Moving beyond vanity metrics: a new approach to personalization

A critical step toward confronting the cookie apocalypse

Today, marketing is really about one thing: data. This isn’t breaking news—but what marketers are still getting wrong about data is how, not why, to use data for competitive advantage.

Let’s discuss the how.

There are two approaches to how marketers can utilize their data: 

  • Refocus on the added-value metrics that matter
  • Prioritize a customer-centric approach to personalization

The latter is easier said than done as marketers consistently confront hurdles in their quest to use data to deliver highly personalized customer experiences. These include:

  1. Today’s consumer is global
    Their options are limitless, and they’re constantly being bombarded by ads on every channel. With constant competition and endless choice, brands must find a way to stand out among the (very large) crowd.
  1. Organizational structure often has siloed teams working against conflicting KPIs. 
    There’s often no existing co-planning across functions such as call centers, marketing, agencies, sales, and IT, so disparate goals create a sluggish pace. 
  1. Someone else owns the data. 
    In the current environment, most likely, publishers own marketers’ data. This means that their data is also likely being bought and sold to their competition. With the coming phase-out of third-party cookies, it’s time that brands collect their first-party data for their own competitive advantage.
  1. Poor analytics implementation leads to poor utilization of data.
    With no measurement framework, there’s often a focus on too many metrics. Just because we can track something, doesn’t mean we should. Reporting additionally occurs in silos across channels such as online, email, store, call center, and app.

First-party data is the answer 

Marketers must focus on collecting their own data—from all owned channels. Relying on third-party vendors, where competition has equal access to it, is a futile effort given current global policy.

Break down organizational silos 

Information silos, data silos, and analytics silos all exist when organizations are structured in a way where key customer experience stakeholders are not empowered to collaborate. Technology investment can be helpful in breaking down these barriers, but it’s not a cure-all. There must also be an emphasis on culture—for example, encouragement from senior leaders to freely share data and insights. 

Being thoughtful about reporting

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the almost infinite metrics available for analysis. Many of these are white noise, however—what we’re calling “vanity.” Often these metrics can be clicks on ads, social media impressions, social media likes, new vs. repeat customers, and other metrics that show fickle popularity instead of value-added results. 

It’s time to get away from these vanity metrics. Instead, marketers must lend a critical eye to understand what leads to conversions in their business. Metrics that send customers down the funnel, such as web traffic, add to cart, and conversion can all be valuable metrics to evaluate when making broader business decisions. KPIs that acquire, convert, and retain customers, and those that increase customer lifetime value, are going to be the most important measures of success.

Personalization to optimize customer experience

Personalization goals should be surrounded by creating contextual and meaningful journeys based on qualitative and quantitative data from every channel at all times. These interactions should focus on the customer lifetime value. Everything should be in pursuit of helping the customer, and in turn, they’ll reward brands with added loyalty. 

First, brands should understand the role of tech in the pursuit of customer experience optimization. Teams must research and compare technology investments to understand what tools they need at the stage they’re in. Small and medium-sized businesses don’t need enterprise-level tech stacks, but they do need tech that can grow alongside them instead of needing to redo the process after a few years of growth. 

When it’s time to jumpstart a digital transformation and personalization strategy, brands need to understand that personalization is never an overnight success. It’s impossible to simply “flip the switch” and immediately offer personalized interactions at every stage of the customer journey on every channel. A great customer experience is built through phases:

  • Segmentation: Collect first-party data and tailor communications for products and services. This may only allow for a limited amount of data but it can still prove useful and influence conversion. 
  • Personalization: This is when brands can finally begin to truly utilize their first-party data. The customer profile becomes known and an understanding of the customer lifecycle is born. Teams can issue targeted offers and increase conversion further while reducing churn. 
  • Individualization: The final step is individualization. Very few brands are here yet. This stage adds intelligence to your data. Brands know their customers in context and offer an elevated customer experience across every channel. The stage brings about collaboration between customer and brand and offers the highest customer lifetime value. 

Personalization is a complex process, but it’s a necessary one. Brands must work at it consistently and strategically to meet their goals and experience results—and most importantly, to create memorable touch points with their core audiences. 

To learn more, watch our on-demand webinar with Acoustic partner Havas Helia or read this byline on reframing personalization as experience curation. Reach out if we can help you navigate the cookie/data landscape.

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