Is Adaptive Personalization Realistic for My Brand?

by Jeff Fuhriman

posted on 01-08-2015

Many brands are stuck in tired, convenient methods of implicit personalization. They’re doing the minimum to personalize experiences, like making recommendations to generalized user segments or including first names in mass emails. If you’re at this stage, unsure how to advance, there’s good news: The methods and data you’re using to personalize now can provide a solid foundation on which to build more fluid, relevant, and deeply connected user relationships.

What is Adaptive Personalization?

Adaptive personalization is all about “making algorithms more human.” We can tell, sometimes intuitively, when a brand is sending us a blanket message; targeting without truly knowing the person behind the 0’s and 1’s. Just because I am a young, male, white collar worker with a family doesn’t mean I like the same as others in the same demographic. In fact, I work with a few other guys who match this description and we each spend our days off engaged in different hobbies, and browsing different brands.

Adaptive personalization doesn’t ditch the algorithms–algorithms are awesome! Instead, it strives to make them smarter. Adaptive algorithms actually learn more about the user with each visit, just like a friendship that grows and deepens with time. This growth can include:

In a nutshell: adaptive personalization seeks self-evolving, immediate customer relationships marked by highly specific one to one content delivery.

Adaptive Content = Agile, Accessible, and Always Improving

Adaptive content is the linchpin of adaptive personalization. It’s a content strategy that makes meaningful, personalized, omnichannel interactions its primary goal. Content designers must start with a deep understanding of users’ needs, desires, aspirations, daily challenges, locations, and devices, and then create and deliver content that is relevant.

That doesn’t mean content must speak to every unique quality of every complex user, but it should speak to those areas where the user’s interests intersect your business objectives. And, ideally, that’s just the beginning of an always improving feedback loop between you and your audience. As Noz Urbina writes:

“The more we can make our content adaptive, the more we can realistically deliver tailored, high-value content without running out of budget, resources, or time. We didn’t invent content marketing because we’re such clever marketers. Content marketing came to be because our audiences simply stopped listening. And who can blame them? The new model is based on attention-for-value-added exchanges rather than blanket messages. It’s a sustainable strategic approach to communication. It sure beats the days of just trying to out-shout the competition.”

Defining Agility

Content agility can be defined as your ability to “realistically deliver tailored, high-value content” within your organization’s budget and resources. “Realistically” is the key word here. Content has agility when it is relevant, optimized for both business and user goals, and reusable across platforms and personas.

Content agility comes from a fluid or flexible framework that empowers the marketer to speak to the individual. Is the content you receive from your team fluid and flexible enough to be used across various verticals and buyer personas? Can it be targeted to different types of decision makers or consumers? Is it easy for marketers to tweak, adjust, personalize, and target your content without having to start from scratch?

Content agility is a feature that must be built in from the beginning. It’s one thing to personalize links and images to unique visitors, and something else to make articles, guides, datasheets, and case studies more relevant to the person reading. This takes thought, planning, and continual improvement.

Defining Accessibility

Maybe your audience has stopped listening because you’re not delivering content in the right way. If you’re delivering pdfs to smartphones, for example, users probably can’t even access your content if they try.

Content accessibility is about making it effortless for the user to give you their attention. It is already familiar to you as responsive design and content, and can be as simple as scaling pages to fit devices ranging from desktop monitors down to smartphone screens.

Content accessibility requires the context aware technology that allows you to deliver content differently for different scenarios. In order optimize the same piece of content for a laptop, smartphone, tablet, and print, you need to know what device the reader is using and show them what matters most in that context. For example, your B2B client checking out a datasheet on her smartphone may only want to see the most salient points, and be able to email herself more detailed information for later reading. But a desktop visitor may be seeking to download and scour the fine print.

How do I create all that content?

So this all sounds great in theory, right? But the elephant in the room that not too many people like to talk about is: How can brands create enough content to meet the needs of vastly complex users?

It takes a lot of content to remain fresh and engaging (let alone agile, accessible, and always improving). And content–quality, sharable content–isn’t easy or cheap to generate. This is where many companies that aren’t operating at an Amazon.com level get discouraged, or decide their simpler forms of personalization are good enough for them.

Where’s all this amazing, flexible, fluid, high-value content supposed to come from? It’s a valid and increasingly important question for brands who want to thrive in the new omnichannel marketing landscape.

In my next post, I’ll tackle this question with practical tips and first steps for the brave, user-centric brand. Stay tuned for a look at how you can make your content more adaptive and relevant from the start, saving you time and resources in the long run.

Topics: Personalization

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