Most personalisation initiatives fail to improve customer experience – Interview with Jan Jensen of CXense


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Today’s interview is with Jan Jensen Chief Marketing Officer at Cxense, a software as a service company that is enabling many of the world’s leading media, e-commerce and consumer brands to take control of their audience data to deliver more engaging and personalized user experiences. Jan joins me today to talk about personalisation, why many initiatives in this space fail, what firms can do about it and what role data and privacy concerns play.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Using analytics, decisioning and robotics to improve the employee and customer experience – Interview with Kerim Akgonul of Pega – and is number 183 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Jan:

  • Avid listeners of this podcast will notice that I have interviewed Jan before when he was at Trustpilot.
  • CXense specialise in delivering highly impactful data management and personalisation solutions.
  • Marketers are struggling to deliver the personalised experiences and content that customers want.
  • There are multiple reasons behind this:
    • The martech and adtech spaces are very crowded.
    • Delivering a unified view of the customer requires a lot of cross functional alignment and unification of the data layer.
    • Marketers are still struggling to deliver sales and marketing automation and aligning around that so to deliver a more holistic view is a much harder and more complicated thing to do.
    • The lack of analytical skills in marketing teams.
    • Understanding customers and the production of content that customers value.
  • If you don’t understand your audience and the content that you have available, how can you create and deliver a personalised experience?
  • To achieve that costs a lot of time and resources.
  • This is a soup of complexity blending analytical skills, creativity, empathy and marketing skills.
  • Whilst many firms are trying to achieve this, many are failing and are only producing ‘vanilla’ and boring content – Content without content.
  • Things get even more interesting when you include data and privacy concerns into the mix.
  • But, Jan’s experience is that customers are surprisingly willing to share their data if they get a greater experience by sharing their data and brands are transparent about how they are using and protecting their data.
  • However, to be able to do these things brands need to get a good grip of their data layer and understand where it comes from,what permissions are associated with it, how it needs to be managed and how it integrates.
  • It’s funny how creepy some of the re-targeting marketing has become.
  • Wouldn’t it be better to maybe send someone an email saying “Hey, we noticed that you were interested in these things….” rather than stalking them through re-targeting.
  • If you have a great data layer and transparency around it then the end user will engage more with you.
  • There is a brand building and relationship building opportunity in being up-front, possibly through the use of explainer videos, which states very clearly what data is collected and how it is used.
  • There is nobody doing this really well or really badly as it is still early days when it comes to personalisation.
  • The main challenges to achieving a higher level of personalisation are:
    • Internal culture and having the maturity to be able to tackle this issue with care.
    • The data layer – to get started all of the internal and external data needs to be in the same place, synced up and actionable.
    • Alignment between sales, marketing, customer service and IT – this is the most important element.
  • If you have a well-architected data platform then, in essence, you don’t need pre-programmed journeys as the journeys will be built by the consumers choice.
  • Personalisation is all about subtleties.
  • In future, we will know consumers intent by their actions.
  • Some of Cense’s customers (major publishers) have started small and have used these insights to increase conversion to subscribers by more than 400%.
  • Winnipeg Free Press worked with Cxense to figure out a paid content model. They started small and at the lowest level of personalisation. By analysing their data they found a group of customers that were only interested in a small segment of their content so they tailored their experience to fit their interests. In turn, that boosted their page views by 90% and increase the time spent on the site by 20%. They are now thinking about how they can achieve a 2% rate of retention as that is the equivalent of cutting their bottom line by 10%. They understand that engaging customers quickly with the right type of content means that they are much more likely to pay for it.
  • Many large organisations fall into the trap that they forget to get the personalisation right in their rush to scale. Hence, start small, get it right and then scale.
  • Many CMOs are too afraid of taking risks and making their brand different.
  • Despite the lack of analytical and insight skills, brands should be wary of relying on vendors too much and should be hiring their own people that can analyse and understand the data.
  • There is no sadder thing than understanding the data but not knowing what you want to achieve.
  • Technology is nothing with the right strategy, people and processes.
  • Wow service and experience is:
    • When anyone from a large corporation calls me back as promised – You don’t need to do much but you do need to do a little.
    • When a company gets to know you and knows what you like. Jan cites a Norwegian hotel he stays at that always puts him in the same room, the room is always at 19C and they know the things that he likes.
    • Jan also cites an example from a firm that sent him an email opting him out of their newsletter/service as he was not active. He then opted back in and is now a more active user.
  • It’s not so much about the tactics but the culture that it takes to deliver these sort of things.
  • In order to achieve Wow service or experience, Jan recommends that you should know your audience as deeply as you can.
  • If you are looking for a data management and personalisation platform then check out

About Jan (taken and adapted from his Cxense bio)

Jan Vels JensenJan Vels Jensen is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Cxense, and a a passionate and visionary leader with a can-do attitude and a strong believer in culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Jan is an accomplished and recognized international marketing executive, with more than 15 years experience, who helps companies reach their full potential. He has done this through building high-performance teams, establishing strong brand identities, ensuring customer centricity and by driving digital transformation throughout the whole organization. He has successfully worked with international market leaders and startups in enterprise, midmarket and consumer spaces.

Check out Cense at, say Hi on Twitter @cxense and @JanVJensen. You can also connect with Jan on LinkedIn here and feel free to email him (jan dot jensen at cxense dot com).

Photo Credit: Will Lion via Compfight cc


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