Simplii Financial vice president Corby Fine presenting at the 2018 Adobe Summit in Las Vegas in March. Courtesy Corbin's Instagram.

Published: July 9th, 2018

Corby Fine asked twelve people within his company who makes the decision on what appears on their organization’s home page, and, he said, he got fifteen answers.

“The most common were marketing, legal, and the CEO,” he noted. “They never mentioned the customer.”

Fine, who is VP at Simplii Financial, the direct banking subsidiary of CIBC, was on stage with Parthiv Sheth, head of marketing technology and operations at Adobe, discussing digital transformation in marketing at Adobe’s Toronto Digital Experience Makers conference. He added that, in Simplii’s case, the most marketed product usually lives on the home page, not the product that an individual visitor is most likely to click on.

Adobe has the same challenges, according to Sheth. And as one of the web’s top 100 most heavily trafficked sites, it’s an important issue on adobe.com.

“It should be the customer deciding,” he said. And why, he asked, should there only be one home page? Not everyone is interested in the same things. It should be personalized by customer segment.

Linking audience segment to content makes sense, Fine agreed. Simplii is working on that challenge, and has been experimenting with dynamic content on its home page. However, he pointed out, having the right talent to create and evaluate campaigns is key. Those who understand analytics have deeper value.

From Sheth’s point of view, the fight for talent is even worse in Silicon Valley. He’s been combatting that by training existing workers in the marketing department to work with data.

Simplii has taken a different approach. It has set up an innovation centre in Waterloo, in an environment surrounded by small startups that the team can partner with.

“Partnerships are awesome,” Fine said. “We will never be that nimble, and they will never have access to the kind of data we have.” Plus, he said, there are things that partners know that banks would never think of. “We’re interested in how analytics can be embedded in the customer journey,” he added. “We’d love to know there’s an issue before someone calls, and to be able to send them a message saying ‘we’ve got you’.”

But, said Ahmed Elemam, digital transformation leader at AKN Solutions, during a later discussion on personalizing at scale, personalization is not a tool or process, though it does use those things. Instead, it’s a mindset change.

“If you don’t care about the customer, personalization doesn’t care for you,” he said.

It’s also a question of identifying the actual customer versus just spotting a cookie, and about getting tools to talk to each other across platforms. It’s about being pragmatic and making choices.

“The first thing we did was master small data – high level events and activities,” Elemam noted. It’s important to do a proof of concept first for both data and personalization, because it’s important to build good segments and predictors: to identify a need versus simply what’s interesting, and prioritizing the core elements lets you build intent segments, which can then be tested and iterated.

But, he cautioned, “Take it in stages. You don’t have to hit a home run, you just have to get to base.”

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