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Personalization at Merkle

Cultivating the practice of personalization at the nation’s largest independent agency, which Zimm began in 2014, was always going to be a challenge, especially after rubbing shoulders with some of the brightest people in the industry who preached the perfect synchronization of artificial intelligence and big data. An even greater challenge, it turned out, was helping brands enable personalization — a service that is being considered one of the top success factors for customer-based businesses in 2016.

Acronyms like DMP (data management platform), DOP (decision orchestration platform), and CMS (content management system) that enable personalization made it even harder to define the service in an industry already saturated with buzzwords and acronyms.

Every marketer has their own imaginative description of personalization, which brands it under the infamous category of agency-driven buzzwords. A term that lacks an industry standard definition is usually butchered to its extreme until you believe the sky will magically rain hundred dollar bills upon adopting the practice. While the hundred dollar bills part is true, they won’t rain from the sky.

The infrastructure of personalizationPersonalization as offered by Merkle is defined as an omni-channel big-data-driven strategy that accurately reflects the customer’s needs by optimizing content relevant to the customer’s journey and delivering the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channel.

This solution is composed of a DMP that provides a single 360o view of a customer across all channels; a CMS that provides modular content which dynamically assembles the creative elements like product, offer, image, message and call to action; and a DOP that orchestrates the decision of aligning a customer as described by his or her attributes from the DMP with relevant dynamic content assembled in the CMS.

While a DMP and a CMS require no introduction, the term DOP could use some clarification. A decision orchestration platform, or DOP, configures decisions by matching content to customers. These platforms can span many technologies: 

  • Adobe Target and Sitecore features an in-built CMS, help orchestrate decisions on the website
  • Demand side platforms (DSP) help optimize your bids
  • Optimizely enables A/B testing
  • Email service providers set up automated emails
  • Pega predicts the next best offer in the authenticated space across channels like Teller, ATM, Care Center, etc.

Two arms of a DOPA DMP provides the customer profile to the DOP and the DOP then orchestrates the decision to align with the content in the CMS (see image).  

Understanding the buzzwords is only part of the challenge; getting the key elements in place to enable true personalization – now that’s the ticket! And luckily for me, being part of the Merkle personalization team and armed with the right tools enables me to help my clients achieve this every day.