With new tech allowing brands to offer outstanding customer experiences like never before, the personalisation maturity curve matters.

Delivering superior customer experiences

With customer experience set to overtake price as the key brand differentiator across both B2C and B2B by 2020 (Sources: Walker, 2014; SiriusDecisions, 2016), retailers face a battle to develop digital experiences that not only meet but exceed their customers’ expectations.

The opportunities are huge: the forward-thinking, online fashion brand Missguided recently reported a 34% increase in conversion following the introduction of onsite personalisation.

This exciting new landscape has given rise to the several technologies that have allowed brands to deliver innovative customer experiences like never before. Of these experiences, personalisation is widely considered to be the biggest game changer. The ability to deliver hyper-relevant content to individual consumers brings brands one step closer to replicating the personal instore experience online.

What is ‘personalisation’?

Despite the hype, it’s becoming clear that personalisation means different things to different people. Some consider it to be the delivery of contextually relevant content, for example, promoting ice creams to those basking in the summer sunshine. For others, it’s the delivery of unique offers, targeted towards specific customer segments. The utopia vision is the automated delivery of 1-to-1 customer experiences, where each consumer is presented with content perfectly tailored to them.

Your organisation’s level of maturity

To suggest that ‘true personalisation’ can and/or should only come in one form is unrealistic, and trying to reach the utopia state before mastering the basics is likely to end in failure. The reality is that different organisations will have different levels of maturity when it comes to personalisation.

When assessing your organisations level of maturity, consider three factors:

  1. Data – how much customer data do you have and how easy is it to access?
  2. Delivery – what level of human input is needed to deliver the personalised experience?
  3. Scale – what scale of personalisation does your existing digital infrastructure allow?

When mapped together, these factors reveal a personalisation maturity curve. The curve highlights three levels of organisational maturity.

Maturity Curve

So what does it mean?

  • Beginner: The organisation is primarily using web browse data to identify audiences for personalisation. The delivery of personalisation campaigns requires significant human input and the scale of experiences delivered is small (e.g. an updated homepage banner for visitors who previously looked at jackets)
  • Intermediate: The organisation is starting to combine web browse data with limited data from other sources (e.g. CRM systems) to identify potential audiences. Some human input is still required but the modularisation of digital components (e.g. a pop-up window) enables new personalisation experiences to be built and launched quickly. Experiences are of a larger scale and spread out across multiple pages.
  • Advanced: The organisation has access to a Single Customer View (SCV) that powers all its personalisation activity. Very little human input is required as the personalisation tool is able to automatically identify and match the most suitable experience to the right visitor. In addition to the user journey, personalised experiences will also impact offers and pricing.

Getting started

For those at the beginning of the curve, start by thinking about the business challenges you need to address. Common challenges typically include brand loyalty, online conversion and average order value. Once you’ve identified the challenge you’d like to address using personalisation, use your web analytics to reveal underperforming visitor segments. This will help you determine the appropriate audience for your first personalisation campaign.

You’ll need to evaluate your existing technology stack to determine what level of personalisation you can deliver. It’s likely that most organisations will need to select a dedicated personalisation tool. When assessing tools, consider your future needs, specifically, the ability to integrate the tool with your various data systems. Progression up the maturity curve is heavily reliant on easy access to customer data.

What does the future look like?

Whilst organisations should focus on proceeding up the maturity curve, it’s also important to prepare for future forms of personalisation. Much of today’s personalisation is focussed on ‘known visitors’, those who have previously purchased from the organisation. This is unsurprising given the vast amount of data available for those individuals. However, to maximise the value of personalisation, firms must start thinking about how they deliver personalised experiences to ‘unknown visitors’, those who have left little more than their anonymous browse data.

Ice cream

Lookalike modelling is likely to feature heavily in helping organisations predict the type of experience ‘unknown visitors’ will respond to, by matching their behaviour and characteristics with that of similar ‘known visitors’. This approach is already used by digital marketers to locate suitable audiences for PPC adverts. Extending this to personalisation is an obvious next step.

Personalisation delivery channels are also likely to change drastically over the next couple of years. Whilst visual interfaces such as websites and mobile apps are the channel of choice for now, the rise of voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home will present new opportunities (and challenges) when delivering personalised experiences. Organisations should start preparing now for how they will deliver relevant, consumable experiences in this Zero UI world.


It’s clear that different organisations will interpret and apply personalisation in different ways. Rather than looking to develop a ‘one size fits all’ model, organisations should recognise their current maturity level and develop experiences appropriate for it. Success, even at a basic level, will strengthen the case for more complex levels of personalisation and help propel businesses up the maturity curve.

To find out more about personalisation get in touch with our Head of Digital Intelligence, Chris Longman.

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