Mastering content personalization across digital channels

Five steps to building a successful content personalization strategy

In developing a digital content strategy, one of the biggest challenges marketers face is how to secure the attention and wallet-share of customers who are bombarded with information across dozens of different digital platforms daily. According to market research experts McKinsey, delivering personalized content at scale is the answer, and “Marketing’s Holy Grail”.1

Most companies are able to personalize at least some of their marketing content on a campaign by campaign, and channel by channel basis. But preferred channels and customer expectations are constantly changing. Operating within this ever-changing landscape at the single channel level isn’t just inconvenient — it’s unsustainable. In fact, according to one estimate, companies are losing $1 trillion in annual revenues to their competitors because they are not consistently relevant enough.2

To capture the hearts and dollars of shoppers, personalization must be done on an enterprise-wide scale, with multiple departments working together nimbly and effortlessly to deliver the right content at the right time, regardless of channel. Rinse and repeat.

A flexible content model is the key

One of the key foundational elements of a successful omnichannel content strategy is ensuring that your content is structured for use and reuse across channels.

Traditional CMSes were designed for websites and most still organize content into page-centric frameworks, where the headline, author, summary, call to action, etc. are combined with code to produce a web page or other channel-specific format. Because content is lumped together and combined with code, a different CMS is typically needed for each channel, limiting reuse and fragmenting your personalization efforts.

To meet the omnichannel needs of today’s customers, content must be structured for use across channels. This starts with a content model that breaks down content into individual elements, such as a blog post headline or the copy on a call-to-action button. You define what elements you need and how they relate to each other. In doing so, you create a flexible content infrastructure that organizes content for use across channels. What’s more, you can easily specify elements for different audiences, channels or “triggers” making it easy to integrate personalization and automation tools.

For example, a landing page on a website might have certain fixed fields in a traditional content model: title, summary, author, form, etc. In a flexible content model, those are individual elements that can be organized into different layouts depending on the channel. Or integrated with personalization and translation tools to produce the most relevant page for each user. Using a flexible content model, we can quickly create a custom landing page for each different target audience for the whitepaper, Publish once, sell everywhere.

Here are 5 steps to develop a successful omnichannel personalization strategy

#1: Start with a customer-centric business strategy. Great strategy drives measurable results. None of the outcomes we described above are possible without the vision, clarity, resources, and team unity provided by a customer-centric business strategy. Successfully supporting strategy with content means serving target customer segments (see #2 below) with customized messaging at specific key moments, rather than employing a shotgun content approach and hoping something resonates.

#2: Collect and use customer data to predict their needs. The companies who are doing personalized marketing well are the best listeners. Customers are constantly sending out digital signals about their needs and preferences via activities like purchases, online browsing, and social media posts. Companies need to convert those signals into actionable data by segmenting customers with similar behaviors to predict their needs and personalize their content based on previous interactions.3

#3: Create a flexible content infrastructure. As we discussed above, this is the key to efficiently scaling your digital personalization strategy. A flexible content model, built for use across channels kicks aside the problems, frustrations and repetitive manual tasks of traditional content operations. You can quickly adapt content to serve evolving customer needs, whether that means expanding into new channels, localizing content for a new market, or implementing a new page layout.

#4: Choose the right technology partners. Industry leaders are moving away from mega-suites. Despite vendors’ claims, no single party offers a true end-to-end solution. Adopting a microservice approach, enables companies to assemble a tech stack using their preferred technology partners. API-first content solutions, such as Contentful, are built to integrate with your tech stack. This streamlines content operations by leveraging tools, such as personalization, analytics and automation across content channels.

#5: Leverage the same content for different markets. Transforming content creation from a cost center into a revenue center requires the ability to scale and extend content into new markets. For new channels that means being able to deliver content in any digital format. For international markets, you need the ability to quickly and easily translate and localize content for landing pages, microsites, seasonal offerings and more across multiple locales. Optimizing content on the back-end fuels your ability to scale faster by keeping brand elements aligned across channels, repurposing content to get more value, and personalizing content so the right message reaches the right customer at the right time.


1 Brian Gregg, Hussein Kalaoui, Joel Maynes, and Gustavo Schuler, “Marketing’s Holy Grail: Digital personalization at scale”, McKinsey Digital, November 2016

2 John Zealley, Robert Wollan, Joshua Bellin, “Marketers Need to Stop Focusing on Loyalty and Start Thinking About Relevance”, Harvard Business Review, March 2018

3 Brian Gregg, Hussein Kalaoui, Joel Maynes, and Gustavo Schuler, “Marketing’s Holy Grail: Digital personalization at scale”, McKinsey Digital, November 2016

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