Personalisation; everybody knows they should be doing it, but not everyone knows exactly how best to achieve it.

The ubiquity of platforms like Facebook and Amazon has lead to a seismic shift in user expectations when it comes to personalisation. A recent study by Monetate found that more than 83% of customers reported they expect brands to personalise experiences for them.

In combination with conversational user interfaces, AI presents brands with the opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialogue with their audiences. 

Many brands however, have struggled to deliver real-time personalisation at scale. Most personalisation technologies require a high degree of manual intervention to deliver personalised experiences, but AI can now take care of most of the heavy lifting .

The less time that marketing departments spend manually segmenting audiences and planning campaigns, the more time they can spend creating great content. And with the headless CMS providing a way for all this content to be managed without the concern of which channel it will be delivered through, efficiencies can be further increased.

It’s not just marketers that benefit either; RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) saw a 40% reduction in call centre traffic as a result of offering streamlined website content for logged in users based on their preferences. By offering better self-service options online, RICS’ call centre staff could be re-focused on more valuable and progressive activities.

But there are a few important considerations to bear in mind when leveraging the power of AI to create meaningful, personalised experiences for your audience. 

fingerprints

1. Get the basics right

When brands aim to create personalised experiences, they’re not just measured against similar organisations in their field; any experience is going to be measured against those offered by the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, too. The key to standing out from the pack is to design experiences specifically around your audiences. Establish a status quo, examine how users interact with it, and then optimise the experience from there. 

2. Technology is only part of the answer

As powerful a tool as AI is, it’s not a silver bullet. Similarly, no matter how good your marketing team is, few organisations have the manpower and budget to manually deliver personalisation at scale. Before implementing any programme of digital transformation, you must first ensure that your organisation has the structures in place to support it. By aligning your systems, processes and people, you can make sure that you’re playing to the strengths of your team, as well as your tech.

3. Create relevant and timely content

For many companies, the holy grail is omni-channel personalisation, giving them the tools to deliver the right content, through the right channels and at the right time. AI is a key enabler to the true omni-channel experience, giving marketers the ability to track user behaviour at every touchpoint along the user journey.

This kind of behavioural personalisation weaves together omni-channel personalisation with machine learning to build up a user profile based on their browsing habits, offering content and recommendations that reach them when they’re at their most receptive. 

4. Be selective with what you personalise 

Personalisation is a powerful strategy, but only when it’s applied judiciously. Choose wisely what and where you personalise. There’s a risk that by personalising everything that a user sees, you could be creating a narrow view of your offering and hiding products and services from audiences who may have been interested in seeing the breadth and depth of your offering. 

5. Don't run before you can walk 

Plenty of organisations try to employ technology to increase the scale of their activities, but frequently aren’t aligned internally on the underlying objectives, or clear on user needs. As with any digital project, it’s vital to establish a common vision and a shared set of success criteria.

When your whole business is aligned towards the same goals and objectives, the benefits of AI-driven personalisation reach farther and wider that just your digital presence. Effectively utilising AI personalisation can enable your entire organisation to realise its full potential. 

Econsultancy subscribers can download our marketer's guide to AI and machine learning.

Further reading:

James Scott

Published 29 June, 2018 by James Scott

James Scott is Chief Strategy Officer at Netcel. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Comments (3)

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Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

Interesting article James but I think there is a real risk here of people just ending up giddy at the prospect of using ‘AI’ when the benefit from a personalisation perspective gor most brands is a long way off.

For most sites, the focus needs to be around providing the right information for customers at the right time and a lot of that can be achieved through much more mainstream and, dare I say it, manual methods before companies start to look at machine learning to personalise.

The only here thing here is there are very few cases of brands actually using true self learning AI (rather than a set of predefined rules that are simply computed by a machine) and it’s important to be aware of that or brands start to worry that they’re well behind the curve!

about 1 month ago

James Scott

James Scott,

Thanks Matt,

From my experience, the reason most brands are struggling to personalise is because the process is too manual. There are lots of different ways AI can be employed to make life easier, both in terms of tagging content and constantly A/B testing to refine outcomes (highly efficient compared to running and analysing reports, deriving insights and making manual adjustments, especially considering the comparable speed and frequency with which these tasks can be processed).

That said, my first point above is that it's important to get the basics right... Experiment with more readily accessible manual tools to help you work out the ways in which personalisation can help, then use AI to scale up the number of journeys that can be enriched and/or simplified.

At Netcel, we've embraced the concept of 'modular maturity' to guide brands through the adoption of improved technology and how to get the best out of it; not just personalisation, but also things like site search. In many cases, AI is employed at the more mature end of the spectrum.

I'd be more than happy to drop by and discuss in more detail the growing number of successful use cases for tools like Episerver's Perform module (AI-driven product recommendations), for example. We're excited about how this can be combined with more traditional personalisation techniques to adapt the broader experience.

Ultimately, it's about developing a vision for "the perfect customer experience", validated through user engagement and testing, and THEN working back from there to determine the best way for your organisation to deliver that experience. AI is just a tool that can help brands maximise effectiveness, efficiently at scale.

about 1 month ago

Kristina Angelova

Kristina Angelova, Digital Strategist at RIKA Digital

Hi James,

Your article reminded me a lot of a piece I wrote a couple of years back on the topic of Personalisation: https://insights.ecommerceexpo.co.uk/steps-to-an-integrated-and-personalised-customer-experience/

Things haven't changed much since then and I don't think clients have yet reached the maturity or skills required to develop, run and optimise such programmes. Such projects also require time; time to develop the strategy and approach; time to implement the tools, develop the content, collect the data, run, test and learn;

A typical personalisation programme could easily stretch from anywhere between six months and two years until it is fully operational and that's a long time to prove the ROI and success of such initiative.

Despite the availability of tools and the promise of scale very few organisations have managed to achieve *meaningfully* personalised experiences. At best we are scratching the surface.

about 1 month ago

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