Adobe met with two personalization experts to discuss the future of relevant tech experiences
We teamed up with David Chan and Leala Shah Crawford of Deloitte Consulting. Check out their perspectives.
Personalization has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have.” That’s why it’s highly critical for B2B tech companies to deliver relevant, timely, and valuable experiences across the buyer’s journey — or risk alienating today’s B2B buyers. Fortunately, getting it right is highly possible.
When firms get personalization right, they open up opportunities in customer experience, customer lifetime value, and revenue. By centering technology capabilities around the customer through a culture of experimentation, B2B leaders continuously scale their personalization strategies.
We hope all firms open up these opportunities. Last June, Adobe commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate personalization at scale in the B2B tech industry. The resulting study, “Personalization at Scale: Technology and Technology Services Industry Spotlight,” features insights from nearly 400 technology industry decision-makers in personalization — including the enterprise level — and over 200 B2B customers who’ve engaged with tech companies.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report shows that tech firms are more likely to lead in customer experience than other industries — 18% versus 16% — owing to more advanced practices across data, content, and omnichannel orchestration. But experts say firms can go even further by advancing customer trust, data security, omnichannel journeys, and their use of generative artificial intelligence (AI).
To find out more about how tech firms can improve, we tapped two personalization specialists from Deloitte Consulting. Here, customer data platform (CDP) practice leader David Chan and customer data science and analytics lead Leala Shah Crawford share their reactions to the study. Let’s take a look at what Chan and Crawford had to say.
What surprised you about the report, and what hit your expectations as far as personalization at scale in the B2B tech industry?
Chan: I was surprised to hear that 81% of B2B tech companies were implementing a centralized, enterprise-wide approach in the form of a personalization center of excellence (PCoE) because I’m not convinced the majority of B2C companies have committed to this approach.
I wasn’t surprised that technology firms set the industry capabilities because they understand the value and role that technology can play in transforming a company — yet interestingly enough, they are slower to scale personalization (42% slower versus 35% for other industries). One way to rationalize these insights is that tech firms jump to technology as a solution while skipping certain steps to get alignment on use cases, ROI measures of success, and operating model alignment. The irony is that by virtue of moving so fast, it actually impedes and slows down the overall adoption process.
Crawford: A hundred percent agreed. Companies can have best-in-class technology, but without all the components that drive a culture of personalization — strategy, KPIs, talent, operating model, and so on — it’s going to be very difficult to obtain internal buy-in, much less drive a cohesive experience for the customer.
Regarding the hurdles you mentioned in scaling personalization, what are some initiatives from the report that are top of mind for industry leaders?
Chan: Operating model hurdles and organizational inefficiency have to be top of mind for industry leaders. No one will argue that better personalization is bad — but their teams will argue if it’s necessary. Executive, cross-discipline leadership will be critical to paint the vision and ensure everyone is ready to jump in the same boat and row in the same direction.
How can high-tech companies prepare their operating model to successfully launch personalization at scale?
Chan: Personalization at scale requires leaders to set the ambition and North Star vision. The operating model along with personalization capabilities and technologies should enable that ambition. The operating model also has to be much wider in scope than ever before to achieve personalization at scale. In addition to marketing and sales operations teams, you need data operations, machine learning operations, DevOps, and others. Just like the airplane made the world feel closer, data and data science has done the same for personalization programs.
Crawford: And creating an operating model that feeds those analytics and data science learnings back into the strategy, creation, and execution processes are critical. This is often where our clients are struggling most — connecting all the pieces together versus areas being standalone capabilities where the “so what” and closed-feedback loop is missing.
In addition to operating models, what are the key opportunities that high-tech companies can work toward to provide better, more personalized experiences?
Chan: Many high-tech companies struggle not only with getting a single view of the buyer but also figuring out what content they can use to engage that buyer. They need to ask themselves what the most appropriate channel for outreach would be. Oftentimes, the experiences are very channel-specific and trigger-based — which can be good. But it can feel disconnected and mechanical if it’s not married up to the historical interactions and knowledge of the account.
For example, because a buyer browsed a product page, you may assume interest and trigger an email to promote the benefits of buying that product. But you may not have factored in that the buyer already purchased the product and was actually looking for support. If you married up the web session data with complete buyer data, you could have had a different type of trigger logic applied such as “Learn more about this product you purchased” or “If you need help, this is your personal sales account rep.”
In thinking about content that engages buyers, what kinds of personalized content can be used to improve the customer experience? And on which channels?
Chan: The obvious types of personalized content can come in the form of research papers, case studies, and sales sheets across web, mobile, email, and SMS channels. A richer personalized experience would provide information specific to that B2B customer, how they benchmark or compare to other similar customers, and what they are potentially leaving on the table by not leveraging certain products and services. Some content types can let them be aware of potential cost savings by bundling certain products and services together.
And to even deliver that content, many customers today need to opt in as third-party cookies phase out. How can high-tech companies gain the trust and confidence of customers in B2B while improving personalization in the customer experience?
Chan: Today, it’s all about transparency and visibility. B2B customers will trust you if you can help them solve their complex business problems. If you need some information from them to help better serve them, be upfront about it and deliver on the promise once they agree to share.
Once high-tech companies gain that customer trust, what are some examples of how they can use their customer experience efforts to increase revenue in B2B?
Chan: A really simple example of customer experience efforts in high tech includes a B2B portal that provides self-serve account management and has some parts of the site personalized based on existing products and services purchased. Coordinating that with marketing campaigns and sales outreach that provide content showing business ROI or links to ROI calculators on the B2B portal helps buyers quantify benefits to shift purchasing dollars to that high-tech company versus another competitor.
Crawford: Also, serving up content on how to maximize the products or services purchased, providing opportunities to expand or continue their journey from there, and offering account support are all other ways to deepen trust and engagement while learning more about the customer.
Shifting to the topic of AI, how critical is the technology to scaling personalization efforts in high tech?
Chan: AI is 100% critical to scaling personalization efforts. At some point, adding more and more people to a team to solve a problem becomes too expensive and difficult to manage. AI has advanced tremendously in the last few years. Self-driving cars are becoming closer to reality in the next few years. Advancements in AI solutions like OpenAI’s ChatGPT give a glimpse into how AI not only matches content to channel to individual, but even in the initial creative visual design process.
Crawford: AI drives personalization at scale because it pinpoints the customer on the right channel at the right time, allowing companies to predict ways to reach someone based on past and current behaviors. We just did some work with a huge retailer. We saw that there was a high likelihood that someone who buys a jacket in the fall will buy another article of clothing — in any category — within the next 15 to 20 days. We can even determine which channels they’re likely to buy it on based on transactional data, behavioral data, and so on.
To David’s point, AI and the buzz around generative AI continue to expand and mature the ways companies can further personalize — from product or service discovery through support. Similar to what was shared earlier around personalization, AI will become a must-have.
Do you have any advice for B2B high-tech companies wanting to do more with data and personalization efforts?
Chan: For many B2B companies, regardless of whether it’s high tech or a different industry, you may run into detractors who will argue that “10% of our accounts drive 90% of our revenue, and I don’t need fancy data, AI, and technologies to tell me who I should be talking to.” Fighting that battle can be painful and exhausting, which is why it might be smart to quickly pivot to a business case that’s built on the 90% of accounts that only drive 10% of the revenue. Quantify and establish the value for the company to capture that remaining 10%, and how they could use personalization, data, AI, and automation technologies to drive profitability in non-prioritized accounts. Because if the business case exists for that second and third tier of accounts, demonstrating successes there will 100% carry over into those top tier accounts over time.
Crawford: Building on some of our comments earlier, the approach and investment companies make in enabling and scaling personalization capabilities should be tied to the outcomes they’re looking to drive. Some companies may focus on acquisition in the short term, and others churn. By narrowing in on specific and prioritized use cases, it makes it easier to tune operating models, processes, and technology and expand across additional use cases after.
Exceed buyer expectations in B2B
For technology buyers, a meaningful experience isn’t just valuable — it’s irreplaceable. To get there, personalized experiences must be designed around an understanding of the buyer, key buyer attributes, and data that puts the buyer’s actions into context. Taking the next best action then happens when your business has a future-proof technology foundation.
Get details on how personalization can help B2B high-tech companies by downloading the full commissioned study conducted by Forrester on behalf of Adobe.