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Personalization at scale for retailers: Content for millions of customer conversations.

As a retailer, you know there’s a huge opportunity in mastering personalization at scale. You see the potential that comes from identifying customers most likely to be interested in your offerings. And you understand how tailoring the customer experience across channels — based on context, location, past purchases, and a whole slew of available data — can lead to more purchases and increased loyalty.

But to those responsible for creating your content, personalization at scale can be a frightening prospect. For them, the math is clear — a huge increase in audiences to be addressed, each with specific content needs across innumerable touchpoints, equals a dizzying array of assets to create. And adding to the challenge is that all this content not only must be created quickly, it must also fit within brand standards. Lengthy content development time can lead to irrelevance, while rushing through can result in off-brand, ineffective executions.

Content creation demand goes up.

Over the past five years, the volume of content has increased for most creative practitioners.
 

Content creation demand goes up

 

Source: Adobe

The standard response to increasing content and creative demands has been to throw more people at it. And sure enough, many companies are doing just that. In our “State of Creativity in Business” survey in 2017, 15 percent of creatives said they were outsourcing more to agencies to handle the increase in content, while 19 percent said they were creating in-house agencies.

But as important as headcount can be, it’s not a cure-all for retailers looking to create all the content necessary for effective personalization at scale. Here are a few other things to consider.

Fast-forward workflows.

Think of all the workflow requirements involved in your content creation — channels, devices, reviews, approvals, cross-department collaboration, and distribution, to name a few. Now multiply that by everything needed for personalization at scale — all the variations based on context, the specific messages for each micro-segment, and devices. Using the standard collection of disconnected processes and tools to do all that can be like trying to build a high-rise with hammers and screwdrivers. It’s just not right for the job.

The right tools for the job start with a shared content library. If your product photos are centralized, content creators will have no problem finding and using them. Plus, when an image is changed, it will be automatically updated across all channels and locations where it resides — reducing production work and ensuring brand consistency.

Tumi, the premium luggage brand, knows the advantages of high-performance content management first-hand. With nearly 1,500 new products introduced every year on Tumi.com, Tumi requires high-speed content creation for its e-commerce experience. When they shifted to our content management solution, Adobe Experience Manager, it cut about four weeks off asset production time. This allowed them to quickly start selling new inventory that, in the past, had sat in the warehouse waiting for the website to be updated. It also significantly streamlined global website updates, a critical capability since Tumi has sites around the world in multiple languages.

But retail is invariably about more than just web properties. The saying “create once, publish everywhere” might sound trite, but its impact is anything but. When a single piece of content can be put to use in mobile apps, in-store displays, paid channels, and sales associate tools all at once — with appropriate adjustments automatically made for each — retailers are in a much better place to handle personalization at scale.

Automate the dirty work.

Although content creation depends to a large degree on human touch, there’s a lot about it that humans generally want to avoid and aren’t always great at doing — the repetitive production work, the nitty-gritty details, and the tracking, to name a few examples. So it’s no surprise that automation is already an important part of content creation for many retailers. It’s often fairly simple and behind the scenes — automatic file naming, for example.

Design processes being automated today.

Automated design processes

 

Source: Adobe

Over the coming years, machine learning and artificial intelligence will undoubtedly impact content creation for retailers in dramatic ways beyond automating tasks. Already, retailers who are ahead of the curve are using machine learning and AI to automatically adapt content on the fly — so that it can meet content needs across unanticipated or highly dynamic combinations of audience, channel, behavior, and context.

Outsource to customers.

Many retailers are aware of the potential benefits of user-generated content (UGC). Along with its outstanding brand-building and audience-connecting qualities, UGC also can contribute substantially to at-scale content creation. Some digitally-savvy retailers, such as fashion retailer Glossier, rely heavily on their highly engaged fanbase for content across all channels — social, web, email campaigns, even live events. As Glossier founder Emily Weiss said in a Fast Company interview, “We see our community as co-conspirators, co-builders, co-storytellers.”

How UGC impacts customer opinion.

UGC impact

 

Source: TurnTo

For retailers unsure of how to harness UGC, AI is once again coming to the rescue. An example is Livefyre, which is part of Adobe Experience Manager. Its machine-learning algorithms can streamline the process of sorting through millions of social media posts daily, giving you the ability to identify the right high-quality content for their brand and its various customer segments. In other words, it’s the very definition of content velocity.

Retailers can use UGC for websites, campaigns, even in-store displays. But the challenge is knowing what UGC to place where, and for whom. AI can help here too, identifying where UGC can enhance personalized experiences across all of these various channels.

Next up — contextual relevance at scale.

No matter how much personalized content a retailer can create, it increasingly matters only when it’s based on the customer’s needs in the moment, delivering what’s relevant and meaningful right now.

Personalizing at scale right now can be tricky for retailers, since context can be so many things. It can be in-store or online or even en route. It can be an impulse buy or careful consideration. Even things like weather and traffic patterns can play a role. The next article in the series will discuss how retailers can bring contextual relevance to personalization at scale.

Read the next article in our series, “Meeting shoppers in the moment.


Amy Farley, “A Breakout Branding Master Class from Glossier, Sweetgreen, Away, and Walker & Co.,” Fast Company, January 12, 2018.

Hearing the Voice of the Consumer,” TurnTo, 2017.

The State of Creativity in Business,” Adobe, 2017.

Tumi: Upping the fun factor for shoppers,” Adobe customer story for Tumi, August 2016.


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