big dataWeb personalization is something that seems to be on every marketer’s mind lately, and data is the fuel that runs the engine of web personalization. The more usable data a company has, the easier it is to expand and optimize their web personalization initiatives. But how, exactly does a business even get started using web personalization?

Solidify Basic Data Management Processes

Personalization is hard, and it demands that business dedicate resources to its development especially initially. You cannot invest only a little bit of time in data that is incomplete or mediocre. This will show through in your personalization efforts

Your personalization strategy needs to be well defined, and you management needs to work closely with IT personnel to determine the basic data needed to support it. It is only then that you can go about gathering and managing this data effectively.

Evaluate Existing Data Management

Is the technology you are using now up to the task of handling the additional data that will be needed for personalization? If it is not, you may need to replace it or take a different approach.

Also, pay attention to the design of the system, whether that is database, Hadoop structures or data update processes. This is where hiring experts, even if just as initial consultants, is vital. They can help you analyze where you are now, where you want to go, and the systems, designs, and hardware you will need to get there.

Start Simple

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your personalization strategy will not be pervasive and perfect right away either. Start with the basics and get those right first. Start with the home page and product detail pages, and then move on to email and retargeting.

Get these simpler parts of personalization working perfectly first before moving on to more complex strategies.

Test Often

Be willing to test your personalization, and have a system in place to do so. This may mean testing with multiple domains or subdomains, landing pages that are personalized in different ways, and similarly targeted landing pages with differing language and diverse offers.

Not only should you do initial testing, but you should also be ready to continually test your personalization and approaches. Perfecting this will take time, effort, and more data gathering and processing.

Capture the Right Data

Does your traditional data gathering provide enough insights for your web personalization goals? Then don’t worry about big data. In many aspects, it will be there when you are ready to expand your business and can dedicate the capital and resources to dealing with it.

big data shopping

More data is not always the solution: more usable data is. Over one third of CMO’s feel they have enough data but don’t know how to use it effectively. Another third feel they don’t have enough data, and the rest feel they have usable data, and they know how to use it.

These companies are not using all of the big data available, just what is usable and makes their personalization efforts effective. Capture and use the right data, and leave the rest where it is.

Let Customers Opt Out

For many customers, the data they are already unwittingly sharing through social media, smartphones, and fitness wearables is frightening. Many will opt out of sharing that data, even if doing so would create convenience or some other benefit for them.

Give them the option to opt in or out of your data gathering. This can take the creepy effect that really good personalization can have on a customer. “How did you know what I was thinking of buying?”

Be Transparent

Along that same line, let customers know what data you are gathering and how you are using it. You can do this on a FAQ page, or under a more formal terms and conditions agreement form when they opt in to your program.

Be sure to emphasize how their data is secured, what data is anonymized, and how long it stays in your system. The more transparent you are the more willing your customers will be to share that data with you.

Understand Where Data Comes From

Finally, you need to understand where big data comes from. It is not just the browsing data you gather on your website, although that is important. It comes from many different sources.

There are personalization cloud solutions, but the key it to know those data sources, which can be trusted, and what data is relevant to you and your industry. For instance, some data may come from your industry specifically while other data may come from larger collections like the census.

Through this data you can learn what typically appeals to customers in a certain geographic area, what their incomes are, how active they are on social media and which one, what cell phone providers they use, the average age of your customer, and more.

This not only lets you paint a complete profile of your current customers and personalize their experience, but allows you to begin personalizing the user experience from the first time a visitor comes to your site. This can help you reach new audiences and new customers, filling holes you may have in your marketing strategy.

Big data is the fuel for personalization. But you don’t have to gather it all at once. Evaluate and solidify your current data management practices and start simple. Capture the right data, test often, and give customers the option to opt in or out of your personalization program. Be transparent about what data you gather, and understand where it comes from.

Taking these steps will make your web personalization strategy come to life, and become a viable part of your online strategy. Just remember, small efforts with insufficient data will show in your results. Devote the right time and resources you need for success.


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