To remain relevant and competitive in today’s ever-evolving marketing landscape, businesses of all sizes and industries are undertaking critical transformation processes to align digital goals to strategic business objectives. They do this with the simple end goal of transforming customer experience, with a key approach being the ability to personalise the way they interact with their audiences.

While marketing leaders clearly recognise the importance of having a customer experience strategy that delivers return on investment (ROI), the majority appear to overestimate their current capabilities. It’s key that brands perceive personalisation as an organisational mindset, a continuous journey, and not a target to be hit and forgotten. This would enable them to make each customer feel valued and important by engaging them with content that is relevant at an individual level at the right time and place. However, a recent study by SoDA found that although 83 per cent of marketing leaders have increased their investments in personalisation for 2019, over half (52 per cent) have admitted to lacking an adequate roadmap and strategic investment plan for rolling out personalisation capabilities. This is often because not every marketer has the experience and knowledge of how to go about planning, delivering and measuring personalisation.

Furthermore, there’s also a discrepancy around how marketers rate their organisation’s abilities to improve digital experiences for their customers. According to our research, 67 per cent of marketers consider their organisations as “masters” or “experts” with robust and advanced levels of personalisation, but less than 40 per cent use even the most basic targeting criteria such as purchase history, browsing history, and the referral source.

So why do so many companies struggle to put together a customer experience management strategy for their business? Here are the three main challenges they face and how to overcome them:

  • Understanding customer behaviour. Companies are under pressure to draw on first-party data to monitor individual needs and shifts in customer behaviour. However, they struggle with getting an actionable view of their customers, which includes knowing customers’ needs and what is required to encourage them to complete a purchase. In fact, global commerce research shows that 65 per cent of eCommerce and marketing executives in retail do not have enough customer data to fully understand the customer journey. On top of this, many customers have difficulty collating quality data and having the correct tools to interpret it. Furthermore, only 31 per cent of marketing leaders report that they have a high level of trust in the data they collect.

Brands need to be able to extract the current, insightful information that gives customers the experience they expect, at the right time and place and in the right context. While most business leaders recognise the importance of targeting customers with personalised content, there seems to be a real disconnect in their ability to deliver the digital experience that moves customers from being a onetime buyer to becoming a loyal advocate. Therefore, it’s important that brands go through a planning phase to work out what personalisation looks like for them and what they can realistically deliver based on the customer data they have.

  • Limitations with technology. Not having the right technology needed to deliver great customer experiences in real time and in a cost-effective manner is a great obstacle. The main challenge comes when trying to perfect the experience for every customer across every channel. Afterall, many brands still rely on legacy technology. In particular, research from eConsultancy found that less than 45 per cent of organisations are leveraging AI-capabilities for crucial functions such as automating certain tasks, improving content targeting, scenario planning or becoming more responsive to user actions. In fact, 20 per cent of marketing professionals have suggested that their companies invest in new technology only when legacy systems fail. But this cannot ensure the business benefits of a better customer experience.

Furthermore, in order to make the most of all the opportunities for personalisation, brands need to employ the right digital skills and consistently retrain their employees to keep up with the technologies entering the market. Currently, only a fraction of companies have the right talent in place – according to the Digital Marketing Institute only 8 per cent of marketers in the UK and the US possess entry level digital skills while 69 per cent feel they need to upskill workers to remain competent in their roles. This means that a great majority of businesses struggle to deliver great personalised experiences to customers.

  • Lack of executive support. Rather than the CMO securing sign off from the CEO and agreeing on budget allocation with the CFO, the decision of where and how to allocate investment for customer experience management requires buy-in and advocacy from many senior executives around the organisation. For example, working with the CIO will ensure you have the right technology in place to enable more sophisticated personalisation, while not forgetting continuity with existing IT and legacy systems. COO involvement can make certain that internal resourcing and processes support the requirements of the CXM programme.

The success of a CMO’s digital marketing strategy is dependent on all C-Suite members understanding how it will enable the company to meet wider business objectives, improve sales and therefore the bottom line.

These three points all lead to the same overarching challenge – a lack of customer centricity within companies. A real customer-centric company delivers personalised experiences at every step of the customer journey. For brands embarking on a digital transformation journey for the first time, the process seems overwhelming. Therefore, seeking expert guidance, from those that can advise on how to tailor to target verticals, how to put the foundations in place and pull the key learnings from best practice examples is critical. Often, the biggest barriers to getting started and driving value from your personalisation efforts are setting up the processes and knowing what pitfalls to avoid.

Having access to resources, guides and best practices and the availability of a dedicated expert team can really help customers break through those barriers. Personalisation is what enables us to create human connections in a digital world and those that can do this successfully are the brands that really stand out. The next article in the two-part series will discuss four key steps that brands can take to tackle these challenges and improve their customer experience management efforts.


Written by Vijayanta Gupta, VP Strategy & Industries at Sitecore and head of the Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies (SBOS) team.

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