Partner Spotlight: Beyond Personalization Tech with WiderFunnel

The strategy and advice driving conversations about personalization at WiderFunnel, and why good practice means more than just plugging a technical solution in as a part of your marketing stack.

Director of Marketing, Dynamic Yield

Our Partner Spotlight series interviews experts from our killer network of solutions partners and highlights their impact in the field of personalization.

As personalization matures and the barriers to scale become smaller and smaller, more companies are investing heavily in launching full on, high-impact personalization initiatives.

Personalization is now regarded as an integral component of online marketing campaigns and savvy marketers list it among their top strategic priorities.

This is no surprise to Chris Goward, a conversion optimization pioneer who’s been helping marketers realize the full potential of their website and traffic through personalization. The agency he founded, WiderFunnel, has partnered with the likes of Google, SAP, 1-800 Flowers, and eBay since 2007.

We chatted with him a bit about the strategy and advice driving conversations about personalization at WiderFunnel, and why good practice means more than just plugging a technical solution in as a part of your marketing stack.

Dynamic Yield: Quick, if there was one myth about personalization you could debunk, what would it be?

Chris Goward: With any new strategy or tactic, people become very enamored with tools first, before understanding the problem they are trying to solve and the strategy behind it. The biggest myth right now is that personalization is just a technical solution by which you can plug and play, or that you can solve all of your personalization problems with the flip of a switch. We might have additional technology to enable a different way of doing things, but the essence of solving customer problems has changed.

DY: Explain your team’s use of LIFT Model and why the framework is so important to the work you do on user experience.

CG: LIFT has been a core part of our process since we started. What’s unique about the LIFT approach is it allows us to get into the mindset of the customer. It’s really about understanding from their perspective and through their eyes, what barriers, perceptual or otherwise, they are facing on their path to purchase.

WiderFunnel Value Proposition Chart
Source: WiderFunnel

When we do a LIFT Analysis, we start with customer research and understanding all the data about how customers are interacting with a client’s digital experience. From there, we look at every experience in detail, from the perspective of these six conversion barriers:

  1. Value Proposition

  2. Relevance

  3. Clarity

  4. Urgency

  5. Anxiety

  6. Distraction

Then, we’ll ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Which conversion barriers might a customer be facing at this point in time?

  • What questions should we be asking if we aren’t answering them now?

  • What potential problems are we introducing at any touchpoint of the experience?

Beyond using this analysis for websites, we use LIFT when working on offline brochures, ads, in UIs or mobile apps–because every interaction has the same challenges. If you can understand the barriers or motivators to conversion, you can better improve upon them.

DY: As an agency focused on personalization, how do you go about selecting the right technology vendors to ensure your strategists are armed with the not only the best possible insights but are also able to deploy the superior customer experiences.

CG: There are so many technologies available. While a lot of them, on the face of things, offer similar features and functionalities, when you actually get into the details of how they work, you find that isn’t always the case.

The best tools, especially for personalization, mesh well with your business model, allowing access to the data that is unique to your company and your customers. And being able to personalize based on those drivers requires quite a bit of technical flexibility. Not only when it comes to modifying different elements, or cutting and pasting modules or widgets, but also high impact experiences as a whole.

For more on how to pick the right personalization vendor, check out our 23 question toolkit.

DY: What does personalization look like for WiderFunnel and how do you mirror some of the success you contribute to in the B2C space for your own marketing initiatives.

CG: We want to implement as much of what we’re doing for our clients (which is 50/50 B2B/B2C) for ourselves. And interestingly enough, the differentiation we find between the two is often artificial, because people are people regardless of if they are buying for their business or for themselves personally. And it’s not always a rational process.

Understanding the mental conversion funnel and questions every buyer asks as they go through that process has become crucial. For certain people, drivers or motivators behind a purchase will be different. Therefore, we want to detect, from a technical perspective, what kind of emotions people are trying to satisfy and how we can optimize the experience to match that.

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DY: As conversion optimization experts, what are some of the most important insights or discoveries you’ve gleaned that personalization practitioners can use to boost the efficiency of their online experiences?

CG: More important than tips, tricks, and tactics is the data you mine for insights to apply to your target segments and business as a whole. We’ve identified several methods for continuously improving the effectiveness of our personalization efforts:

One method is to use deductive insights. We look for general theories of psychology, segmentation, personalization, and behavioral messaging in order to discover which ones apply to the particular situation. Then, we test and validate whether those activities actually work.

Another method is to use inductive insights. These are surfaced through behavior patterns in users we’re already seeing in our analytics. We’ll try to generalize those insights and see if any of them apply to a wider audience or customer areas.

Finally, what I call self-selecting, is when we go straight to the user for feedback, gathering information about their onsite behavior or via surveys to be used for customizing the experience directly.

DY: When in the process of building an optimization campaign, how can marketers bridge the gap between, say, a testing team or CRO expert and that of a designer who may have differing views in terms of aesthetic and hypotheses?

CG: From a cultural perspective, this is one of the biggest challenges. In most organizations, there are usually camps of different people, such as the marketing group or business intelligence team, who compete from an ideological perspective. For some, it might be your analysts versus the brand protectors, data camps versus the designers, and even SEO versus CEM camps.

Regardless of the camp, what’s crucial is understanding that both perspectives are important. And in fact, the best marketers and optimizers can straddle the inherent tension between both sides and realize each variation of an experiment, be it founded on a big idea, data, branding, or aesthetics are all significant. Because you can’t have one without the other — they both need to work hand-in-hand. Mastering this and respecting both perspectives can even produce 10X the results in terms of effectiveness.

It’s unique to find someone who is able to hold both perspectives at once, but in case you can’t find those unicorns, bake structured processes and frameworks into an optimization diversification program. That way, you can distinctly work on either expansive big idea, reductive, or rigorous analytical thinking and then join them together.

Interested in becoming a partner? Learn more about our program.