by Matt Gherardi

Personalisation is a top priority for retailers. Tech leaders like Facebook, Google and Amazon have already shown that evolving their approach to personalisation can have a massive effect on sales growth, customer retention and the bottom line.

Research shows that 75% of customers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name. Additionally, 60% of customers say they are willing to have their shopping interests and behaviors used by retailers so that they can deliver relevant offers throughout the year. And a huge 70% of customers get frustrated when content they receive isn’t relevant to them.1

But how do you go about starting, or advancing, your personalisation approach?

Since personalisation is all about constantly tailoring your approach to individual customer interactions, we think an agile approach to implementation fits best. Agile methodology is normally applied to software development, however the principles of developing a fast-paced, self-organising and collaborative cross-functional team also translate well to personalisation.

Below are a few tips to bear in mind when mobilising or evolving your agile personalisation programme.

Clear & unified direction

Personalisation is a strategy where businesses leverage data analysis and digital technology to deliver custom experiences to their target market. These experiences range from bespoke messages to offers based on interests or previous purchases.

This means that achieving the maximum potential of your personalisation strategy is going to require collaboration from all areas of the business. As the data shows, going wrong with your personalisation efforts can be damaging to customer perception and have an adverse impact on the bottom line. This means that a single view of the customer is needed in order to deliver, and attaining this will require collaboration and buy-in from all areas of the business. Building an agile cross-functional team that quickly delivers results will serve to demonstrate the value of this collaborative effort.

Defining a clear direction for your agile personalisation programme, aligned to larger vision strategic goals, is essential to achieving success and gaining buy in from key areas like IT and finance.

For instance, let’s say one of your strategic goals is ‘Grow new customer acquisition by 30%.’ Begin establishing projects in your personalisation programme with this goal in mind and ensure you are clear on how you will report on your results. In this case, you decide to start out small and mobilise one project to ‘increase website conversion through personalisation.’

The project visibly links to the strategic goal and ensures your actions and results are justifiable and will achieve business value.

How to mobilise

Now that we have our purpose defined, it is time to build our agile team. Personalisation programmes require inputs from many departments in your organization. This means that the team you build will need key people to be involved from these different areas of the business. The groundwork already laid will ensure that this cross-functional team is autonomous and has the authority needed to quickly make the changes the agile approach demands.

The next step is to frame the team in the context of agile. Think of this approach as empowering a ‘task-force’ rather than a traditional project team. Some members may be part time and some may be full time. The important factor is that they are all in communication and recognize the priority of functioning in this team.

You will need people that can cover the following three areas:

  1. Content

Whatever the scope of your personalisation programme, it is going to need a very large amount of content to be created. People with skills in producing copy, creative assets and multimedia will be essential members of the team. These team members will create and iterate on content by continually testing and monitoring new approaches.

  1. Data/Technical

This team is going to be flooded with data. Team members, possibly from the BI department, who can parse this data will be essential for discovering new or underserved approaches. Data insights will also allow you to better prioritise team activity.

You’ll also need involvement from IT functions or technical systems owners to ensure you have access to the right expertise to rapidly deploy your content iterations.

  1. Owner

This role is another adaptation of agile methodology. The ‘personalisation owner’ is an individual empowered by the business to guide the programme by making key decisions on priorities. This role can directly be compared to the ‘product owner’ role in an agile IT project. This role will take ownership of success in your personalisation programme.

Organising your approach

Personalisation is a relatively new area that is constantly developing. This means that your approach will naturally require many stages of iteration and assessment, so an agile approach works very well. Agile drives momentum and allows learning to be quickly applied. To put this into practice, you can borrow from the different stages of an agile approach. The three components are: TasksBacklog and Sprints.

The Backlog is made up of all the unassigned tasks that the team has come up with. The personalisation owner will make sure all of these are recorded and then prioritise them according the direction of the team. The first meetings of the team will define the backlog that will be prioritised into the first sprint. The backlog is then grown as new ideas are put forward, bugs are found or knowledge is acquired.

Sprint is essentially a length of time that is set to complete a set of tasks and deliver a change. Sprints can last for anything from 1-3 weeks but should not go longer than the maximum. Splitting up time in this way helps to build momentum and also allows the team to continually demonstrate success. It also prompts frequent evaluation of work that has been done and hone your team by identifying skills gaps and resource constraints.

Tasks are bit-sized piece of work that will deliver a tangible result. The personalisation owner should prompt the team to come up with tasks during team meetings. The frequency of the meetings will then hold the team to account for delivery of each task to schedule.

In summary, it’s clear that the most effective and sustainable personalisation programmes are best run as a collaborative, cross-functional projects and this fits very well with an agile methodology.


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