Saurabh Bhatnagar, Senior Data Scientist at Rent the Runway, offered insights into how business professionals can use data to drive personalization during his keynote presentation to Argyle's CIO membership at the 2017 Leadership in Big Data & Analytics Forum in New York City on October 19. In his presentation, "Launching a Personalized Experience," Bhatnagar provided tips to help business professionals deliver a consistent personalized experience across multiple platforms.
According to Bhatnagar, personalization is a top priority for many companies around the globe. Although businesses may consider personalization to achieve a variety of goals, how these companies approach personalization varies.
In some instances, business professionals consider personalization and segmentation to be interchangeable. However, personalization and segmentation are two different concepts, and business professionals must be able to differentiate between them to achieve the best-possible results.
"You need to think about personalization versus segmentation," Bhatnagar said. "People exist on multiple dimensions and not just different segments. And if you're going into [personalization] … you need to align on the business case."
Many business professionals fail to link their personalization efforts to metrics as well.
Fortunately, business professionals can use myriad metrics to understand whether their personalization efforts are effective. And perhaps most important, business professionals can leverage assorted metrics to determine whether their personalization efforts are driving revenue growth and customer retention and loyalty.
"Whatever work you're doing [with personalization], you need to tie it to KPIs," Bhatnagar noted. "If you cannot align the goal of your project to KPIs, then you're dead on the water."
Examining popular trends can make a difference relative to personalization too.
"It's hard to do better than popular. That should be a baseline of what you're improving from, and you should always think about how you can do better from that."
If business professionals evaluate popular trends, they may be able to learn about a company's target audience. Then, these professionals can establish a baseline for their personalization efforts and proceed accordingly.
"It's hard to do better than popular," Bhatnagar stated. "That should be a baseline of what you're improving from, and you should always think about how you can do better from that."
It also is important to remember that personalization requires a long-term commitment.
Business professionals likely will need to adjust a company's personalization efforts over an extended period of time. By doing so, these professionals can boost the likelihood of developing long-lasting customer partnerships.
"You need to break down how to deliver the best personalized experience into smaller chunks," Bhatnagar recommended. "Coming up with the first 80 percent of this experience may be simple, and you need to focus on that."
Furthermore, business professionals must do everything they can to collect feedback from customers.
With ongoing feedback, business professionals can find out whether various personalization efforts are effective. This feedback also ensures business professionals can discover the best ways to connect with a company's clientele and provide them with the personalized support that they deserve.
"It's very easy to get feedback, and you can send an email to find out whether people like your personalized experience or not," Bhatnagar said.
Although many out-of-the-box solutions are available to help businesses deliver personalized experiences, these solutions have both pros and cons.
"Whatever work you're doing [with personalization], you need to tie it to KPIs. If you cannot align the goal of your project to KPIs, then you're dead on the water."
Out-of-the-box solutions make it easy for companies to implement personalization strategies. On the other hand, the solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and a solution that works well for one business may not work well for another.
Business professionals must constantly explore ways to provide customers with personalized experiences. Otherwise, these professionals risk missing out on opportunities to help their respective companies partner with customers.
"Most out-of-the-box solutions are not doing personalization well enough," Bhatnagar stated. "You have to look at a lot of metrics, which means there's a lot to personalization. And as you look deep into personalization, you'll find unique ways to improve upon it."
In addition, data analysts can play a pivotal role in a company's personalization efforts. These analysts can review a broad assortment of structured and unstructured data and transform this information into actionable insights to help a business bolster its personalization efforts.
"You need to have analysts, because the first thing that you'll launch will be good, but it won't necessarily be the right thing," Bhatnagar indicated. "You'll need to fine-tune this [personalization solution] to make sure it will work for your organization."
Lastly, business professionals should consider how different departments within a company work together to drive personalization.
If business professionals promote a culture of collaboration and communication, multiple departments can search for ways to provide customers with personalized experiences. As a result, these departments can ensure business customers can reap the benefits of personalized support both now and in the future.
"You're not building your team in a silo. You're working with other teams … and you need to think about the complexity of communication with other teams," Bhatnagar pointed out.
Saurabh Bhatnagar is the Principal Data Scientist for personalization at Rent The Runway. He created the big-data warehouse, recommendation platform and recently, Deep Learning platform. He is involved in all personalization incentives at RTR as well as back end fulfillment algorithms that power the business.
Prior to RTR, Saurabh was founding member of the Predictive Analytics team at Barnes & Nobles and went on to lead it as the Principal Data Scientist. His responsibilities at B&N were customer segmentation and propensity to buy models. Since 2000, he has consulted in data space for many Fortune 500 firms. He wrote a chapter in “Data Mining Applications with R” which was published by Elsevier.