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More than half of digital marketers believe that the ability to personalize web content is fundamental to their online strategy, but measurements to determine ROI differ. Those are two key takeaways from a new report by research firm Econsultancy

Its latest Quarterly Digital Intelligence briefing, sponsored by Adobe and available for US$ 400 from Econsultancy, focuses on personalization.

Tech Is Key

Thirty-seven percent of those questioned said that their companies are able to target personalized web content in real-time. As might be expected, technology is the key stumbling block. Only 32 percent said their content management system enables personalization, and the other five percent are apparently finding ways to target personalization despite the technological limits.

Six percent of respondents are personalizing experiences through “social graph” data, while forty-two percent use anonymous data.

Respondents’ assessment of how personalization impacts ROI, and how that impact is measured, include several interpretations. Eighty-eight percent said personalization based on the social graph has high impact, while 77 percent say personalization based on purchase history also has a high impact result.

Seventy percent utilize sales conversions to measure the impact, and 50 percent find that “time spent on site” can be used to determine if increased engagement has resulted.

In any case, only a third of those surveyed say they use their data effectively to maximize any impact on sales conversions, and 27 percent said they do not test different personalization variations to see which performs better.

‘Perfect Personalization’

The report identifies four steps to what it calls “perfect personalization.” The first is Consent, with full disclosure about data being collected and how it is used, followed by Control, where users can determine the amount of data used and can opt out whenever they want.

Trust/Context is the third, since users are more comfortable with personalized experiences when they trust a brand. The fourth step, Incentives, are “real, tangible benefits” in exchange for the collection of data, as well as a more personalized, data-driven experience that should prove to be more valuable to the user.

This study is the fifth Quarterly Digital Intelligence Report conducted by Econsultancy, and is based on an online survey of over 400 client-side and agency respondents. About two-thirds of the respondents are based in Europe, 15 percent in North America, and the rest in Australia, South America and the Middle East. The top three industries represented by the respondents were retail/mail order, financial services and publishing.