Five Steps to ROI With Content Personalization

by Kevin Lindsay

posted on 06-15-2016

Today’s marketers are tasked with creating great experiences — relevant, compelling, personalized experiences that ensure customers get what they want but that also support the goals against which marketers are measured. Undoubtedly, we all agree that great experiences lead to greater marketing ROI, and I’m equally certain we all acknowledge that you can’t have great experiences without great content. However, the problem with content is that there just doesn’t seem to be enough of the right content built for the right audience and the right delivery channel — right when you need it!

In many cases, the content exists but needs a little tweaking or isn’t optimized for a particular channel. Sometimes, if you just had that other variation, you could validate your assumptions or better personalize the offers for particular audience segments. What we have here is a content velocity problem — one that Adobe is working hard to solve. I believe — and many brands I’ve worked with concur — that what’s been holding us back from really putting our data-driven strategies to work has been content to pay off those efforts. Today, we need to achieve higher content velocity to make this happen and to reach the next level of marketing ROI.

Five Steps for Gaining ROI From Content
I’ve been saying for several years now that we don’t lack the data to achieve the level of personalization our consumers desire and our businesses require. Many companies we work with have become extremely sophisticated in their abilities to connect the dots and know what their customers will respond to — actually doing it is a different matter though. Having the right content — in its many variations — has been the challenge. Content velocity allows us to put our data strategies to work. Here are five steps to get there:

1. Experiment With Your Content.
Your content represents your best ideas. You need to experiment with your content — think A/B and multivariate testing to truly prove your content strategy and ensure great content and ideas are put to work. Every piece of content has an intended purpose: to make a consumer want to do something that will benefit both of you. Adopt a philosophy around experimentation and make sure it’s constant; it should be an action everyone engages in frequently. Experimentation is critical; the higher your content velocity, the freer you are to experiment.

2. Target Your Content (But Not Without Testing).
Although there is, of course, nothing wrong with segmenting your customers, some marketers naively think it’s okay to take a set-and-forget approach to targeting with little or no regard for whether the content is actually working for that audience. Although this might be a “good enough” approach to personalization for some, it could be a wasted opportunity when your valuable content fails to resonate with your even more valuable potential customers. Let me provide an example.

One might assume that geotargeting would be a sound strategy, and it very often is: give a New Yorker “The Foodie’s Guide to New York,” right? Recently, one of our Adobe Target customers found the opposite was true though; it appears that many NYers are looking to get out of the Big Apple and discover cuisine in other locales! So, don’t target without testing — and don’t test without targeting! Be sure you understand who is responding to your winning content!

3. Let Data Science Be Your Guide.
While you work to create different types of content and experiences, it’s essential to let data drive those experiences and determine whether they’re working. This is what optimization is all about. But, sometimes, doing that is easier said than done. What I mean is that knowing how to act on what data — which insights are meaningful, what should you do with them, etc. — is the challenge. As you scale your digital properties and what you’re trying to achieve through them, you can’t necessarily always be there on the frontlines making those essential decisions. That’s where the data-science piece comes in.

Data science helps you see — with razor-sharp clarity — that this particular piece of content is winning with this audience, and then it takes more of that action on your behalf. Does this mean giving up a bit of control? No, not completely. But, it does mean marketers must be comfortable with trusting the data to make more of the decisions and to take more of the content actions. One very tangible example of this is Auto-Allocate: a feature in Adobe Target that uses data science as a virtual content traffic cop, so you don’t have to be one when testing different content variations.

4. Take Your Best Shot!
So, you have great content. And, you undoubtedly have very high-value locations across your digital properties that are intended to grab visitors’ attentions — like billboards. Think of the investment required for a brand to place a massive billboard ad on a busy highway — a billboard everyone will see. There’s one in particular I’m forced to take note of every day because of its lucky (or strategic?) placement just where the traffic comes to a standstill.

You likely have the digital equivalent on your website, but unlike the static behemoth on the 101, your traffic doesn’t have to be subjected to a hit-or-miss experience that — at best — generates mild interest for a select few. So, what are you doing with these prime locations? Just who decides what this hero content should be, given that it’s viewed by practically every visitor to your site or user of your app? Chances are, knowing who has control over that space and what’s shown in it can be a little dicey since it is of such high value. Some companies integrate carousels, feeling like they can serve even more interests more frequently — but that’s not the solution, at least not when ROI is concerned.

This is your chance to use automation and all the power of your data. Form these money pages around your most beautiful imagery, your most creative ideas, and your most powerful and relevant content. This is where data science and machine learning play important roles. That should dictate what happens here as well as who should see it and when. Again, it’s always about the right content, in the right place, at the right time. That adage is always important — especially in this scenario.

5. Think Outside the Box.
We all have websites and apps and other high-value digital experiences. So, how do we ensure that we’re delivering the right content across all of it? This final step is about moving beyond these experiences as individual elements, and instead, leveraging content and data at a high velocity to increase experience velocity. This velocity touches on the nimbleness with which we’re able to create these unique, all-encompassing experiences — not just personalize discreet pieces of content that show up on a website. We’re talking about replacing the Web of pages with a Web of experiences — it’s achievable, and it’s today. Recently, I had a chance to meet with a global media brand that is going through a site/app overhaul employing the popular tile design, and they are leveraging machine learning to offer literally hundreds of personalized content combinations on their homepage/screen. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

Content Personalization + Content Velocity = ROI: The Formula for Success Is Yours!
Content is king right now, and your ability to deliver sky-high ROI from these experiences is essential. To do that, marketers must be able to assemble very customized, very dynamic content experiences that fully leverage data and content. The scary part for marketers? It’s not the speed or the delivery — it’s that your content represents your best ideas, and you’re experimenting with those best ideas. It can be scary — and even a little risky. But, no one’s ever gained a lot from testing button color alone. Riskier tests yield bolder ideas, and those bolder ideas tend to pay off in both the short- and long-terms and can help ensure powerhouse content velocity that achieves results. Because, at the end of the day, content velocity plus optimization leads to a velocity-of-experience delivery — that’s ultimately where we want to go and where your customers expect you to go. Get there, and you’ll reap the benefits in conversions, order values, and ongoing affinity — a true foundation for meaningful success.

Topics: Personalization

Products: