As personalization strategies have evolved and scaled over time (most of us should be able to manage “hello, [firstname]” by now),  the value of getting that customer experience right has also risen. A 2019 McKinsey survey of senior marketing leaders found that only 15 percent of CMOs thought their businesses were on the right track with their personalization strategies. That same study also found that those who were on the right track (i.e. personalization leaders) had found 5 to 15 percent increases in revenue and 10 to 30 percent increases in marketing-spend efficiency.

So here we are in 2021, still talking about personalization. And why is that? Because so few companies have truly tapped into its full potential. The word “personalization” has become ubiquitous in the industry for almost anything, so it’s smart to start your journey planning a common destination and definition. 

At Tealium’s most recent Digital Virtualocity event this past May, we talked about building a playbook to realize personalization’s full potential, step-by-step. During the event, Erik Snyder, Business Intelligence Lead at Humana, spoke at length about how they built their personalization playbook: “How Humana Built a Playbook for Better Personalization,” 

Erik’s key point was this– before crafting a playbook, teams should understand why they are playing the game in the first place. That’s exactly where Erik’s team at Humana started. They wanted their personalization strategy to not solely focus on transactions and cross- or up-selling. Nor did they want to think only about offering the right product in the right place at the right time. For one of the industry leaders in healthcare, personalization is about using data to make it easier for consumers to find and consume what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. 

With their definition covered, Humana began to set their destination on what they called their Big Hairy Audacious Goal (or BHAG for acronym fans out there!). The end goal was to have 100% of Humana consumer touchpoints personalized using data. To do this at scale and effectively, they’d need the right data to build the right segmentation to get to this ultimate destination. That brings us to our next phase: getting customer insight.

The Path to Personalization Success Starts With Data Segmentation

Great personalization at scale is built on great customer data and segmentation strategies. So you might be saying to yourself, “I want to do data-driven personalization…but how?” While it would be ideal to talk to every customer 1:1, that approach doesn’t with so much of the customer experience moving to digital channels, so understanding customers through data is the next best thing. Many organizations recognize the importance of customer data but struggle with how best to access all of the relevant data, bring it together, and then act on it in real-time. This is where CDPs come in. Specifically, CDPs help personalization efforts by:

  • Aggregating customer data from all of your customer touch points, including your AWS data lake.
  • Transforming disjointed data points into a single, unified profile of the customer.
  • Activating context-rich data across channels of customer engagement and analytics.

Setting up a centralized customer-data platform (CDP) to break down data silos is essential to getting the data and segmentation strategy right to improve personalization execution across the customer journey.

During Digital Virtualicity, Erik had some great insights on why this centralized hub was so critical for them as well. Tealium helped them scale up their data and segmentation efforts to power their personalization efforts. Specifically:  

  • Populate the Data Layer: Stitch together data that is presently siloed in disparate systems.
  • Develop Audience Segments: Better identify unknown visitors and build visitor “profiles” that can be used for segmentation. 
  • Analyze Segments for Insights: Create a holistic view of user behavior across devices and platforms. 
  • Activate Audience Segments: Create speed to market in terms of data – data availability in real-time to other tools and systems

After You’ve Got the Right Data, It’s Time to Strategize

Of course, delivering a more personalized experience starts with truly knowing the customer and what is meaningful to them. But what can you do with those insights to improve your personalization strategy? At DV, Humana discussed several ways to use that new understanding, including:

  • Personalize experiences to address the segment’s needs while not impacting the whole
  • Improve the overall experience by expanding or creating functionality for the segment’s needs
  • Propose outreach to draw attention to experiences a segment should find valuable
  • Cease work that is unlikely to create value for any of the most important segments  

All of these strategies start with the need to Recognize, Remember, Recommend, and be Relevant, otherwise known as the “4 R’s of Personalization.”

Finding (and Celebrating) Early Successes Along the Way

Personalization isn’t a holy grail, it’s an evolution. But you should celebrate steps along the way! As Humana built out their personalization playbook, they recognized an opportunity to put their plan into action to test personalization efforts to help in their Medicare enrollment processes, especially during peak months where consumers normally shop for new healthcare coverage. 

The team knew that for seniors choosing Medicare plans digitally, security and privacy of personal information was a determining factor on whether a consumer would have confidence in completing the enrollment process. While Humana was still early on in building their personalization playbook, they saw an opportunity to put it into action, and a personalization use case was born!  

Through A/B testing using existing audience segments, Humana was able to show a 20% lift in enrollment completions simply by providing more helpful information about how they safeguard personal information. Not quite the holy grail, but steps worth celebrating. 


Check out the rest of Erik’s presentation to see how he kept the momentum going after the first personalization win, and be sure to stick to the end where he shares his eight step path to personalization enlightenment at the very end of the session.

Post Author

Hilary Noonan
Hilary is Director of Content at Tealium.

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