A man pushing a boulder without moving it - impossible task concept
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Personalization isn't new. It has been around for a long time since the introduction of the internet in our daily lives. However, despite the potential benefits of personalization, many factors make it difficult for marketers and technical leaders to personalize content. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2025, 80% of the marketers who have invested in personalization will abandon their efforts due to a lack of ROI. 

For instance, to succeed at personalization, you need data points from different sources. You need to be able to interpret these data points, find ways of analyzing them and turning them into insights, and finally, you have to act on those insights by optimizing your site or app. 

The main problem with personalization is that your customers might not know what they want yet. Personalizing your customer's shopping experience makes them more likely to convert, but it often falls short and becomes a costly burden. To understand more about personalization and why it can be so hard to achieve, we asked the experts.

What Makes Personalization so Hard to Achieve

Interestingly, a web CMS, the tool that's supposed to help you deliver personalized content, often becomes the main culprit behind personalization failure. Dan Ribbens, co-founder at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Payload CMS, considers that "when it comes to personalization, there is the issue of older CMS architectures lacking an efficient way for developers to program for deep personalization. In most tech stacks, it just takes a lot of developer effort to create and manage the CMS platform efficiently."  

If the system that should handle personalization isn't really delivering on its promise, it's only logical that personalization comes across as a Sisyphean task. Ribbens also says that it's not only in delivering personalized content where business fail because "with every new requirement there are complexities to account for that maybe the original system wasn't designed for, and so quickly the velocity or capabilities have to suffer.

Plus, there's also the issue of data handling. Without the right tools, even the most well-seasoned marketer won't be able to deliver personalized content at scale. "The average user simply doesn't have the time to record and review the behavior of every person coming to the site to recognize trends and patterns, and then apply them to how the site treats each visitor," adds Frank Faricy, CEO at New York City-based XGen AI.

With the problem of data management also comes the lack of access to actionable data. Michele Szaboscik, VP of Marketing at Boston-based BlueConic, is of the opinion that "the lack of actionable insights has forced marketers to rely on overburdened IT and analytics teams and costly external agencies to dictate what, when, where, and how they can use data to personalize experiences." 

It seems, then, that the proper set of tools — or a capable CMS — is a must to personalize content at scale. But that's not it. Personalization also needs to become friendly for non-technical users. Faricy considers that ease of use is another hurdle to personalization. "Proper personalization not only takes a long time but also the complexity of the tools to customize the site make it difficult to implement or maintain," he says.

Related Article: Personalization Prep Work: Is Your Content Ready?

How to Make Personalization Easier

One of the best pieces of advice is first to establish what it is precisely you want to achieve with personalization. For example, are you looking to grow the number of subscribers? Optimize conversions? Increase traffic to your website? Once you know what you want to achieve, personalization becomes easier to understand, and your options of both tools and CMS platforms change.

  • Identify your tech needs: This is the first step in making personalization work for you. Without a look at your tech stack, your efforts are doomed to fail. Ribbens thinks that "identifying the most challenging or unique aspects of your system — those that you absolutely must have to make things work — and finding the tool that makes things easier, will make things fall into place."
  • Leverage CDPs: Szabocsik recommends leveraging customer data platforms (CDPs). She said, "CDPs not only unify first-party customer data at an individual level, but also give that unified profile data back to business users in a format that their tools can use to improve how they engage with customers, conduct modeling and analytics, and build multi-dimensional segments."
  • Implement AI personalization: Faricy suggested using AI. He adds that "AI cuts down the time and work involved in personalizing the site." AI can identify different types of customers and their shopping behaviors; AI would enable you to determine the best products or content to show them to help them make a purchase. 

Final Thoughts

Personalization without data is like walking into a cave blindfolded. You might be able to find your way out, but at what cost? Don't forget that implementing personalization just for its sake won't give you the best benefits. First of all, concentrate on having a good stream of data that's centralized and accessible to your team. Once you've done that, select the right tool for your target audience and test it until you make it.