In our recently published report, Ron Rogowski, Stephen Powers, and I explored how organizations are rethinking their personalization strategies. Organizations have long understood the need to "personalize" their websites for customer segments in order to meet customer needs, feel personal, and deliver in the moment. But we’ve seen many organizations fail to deliver highly relevant experiences to their customers. "We were about to launch personalized content, but our dog ate the segmentation and targeting strategy." We haven't heard that one (yet), but organizations and their agencies frequently cite a familiar set of reasons for continuing to offer non- or underpersonalized sites.

What’s going wrong? Organizations fail when delivering contextual experiences. They must take into account who the customer is, what that customer did in the past, and the customer’s situation — what’s happening to the customer at that moment and from which touchpoint he or she is engaging with the brand. While they may take one or two of these into account, many organizations we speak with (especially outside of the eCommerce space) fail to take all three into account.

What does this mean for application development and delivery professionals? After all, IT will eventually need to support these contextualization initiatives. Here are a few questions to get you started:

1.       Will you go with a rules-based, automated, or hybrid approach? Automated processes display content or offers based on automated filtering of numerous factors, while rules-based approaches rely on business users to manually enter in rules. Hybrid approaches use both rules and automated filtering to deliver relevant experiences. Different technology solutions are better at supporting one or the other or both. 

2.       Will you “push” or “pull” content? Will you need to align technology around an authenticated experience (pulling preferences from a customer’s profile) or a nonauthenticated experience (pushing content onto a user based on situational factors)?

3.       How will you handle cross-channel contextualization? There’s so much data out there, but most organizations are collecting it in channel siloes. AD+D pros can take a leading role here in aggregating data across channels to create a 360-view of the customer and deliver even more contextual and relevant experiences.  

4.       What technology solutions will you use to support contextualization initiatives?  Many technologies — some of which you already own — support different aspects of web contextualization (e.g. web content management, recommendations engines, site search). Building contextual mobile apps has its own concerns and will require AD+D pros to decide on a technology approach that best suits their mobile app development goals.

We have more questions to consider as well as more recommendations on how to get started with contextualization initiatives for both customer experience professionals and application development and delivery professionals. If you have an interesting example of how you’ve contextualized your digital customer experience, we’d love to hear it in the comments below.