June 10th, 2015 | 4 MIN READ

The Pitfalls of Standalone Personalization Strategy

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

According to research by Econsultancy and RedEye, upwards of 50% of marketers' personalization strategies are "standalone," using only on-site data to target content and offers, as opposed to being integrated with data from other digital channels, such as email marketing, social, mobile apps, paid search, affiliate and offline.


Standalone personalization does positively impact conversion rates -- 93% of Econsultancy's respondents report an increase in conversion rates since implementing personalization. Basic segmentation strategies like geography, referring source or campaign, categories and products viewed, search queries, new vs. repeat visitors or customers, device type and the like can all be used to improve the relevance of the customer experience. Personalization engines can roll in wisdom-of-the-crowds and predictive targeting to make it even better.

But for e-businesses that want to fully embrace contextual commerce, the standalone solution misses the opportunity to target more specific merchandising, offers and guided customer journeys on-site, and to offer consistent personalization beyond the storefront -- mobile apps, email, SMS and in-store offers.

Personalization technology

Econsultancy's study reports the majority of marketers use content management systems and A/B or multivariate testing tools for site personalization (a business is not limited to a single technology and may use 2 or more in conjunction):


?Even for the most advanced, personalization is an activity that still happens off-site much more than on-site and is primarily based on product interest and promotions. Very few are concentrating on personalizing visitor journeys; that is, operational personalization that removes ‘friction’ for the visitor.

Personalization is a strategy that needs to involve core systems to be executed successfully in the long term; those that do currently personalize are most likely to use their CMS, but it tends to be a standalone strategy for most, because siloed systems and data are still a pain point. The need to integrate as much as possible will only increase as companies evolve and mature in this space. People and process barriers still need to be broken down, however, to facilitate technology adoption and reap the associated rewards, especially for those leading the market.

- Sandra White, Senior Consultant, Sitecore

Marketing cloud vendors that offer a suite of integrated products like campaigns, analytics, social, testing and personalization solve much of the integration challenge, but don't always integrate with every data point and system a business may use.

To fully integrate data sources, a business may individually wire data sources to CRM, CMS and ecommerce platforms. This approach is IT intensive, slow and costly, and doesn't always work.

An alternative is to use a commerce integration platform that connects data sources and tools into a unified API which can connect to a CMS or marketing cloud platform. Not only does this simplify development for IT, but also allows systems integrators, digital agencies and marketers to manage experiences without IT, allowing for quicker innovation.

What can you do with fully integrated personalization?

There are an infinite number of use cases for integrated personalization. Here are just a few scenarios of what a business can't do with standalone personalization strategy and technology:

  • A customer researches Widget online evidenced by Google Adwords referral, product page views and repeat visits, but converts in-store. Connect this data to the commerce platform and marketing tools to stop recommending Widget on the home page, and start populating merchandising zones and email with compatible Widget accessories, or products typically purchased "next" based on online and offline data. Stop retargeting Widget to this customer on Facebook and around the Web. Credit Adwords campaign for the offline sale.
  • A fashion retailer's existing customers actively use Pinterest as a bookmarking tool, and are now starting to purchase pinned items at a later time directly through the Pinterest app. The retailer wants to use Pinterest's API to connect back into its email marketing program to ensure future emails are relevant to what customers have pinned and purchased.
  • A software-as-a-service company wants to connect a subscriber's product usage data to personalize its website, mobile app and marketing campaigns, specifically targeted around renewals and upgrades. It also wants to use this data to predict and mitigate churn, sending triggered content and offers to save the customer, whilst A/B testing creative, timing and frequency of these tactics.

The ability to integrate any data source and deliver a consistent, personalized experience across touchpoints is a dimension of a business' digital maturity. While a site can offer a decent personalized experience and reap the conversion benefits of a standalone strategy, an integrated, cross-channel solution will allow you to personalize consistently across touchpoints, and gather the most complete customer view possible.

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