How to implement personalization in retail industry to get closer to your customers

In October 2014, Emirates embarked on its journey to personalization with Qubit-Coveo.

In this blog, we’ll outline the personalization strategy that allowed them to move from simple testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO) to a more sophisticated version of hyper-personalization at scale.

What is Personalization?

Defining personalization can be difficult, especially since it has matured incredibly quickly over the years. As we explored in our ‘Getting 6% more’ research, the sophistication of personalization can be assessed along a spectrum.

Simple A/B testing and site optimization using cosmetic changes falls under the lower end of website personalization. The travel industry, in particular, has successfully embraced personalized marketing.

Booking.com and Expedia are just two businesses that transformed the industry landscape with their digital personalization strategy.

At the more advanced end of the spectrum — what we like to call the ‘holy grail’ or hyper personalization — can seem a little out of reach if you’re just getting started on your journey.

According to our experts, every personalization strategy needs to evolve with time. Most companies restrict their personalization effort to an audience segment as a whole — not with 1:1 personalization.

Today, a strong personalized marketing strategy is one that combines the best of both worlds:

  • Tactical approaches like social proof based on basic segmentation (Think ‘200 consumers booked a flight today’)
  • Strategic personalized offer to key consumer segments (‘100 Diamond Tier members booked our chauffeur service’)
  • Predictive personalization to specific users to raise brand loyalty (‘You’ve the booked chauffeur service on your previous 5 trips, add again from JFK’)

Advancing from purely tactical communication to applying strategic and targeted content personalization is something that requires time, resources, and a process. It’s not a case of simply selecting and implementing any web personalization tool.

As we heard from Emirates, once you get past trivial use cases, executing personalized marketing across multiple channels can become challenging.

What Are the Three Main Components of a Personalization Strategy?

There are three key areas to consider when it comes to implementing a personalization strategy: the people, the aforementioned process, and the technology.

People: Create a test and learn culture

Creating a culture that understands personalization is important to have in place from the outset!

Personalization can have an impact on many areas of the business. It will influence how you acquire, engage, retain and develop loyal customers. This means there’s inevitably going to be a lot of people involved.

Getting buy-in from key stakeholders, as well as the wider business, is key. Emirates started out by implementing a personalization program with 3-4 people — it now involves over 50.

Creating a culture that understands personalization is important to have in place from the outset. Here’s why:

  1. A test-and-learn approach removes subjectivity from decision making via data, putting everyone’s ideas on a level playing field.
  2. It allows for features or personalizations to be validated, i.e., that they drive the right behavior.
  3. Taking this approach allows the downside risks of launching new features to be reduced.
  4. Learnings can then be applied to future roadmaps, with minimal upfront investment.

When using this approach, it’s a good idea to start small. Prioritize the experiences you deem high-priority and involving just a few channels. When you’re sharing results with the rest of the business, be transparent and include successes as well as failures — both offer learnings for next time.

Then once you’ve got a few experiences that really drive value, think about how you can get people involved across your organization — which communication channels work well for your organization? Is there a workshop or a lunch-and-learn session you can hold?

Process: Collect & prioritize

Once you manage to prove some value and get everyone on board, you then need a process to collect and prioritize ideas.

How you do this is up to you, but it’s best to have a formal process so that everyone is thinking about personalization in the same way, and understands why certain ideas are being prioritized above others.

Here’s an example:

Collecting ideas: questions to ask

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Who will you target?
  • How will you measure success?

Then evaluate and prioritize, think about:

  • How to measure success
  • Impact on revenue
  • Impact on customer experience
  • Feasibility/effort
  • Size of target audience
  • Anything else that impacts execution or results

Using this process should help you get started with your thinking around implementing personalization.

If you still need a little help, we’ve created a personalization strategy ebook outlining the basic steps. Download a copy today!

Explore the 3-step formula from site optimization to personalizationEbook: The Journey To Advanced Personalization
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