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Optimizing the customer experience has been deemed one of the most exciting opportunities for marketers this year. But that doesn’t make it easy: research [download page] from Ascend2 reveals that improving the customer experience (CX) is also one of the most critical challenges to the success of a data-driven personalization strategy.

Improving CX is by far the biggest objective of a data-driven personalization, per the report – but it also ranks as the most difficult to achieve. Following close behind, respondents also feel that increasing visitor engagement (42%) and improving the quality of data (41%) are challenging when trying to put together a successful data-driven personalization strategy.

Where Is the Data Coming From?

To help overcome these challenges, marketers are utilizing various types of marketing data for personalization. More than half (55%) of the respondents to Ascend2’s survey say that one of the most important types of data they use for personalization is website activity. Another 47% of respondents say they use transaction activity, while 37% say that one of the most important types of marketing data they use is campaign activity. Respondents also say they use demographic information (32%), names (26%), company/employment (24%) and title or purchasing roles (19%)

A survey [download page] of 500 digital marketing executives released by Altimeter, a Prophet Company, found somewhat different results when asked what primary data sources respondents use to deliver personalization on their digital marketing channels. While nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents to that survey also use website analytics as a data source, that’s where the similarities end. Respondents to that survey instead say they are using social media metrics (69%), CRM systems (58%), customer surveys and research (58%), customer service records (57%) as well as third-party databases (40%).

The variance in these responses likely come down to different samples and answer options provided in the surveys.

Email Remains the Top Personalization Channel

Ascend2 found that respondents were most often using data-driven personalization in their email messaging. This corresponds with data from late last year that revealed that email was personalized far more than any other channel.

This doesn’t mean that companies are particularly successful at personalizing email. When email personalization is done right, people tend to engage with emails. However, marketers can take email personalization too far, which can have the opposite effect that marketers intended and leave customers feeling a bit uneasy. Additionally, Altimeter’s survey found that only two-fifths (40%) of respondents say they are able to execute real-time personalization for email at an optimal level.

Website Personalization Beyond the Homepage

Where marketers seem to be excelling with real-time personalization, per Altimeter, is with their company website. Nearly half (49%) of respondents say their ability to use personalization on their website is high.

While 4 in 10 (40%) of respondents to Ascend2’s survey say they most often use data-driven personalization on their website homepage, fewer respondents are using personalization beyond the homepage. Only 31% use data-driven personalization on campaign landing pages, while fewer (18%) use personalization on their product or pricing detail pages.

Expanding personalization beyond the homepage has been shown to be beneficial, at least in an e-commerce environment where conversion and add-to-cart rates increase markedly as the number of personalized pageviews increases.

About the Data: Ascend2 surveyed 251 marketing influencers in July 2019.

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