I recently attended my first Personalization Summit – an event dedicated to helping digital marketers deliver highly relevant, individualized experiences to their audiences across channels. It’s no secret that we’re in the Age of the Customer – and personalization is especially important and strategic to our organization because we feel that our digital presence should provide the same warm experience that occurs when two humans are conversing. I was hoping to get a little bit of inspiration in addition to a whole lot of implementation strategies out of the annual event, hosted by Evergage.
Boy, was I impressed. The Summit had all the polish of events hosted by industry giants like Oracle and Marketo, but with the intimacy to actually feel like your questions are being addressed and your feedback has a direct impact on the product roadmap.
The other thing that struck me was how passionate everyone was about personalization for the end consumer – attendees and presenters alike. There is a lot of talk in the press and by personalization vendors about how today’s marketer needs to have this technology or that tool, and this process or that capability to be considered “best in class.” Karl Wirth, Evergage’s CEO, reminded everyone during his morning keynote that the idea of personalization in marketing has been around for almost 25 years, since the release of The One to One Future by Peppers and Rogers in 1993. The most important thing is to start with a vision and to be committed to creating experiences that help and delight customers.
With that idea in mind, it was interesting to hear Forrester Analyst Brendan Witcher talk about individualization as opposed to personalization. He describes personalization as the perception of the customer and not something the marketer can control. However, by thinking of it as “individualization” (treating each person as an individual and focusing on delivering relevant experiences to each person), the goal becomes much more achievable through the use of personalization tools and machine learning – which uses algorithms and predictive analytics to determine and deliver the most relevant content and experiences to each and every visitor. He also challenged all of us in the crowd with the notion that the expectations of our customers are constantly changing and that today’s best practice is tomorrow’s old way. To me, this makes it even more critical that we keep on top of trends in the marketplace and ensure we can empathize with our customers to deliver an exceptional experience.
While all of the keynote speakers did a nice job of keeping the customer at the center of the personalization discussion, it was the “fireside chats” from real-world users that made me realize just how powerful personalization technology can be in the right hands. From microelectronics to insurance to auctions and more, machine-learning personalization is being used to not only drive highly relevant individualized experiences that feel personal to the consumer, but also to bring real value to each of the businesses through increased revenues and customer lifetime value. I came away with many ideas on how I could leverage some of the approaches to improve our digital presence at Harte Hanks.
The day would not have been complete without a few breakouts to help clients like me learn more about how to leverage our personalization investments. The breakouts covered a wide variety of topics from planning sessions to technical ones around how Evergage computes correlation models for recommendations. I walked out of each session knowing more about how to make my marketing better than I did before I walked in, even if I still don’t fully understand the math behind collaborative filtering!
It’s clear the technology has finally caught up to the vision Peppers and Rogers painted almost a quarter century ago, and machine learning is driving that evolution and propelling us forward. I am already looking forward to next year’s Summit and to seeing what Evergage will cook up.