The Right Questions for Personalization Success

path to personalization

“I’m a guy, and I don’t ski. Why are you showing me pictures of a woman skiing?”

I wish I could remember the name of the man who said this, because it is a great summary of the customer perspective of personalization. The implication is, he’d be more responsive to offers that featured guys doing his sport – whatever that might be.

His complaint surfaces what I call the 5 Introductory Personalization Questions:

  1. How can we know enough about our visitor?
  2. How do we use that knowledge to select the best experience for this moment?
  3. How do we have the right content on hand?
  4. What is the mechanism for retrieving and delivering the best content to this customer at this moment?
  5. How do we know we delivered the best experience possible?

These questions are signposts for your personalization journey, and during the journey you will ask and answer many more.

You have almost certainly talked to people who want to answer these questions with technology. Technology is unquestionably necessary, but in my experience the culture and process concerns are far more challenging. Every organization that is struggling to deliver personalized customer experience describes issues with strategy, commitment, alignment, and workflows. Any time you fool with customer experience, the ripples reach every part of the company. Somehow, that is a lesson that never gets old but must be learned and learned again.

People don’t anticipate the breadth of what they are taking on when they begin their personalization journey. As a result, they start in the middle without the provisions, collaboration or roadmap they need. With a little more knowledge of what the journey entails, progress is more certain and less expensive Here’s my [You Won’t Be] Lonely Planet Guide to help you anticipate and overcome the barriers.

Program or Task




Acquiring Customer Knowledge

What knowledge do we think is valuable?

What are we willing to collect?

What sources are acceptable?

How much resource are we willing to devote to the process?

Who owns the information?

Who owns the policies and processes?

Who will collect and analyze information to create knowledge?

Who will establish, who will manage, third party relationships for data collection?

Who is responsible for budget and planning?

Who is responsible to distribute and protect the information and knowledge?

How is customer information captured, ingested, and stored?

How is knowledge extracted from information?

In what manner is the knowledge stored?

Applying Customer Knowledge to Creating Customer Experience

What is the strategy for customer experience?

How does customer experience strategy align with business strategy?

Who owns the customer experience strategy?

What aspects of customer experience should be influenced by customer knowledge?

Who decides?

What degree of automation and what degree of explicit control is acceptable?

Who/what can use the information, for what purposes, in what circumstances?

How do various customer segmentation tactics apply to knowledge-driven customer experience?

Who designs and manages the variable customer experience?

What is the mechanism for knowing the customer?

How is the best experience for each customer


How are the elements of the experience delivered during the experience?

Provisioning Customer Experience Content

How many variations of content are we willing to fund and manage?

What sources are acceptable?

What degree of quality and consistency are required?

How doe we reconcile variations with our brand?

Who creates and tracks the content strategy and plans?

How is the content tagged, stored, improved, and replaced?

Who decides which variations will be shown in each customer experience?

What is the time frame in which the decision is made?

How is content tagged and formatted for use in various experiences, across various devices?

How is content use and impact tracked and reported?

Evaluating Results

Who is responsible for the quality of customer experience?

What is the goal for quality of customer experience?

How is quality of customer experience measured and reported?

How is the value of the experience to the customer measured?

How is the quality of content measured?

How is quality of customer experience measured and reported?

How do we measure the impact of customer experience improvements on business results by period?

How do we measure the impact on value delivered to customers?

What are the mechanisms for measuring, evaluating and communicating the quality of customer experience; and the value to our business and to customers?

Optimizing Results

Who is responsible for improving customer experience?

What are the goals for improvement?

Are the goals differentiated by customer segments, product categories, or sales region?

How is improvement measured and tracked?

How do we track progress toward goals?

How do we identify and prioritize efforts to improve customer experience?

What are the mechanisms for predicting, delivering, measuring, and evaluating what makes the best experience for each customer at each moment?


Published by Sue Aldrich

I'm a talented writer who connects business goals with technology, to get your message across through readable and engaging content. I have expertise in personalization, customer experience, journey optimization, recommendations, and search. I also research and write articles on sustainability for my hometown newspaper, Sterling Meetinghouse News.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: