The Building Blocks of Personalization 

by Doug Gould, Microsoft 

Here's an analogy I've used recently around the challenge for brands to build amazing digital customer experiences. You've just got a beautiful new Lego set that your kid (or hey, even you) are very excited about building.

Let's say that it's the Lego Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. Clocking in at a cool 7,500 separate pieces. A daunting task but when completed will be a masterpiece. Something that will stop people in their tracks.

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But building this has a few rules and quid pro quos. You're doing it as a team of 3. Person A is the only one looking at the first half of the instructions. Person B is the only one looking at the second half of the instructions. Last, Person C is the only one that can look at what the finished product is supposed to look like and get other people excited about it. Now, beyond the organizational complexity in our Lego project let's bring a few other curveballs into the mix. Not all the Lego pieces fit together. The instructions for the first half and the second half are inconsistent. Let's also say that the frequency that the Person A and Person B can talk is every 4 weeks or so.

Oh, one other thing. You've got everyone depending on you to have this Millennium Falcon done in 6 months. 

This has been the state of digital customers experiences over the last few years. Disparate systems, siloed teams, and a lack of an overall strategy has had a big impact on delivering digital experience promises made by brands and agencies. A constant theme in the past SoDA Reports have been the difficulty that a client has in being agile enough to take advantage of an agency's creativity. There's inconsistent data, solutions that don't talk to one another, and processes that are slow. One of the issues here is the complexity going on behind the scenes, ultimately, ends up getting exposed to a customer with a poor digital experience. And the research shows that ultimately customers will just walk away from a brand with a poor customer experience.

At Microsoft, we often are involved under the hood of marketing organizations down at the deepest levels of their technology roadmap. The modern marketer has to coordinate their internal IT Person A's, Digital Agency Person B's, and Marketing Person C's to deliver amazing digital experiences. The digital experiences that brands need are heavily reliant on not just these teams working together but also the building blocks fitting consistently along the imagined digital customer journey.

These building blocks first consist of things like CRM platforms, cloud technologies, and enterprise 3rd-party integrations all feeding from complex databases. Starting with a business problem, we work hard to drill down into these building blocks to make sure that they align closely with the outcomes the marketers need. We partner with agencies and clients to support the agility with processes like DevOps and technologies like serverless platform services. We're helping Person A with the first part of their plans and processes. But that isn't far enough.

Our partnerships with leading marketing technologies like Sitecore round out the picture. Digital agencies and marketers have trusted Sitecore's technology for years in helping achieve their digital experience goals. Today, the partnership between Microsoft and Sitecore unleashes the next level of marketer Lego blocks such as personalization, automation, and recommendations on-top of the existing blocks we provide from Microsoft. Separately, we have powerful technologies that help both IT and marketers but it's only together when a fuller strategic picture can be made.

In 2019, the stakes for brands to execute on these digital experiences has never been higher and great investment from clients will only push Person A, Person B, and Person C to align more closely and faster than ever. And this is just today. Looking further out, technology Microsoft is developing like machine learning, conversational AI, and design-heavy experiences like augmented reality are increasingly relevant to IT and marketers.

The SoDA Report this year showed that clients are looking seriously at voice, conversational AI, and AR. So even if you've finished the Lego Millennium Falcon, your client wants the Death Star, Sandcrawler, and X-Wing to go with it… maybe even in the same 6 months.

Doug Gould, Microsoft

Doug Gould, Microsoft

About the Author: Doug has spent his career at the intersection of agencies and technology; using emerging tech to create impactful consumer experiences. Based in NY - his passion for emerging technology has brought him to Microsoft, where he builds partnerships and programs with top global digital agencies around experience innovation using Conversational AI, Mobile, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality and Internet of Things.