It's Time For CMOs To Tap Into The Power Of Personalization

According to Forrester Research, U.S. e-commerce sales are expected to hit $370 billion by 2017 – that’s 10 percent of retail sales. These are some pretty staggering figures that brands and their CMOs cannot afford to ignore. More than anything, it’s a harsh reminder of just how much revenue they stand to lose if they get the online experience wrong.

Consumers today are finicky and want what they want, now. Some place the highest premium on loyalty and trust in a brand or product. Others, bound by the unstable economy, prefer deep discounts and bargains. And then there’s the ever-growing population of consumers who are always connected and always on, thanks to their smartphones and tablets. As different as consumers are, they all want to feel like the brands and products they use are tailored specifically for them. By providing personalized, relevant and unique content in line with consumers’ likes and dislikes, purchase behaviors and demographic profiles, they’ll increase eyeballs to their online or mobile sites, boost traffic and, most important, drive short-term and long-term sales. Here are five reasons why CMOs cannot ignore the power of personalization any longer, or they may soon be shutting their doors.

Make data your best friend.

It’s unfortunate, but a lot of brands these days are still guessing their way through their website design and e-commerce strategy. As smart and creative as most brands think they are, the numbers don’t lie. Data can be one of the most inexpensive and smart listening tools a brand can have in its arsenal. I can’t stress enough the importance of brands analyzing what works and what’s missing the mark with all of their design changes through A/B and multivariate testing. That kind of data is more apt to deliver real insights into who their audience is, what types of content and information they want, and where they are making those purchases. All of those learnings, in turn, can result in increased clicks, higher conversion rates, more revenue and happier customers.

Reach the right audience.

What is the demographic profile of your primary customers? Are a significant portion of your online customers also smartphone and tablet owners? Does product pricing influence the purchase decisions of your customers? The identity of your customers, their demographic profiles, what types of information they value as well as when and where they are making purchases are all insights that can help you reach the right audience at the right time with the right content – whether it’s in the form of emails, product recommendations or social promotions. So doesn’t it make sense to test and optimize your website to reach the right audience at the right time with theright content?

Be relevant, unique and indispensable.

One of the best ways to attract and retain customers is to make your brand and products so relevant, unique and indispensable that they would suffer if they went elsewhere. According to Forrester’s 2012 North American Brand Performance Study, being indispensable commands greater preference, and that means a higher likelihood that customers are going to keep spending their hard-earned dollars with your brand across multiple channels. One way to satisfy consumers’ high standards is to make product recommendations as personal and strategic as possible. Showing the right products in the best way on the right pages can result in higher site traffic, longer engagement times on landing pages and more sales. That’s a win-win for both brands and consumers.

Smartphones and tablets drive e-commerce growth.

If you think investing the time, resources and dollars into testing and optimizing your site for smartphones and tablets isn’t that urgent, think again. According to eMarketer, 15 percent of online retail sales this year will take place via mobile devices, which is up from 11 percent in 2012. Overall, U.S. retail m-commerce sales are predicted to reach nearly $39 billion in 2013, up 56.5 percent from 2012 and almost triple the amount spent in 2011.

But not every smartphone and tablet is the same; each device type, model and platform comes with its own unique set of features and functions. Failing to optimize and personalize your website for the smaller screen could very well mean the difference between being profitable and going bankrupt.

Forge meaningful social relationships.

Social media has forever changed the way we use the Internet and consume information. Once considered to be a new “fad,” social media is now an integral part of consumers’ daily lives. A study by Forrester Research found that 45 percent of people on social networks have interacted with a brand through social media over the previous three months. It’s especially interesting to see that 71 percent of online adults are accessing social networking sites at least monthly.

Despite how popular and “cool” it’s become for brands to have a social presence on sites like Facebook FB +2.1%, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, many have done so without any real strategy or testing behind them. How often do you hear brands bragging about reaching 1 million fans or “likes” on their Facebook page? But these metrics aren’t tied in any way to ROI and sales. Incorporating social data into your overall personalization program can convert those actions into leads and revenue. Isn’t that what really matters to your business?

Paul Dunay is the Global Vice President of Marketing for Maxymiser, a leader in web optimization and analytics, and author of five “Dummies” books: Facebook Marketing for DummiesSocial Media and the Contact Center for DummiesFacebook Advertising for DummiesFacebook Marketing for Dummies 2nd Edition and Facebook Marketing for Dummies 3rd Edition .

Follow Paul @PaulDunay