I was asked during a call with an organization how I would classify or segment it as a prospect. That got me thinking about what brings our clients to Monetate, and the kinds of segmentation that supersede vertical, company size, and budget.

three red arrowsWhen I think about the world of websites and the enterprises that drive them, I see companies dealing with three main challenges that keep them from delivering the relevant, personalized experiences that their customers expect and deserve:

• Data
• Strategy
• Execution

Most companies have one of these challenges conquered and some have two, but it’s rare to find a company that has wrangled all three. It’s kind of like the old saying in web development that you can do anything with enough developers, money, and time—but it’s tough to get all three.

To meet customers’ increasing demands for better online experiences, companies need all three working in unison. My experience is that this often is not the case, and brings companies to Monetate looking for solutions. Having suffered with this issue myself at past companies, I have true empathy for my marketing compatriots.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these three challenges, and how they fit together to create a holistic approach to online personalization:

Data

Companies have developed in a variety of ways as it relates to the web, and so it’s rare that the resulting data structures were designed with the web in mind.

The performance requirements, sheer volume, and dynamic nature of a true segmentation and personalization program are beyond what even the most mature data infrastructures can handle. Customer, product, order, in-store, online, offline, preferences, demographics, behaviors, intent—the list of data types goes on and on.

Lack of access or visibility into these various data points may leave you with an inaccurate picture of your audience and in the unenviable position of doubting your metrics.

Strategy

More often than not, this is the piece that our prospects have developed—but having strategy alone can be an impossibly frustrating existence without the access to data and the ability to execute.

The prospect I was speaking to when this topic came up was a marketer that had extensive experience using a well-known website optimization tool, and showed some real understanding of its key segments and position in the market, as well as its customers’ lives. It had no lack of ideas, but that idea list created a backlog of unrealized opportunity and pent-up demand, dragging the team down. So strategy without data and execution is both a blessing and a curse.

Alternatively, we often run into companies that honestly do not know who their customers are or how best to serve them. In this case, strategy is suffering due to a lack of access to data—especially when that information lives in an entirely different functional group, with different priorities and business scope.

Strategy is the piece of online personalization that takes the biggest hit when there is a breakdown with any of these three challenges. And frustration abounds when you are on a rudderless ship.

Execution

This one can be a real thorny issue as it relates to web platforms and capabilities. Having worked at ATG (now part of Oracle) and implemented both the ATG and IBM ecommerce platforms, I’ve seen what happens when investments in the ability to execute don’t live up to their potential.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a fan of these platforms. But when it comes to executing digital marketing programs utilizing data and strategy, these offerings tend to fall short due to platform, resource, and performance limitations.

And these limitations extend to the previous generation of personalization platforms, as well. It’s really hard to do fully personalized online experiences without the right tools for the job.

Going to back to my call with the prospect, execution was the big pain point. Even though the marketer had achieved some success with the different digital marketing tools it uses, it was hitting walls regularly and knew that money was constantly left on the table due to its inability to execute its vision.

The moral of this story is organizations need to have the awareness of self to admit when they have hit one of these walls. They must recognize the issue, and then look for pragmatic solutions that get them where they need to go quickly.

The solutions are out there in ways that were not available even two to three years ago. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege to see what happens when brands and enterprises take the governor off, strip away the barriers, and open up their organizations to leverage the full potential of their data and talent.

Three Red Darts image courtesy of Shutterstock.