology stack and personalize at a more advanced level. However, once they start making the right investments and maximizing output of those investments, they will be poised to win in personalization.”

In the press release you mentioned, “that over a third of marketers see digital experience as a major competitive advantage, most are struggling to leverage crucial personalization techniques, from basic targeting to AI capabilities.” What do you think the steps are that an organization needs to take when implementing a personalization strategy?

“The first step is absolutely making sure that the organization has the correct foundation in place. Have you hired the right technical and engineering team members for the job? Are existing employees trained and briefed on why and how personalization will be leveraged? Do you have the right technology in your martech stack, and are you understanding how to reap the benefits from its various capabilities? Once you’ve assessed your abilities and built the right architecture, start small—a few limited personalizations or AI projects. From there, do a health-check on your resulting data and make a determination on whether all the pieces are in the right place, and the analysis is trustworthy. If your evaluation comes up positive, you can scale your automation capabilities and plug personalization into other areas of the organization.”

How long do you think it will take organizations to level out and truly understand the concept and importance of digital personalization, then start allocating correctly?

“It’s hard to make an accurate prediction, but I can definitely say that there’s no time to lose. Consumers’ expectations for more personalized customer experiences are constantly increasing, and the brands that are able to meet those expectations will be the ones to survive and thrive. It’s important to note that capabilities to personalize will continue to advance—with no limit currently in site—so if you haven’t already started taking it seriously, you’re quite a ways behind as the leaders in the field continue to progress.”

Digital personalization is forever changing. What do you think the new trends are that we should take note of and not underestimate?

“There are so many trends in personalization and customer experience, many have already shown signs of success, while others are theoretical but full of promise. For example, AI in marketing has had a great impact on our technology and simplified many routine tasks like data tagging and optimizing targeting ads. These are some current applications, but in the future, we will see more advanced uses and more recommendations provided to us organically, without consumers having to ask questions. Anything from shopping to travel planning and many other time-intensive tasks will be automated and personalized with proactive recommendations. Another exciting area for personalization is in voice. Many of the services that we use on a regular basis are constantly learning from voice interactions and searches that we do and are compiling all our data. Since they are collecting and learning from the data from our searches and purchasing patterns, in the future, our voice bots will be able to personalize experiences and recommendations on a more regular basis.”

Interesting Statistics From The Report

  • 85% of marketing leaders and C-level executives say that digital experience personalization is an important facet of their marketing ecosystem, with 35% indicating that they see personalization as a major competitive advantage for their business.

  • 83% increased their investments in personalization for 2019 with 32% pointing to a significant budget increase this year.

  • When it comes to digital experience personalization, 67% of global leaders rate their organizations as “Masters” or “Experts” with robust and advanced levels of personalization capabilities.

  • Though rating themselves highly in terms of organizational maturity, less than 40% utilize even the most basic targeting criteria for personalization: Purchase History (38%), Browsing History (28%), Referral Source (24%) and Session Click-stream Data (20%).

  • Less than 45% are leveraging AI-capabilities for crucial functions such as automating routine tasks, improving content targeting, and becoming more responsive to user actions or scenario planning.

  • Less than one-third of leaders rate their personalization capabilities as “Advanced” in any crucial sales and communication channel (Web, Mobile, Email, Call Center, In-Store Experience, Online Advertising, or Cross-Channel Integration).

  • 52% currently lack an adequate roadmap and strategic investment plan for the personalization capabilities.

Ending Notes

This report certainly opened my eyes. I find it interesting that in the age of digital experience, we could still be so far behind.  We have all of the tools available, but it seems as though organizations continue to work in a siloed manner, which has ultimately hindered progress. Success in personalization requires organizations to plan, structure, and not only align themselves, but also align around the customer. Once that is done, then, and only then, will organizations reap the benefits.

Natalie Evans

Natalie Evans

Natalie Evans has over 16-years in the tech industry and currently works as the event coordinator and tech reporter for CMSC Media, keeping up-to-date on what's happening in and around the Content Management industry.

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