Personalization and optimization: how Contentful helps you do both

Digital personalization and optimization have come to improve the relevancy of digital experiences. In particular, digital personalization is the talk of the town. It's moving brands forward towards wild ideas like empathetic marketing and digitized physical spaces. What started as a simple way to make email communications more personable has turned into a way for brands to build better relationships with their customers.

Optimization, while less of a buzzword at the moment, is equally important. Brands can present the best version of their content to the customer leading to more conversions and loyal customers.

In this post, we'll discuss the similarities and differences between digital personalization and optimization, and explore how Contentful helps you do both.

What is digital personalization? 

Personalization is the process of tailoring an experience or communication for an individual based on previously collected behavioural data. It aims to create a better, more relevant interaction between a person and a brand. It takes many forms — from tailored e-commerce recommendations to curated music playlists. As an internet user, you might recognize it as targeted advertising, or a digital experience like a weather app that is trained on your exact location.   

According to consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, personalization will be the prime driver of marketing success within five years. In short, customers are expecting more from their digital experiences. They want their digital world to revolve around them. 

And digital personalization hasn't reached its final iteration. According to McKinsey & Company, we will see more physical spaces digitized to provide a personalized offering. We're also going to see more facial recognition, biometric sensors and location recognition. Both these advances will help provide a seamless customer journey where the customer can move between spaces such as home, the car and the shopping center.  

And with time, McKinsey & Company is also predicting more empathetic personalization. Marketers will be able to gauge a customer's mood or frame of mind and offer suggestions accordingly. Think an upbeat playlist for a customer who is feeling down, or tips for cold/flu products for someone under the weather. 

What is digital optimization? 

Optimization is the process of data collection, testing, and improving your digital experiences. It determines the best possible presentation of your digital experience. Where personalization focuses on the individual, optimization is concerned with a broad set of users. Like personalization, it relies on behavioral data. 

The two most common forms of digital optimization are A/B testing and heat maps. A/B testing includes testing your original design against alternative variations. For example, you might test two different CTAs against each other or two different layouts for a landing page. Usually, the variations are small — one line of copy or an image — so it's possible to pinpoint what's working precisely. 

Heat maps are a visual representation of how users engage with a digital experience. They are typically used to show where users have clicked on a page, how far they have scrolled down, or the results of eye-tracking tests. 

How does Contentful help you do both? 

You can work with the right technology partners

With Contentful as your content platform, you can adopt a microservices approach and choose technology partners specializing in digital personalization and optimization. Both processes require data collection and analysis to provide a complete customer view. Companies need to invest in the right customer-data platform (CDP), a data-management platform (DMP), and increasingly, an identity-resolution platform (IRP). 

It also pays to have a highly extensible platform for whatever is coming next. As we mentioned above, expectations around personalization are changing rapidly. Having the ability to add tools and services to meet these needs will be crucial. Contentful's app framework was created for this exact purpose — it allows you to quickly add the best-of-breed services to your stack with minimal effort. Right now, you can add personalization and optimization tools such as Uniform and Frosmo to your stack. 

Digital personalization and optimization go hand-in-hand with agile

Both personalization and optimization require a commitment to agile management. It takes an enormous amount of content to execute digital personalization and optimization. You're not just making one piece of content, but tens, if not hundreds, of variations. And it needs to be done quickly. Both processes require rapid and constant change. 

Therefore, cross-functional teams are key. There needs to be communication and collaboration amongst all people who touch the customer journey. Only mature agile processes can handle this type of workload. 

You can manage a huge volume of content

One of the biggest challenges in digital personalization and optimization is that marketers cannot match the volume of content they demand. With both personalization and optimization at scale, you're not just creating one piece of content but several versions. This creates a need to design and create a lot more content. 

The solution is to operate as a content factory and work with structured, modular content. That way, you can mix and match content components to create new content — instead of starting from scratch.

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