For both online marketers and the agencies that support them, creating personalized website experiences is seen as essential to a company’s success—not only in the blue skies of the future, but now.

This is just one of the top findings in The Realities of Online Personalization, an independent survey conducted by Econsultancy in association with Monetate that gathered the practices and opinions around online personalization of more than 1,100 digital and ecommerce professionals.

Linus Gregoriadis, Econsultancy

Linus Gregoriadis, Econsultancy

According to this research, 94% of marketers and 90% of agencies agree that “personalization of the web experience is critical to current and future success.” When you consider that roughly two-thirds of marketers (agencies, too, by the way) also have made the connection between online personalization, delivering a better customer experience, and improving the business performance, it’s not hard to see why this strategy is reaching a tipping point.

But as Linus Gregoriadis, U.K. research director at Econsultancy, pointed out in his analysis of survey responses, knowing where you need to be and getting there are completely different things. For companies to move out of what he called the “slow lane” and start gathering the good ROI reported by 15% of marketers (and 27% of agencies, on behalf of their clients), they need to understand the challenges to hurdle and the successful tactics to duplicate.

We chatted with Linus recently about some of these key findings.

Q: You surveyed digital and ecommerce professionals at both brands and agencies. How did their perspectives on personalization differ?

A: The most significant gap between client-side and agency perceptions is around the challenges faced when creating personalized experiences. Agencies single out issues around skills and knowledge as some of the biggest obstacles, while in-house marketers are more likely to indicate they are held back by a lack of technology and resources.

There is also a clear disparity between how agencies perceive the extent of personalization by their clients and what companies actually say they are doing in this area. Agencies are three times more likely to suggest that companies deliver the right on-site experiences at the right time (14% compared to 4% of in-house marketers).

Agencies are also more likely to say that CRM data (66% compared to 43% of client-side respondents) and real-time onsite behavior (48% compared to 29%) are being used to create personalized experiences.

While agencies are more likely to say that their clients personalize the website experience for visitors (55% compared to 44% of client-side respondents), the vast majority (85%) agree that their clients understand the importance of personalization, but don’t know how to do it.

Q: The majority of respondents recognize the importance of personalizing website experiences, but nearly three-quarters of marketers reported being unsure of how to do it. What barriers did they say blocked their way?

A: Legacy technology and lack of budget or resources surfaced as the most significant issues deterring companies from adopting or improving website personalization.

The most commonly cited barriers for client-side respondents were technology-related, with just under half of those surveyed saying that IT roadblocks (47%) and legacy technology (46%) are major barriers.

On the agency side, lack of knowledge (54%) and inability to translate data into action (51%) take the first two spots, whereas legacy technology and IT roadblocks are not seen as important as their clients suggest.

Prioritization of scarce resources is another area that both client-side and agency respondents highlighted as important, with lack of budget and lack of staff being the third and fourth most cited barriers.

Q: Proving the return on investment for personalization is key to getting past some of these barriers. For respondents who reported being able to quantify the improvement in conversion rates attributable to personalization, what was the impact?

A: Those in-house marketers who are personalizing web experiences and who are also able to quantify the improvement (in the context of online sales or their key website performance metric) are seeing, on average, a 19% uplift in sales. This is slightly lower than agencies indicated (21%).

However, it’s still early days, with three-quarters of companies surveyed saying they’re not able to quantify the improvement in conversion rates from onsite personalization.

For more details on the state of online personalization, download a copy of The Realities of Online Personalization.