Build vs. Buy: 7 Reasons to Consider Before Building a Personalization Platform In-House



COVID-19 may have temporarily (and, in some ways permanently) changed the business and marketing playbook. But, what it hasn’t (and, shouldn’t!) change is your eternal promise to consistently deliver value and customer delight at scale.

Set in this backdrop, omnichannel personalization continues to take centre-stage. Crafting 1:1 customer experiences across all digital touchpoints is a bulletproof way to bridge the gap between customer expectations and your conversion KPIs.

Here are some stats that drive home this reality:

  • 91% of customers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant product offers and recommendations
  • 70% of millennials are willing to let e-commerce players track their browsing and shopping behavior in exchange for a better shopping experience

Your customers demand greater contextual, relevant, and meaningful experiences – every time they land on your website, launch your mobile app, or interact with your marketing campaigns.

And, having grasped the significance of powering personalization at scale, digital brands are integrating personalization frameworks into their overall marketing strategy.

In fact, personalization has become such a vital strategic component of the growth engine that there is an immediate urge to begin building this capability in-house.

This raises the fundamental question:

Should you build or buy personalization capabilities in order to serve your customers better while uplifting your top-line revenues?

In our experience working with leading brands across diverse industries such as e-commerce, OTT, media, news and entertainment, and BFSI; we believe there are 7 factors that you need to consider before making that decision:

1. Timeframe for Deployment:

In today’s hyper-competitive environment where customers are spoilt for choice – for various reasons – your personalization and recommendation-engine led strategy needs to produce instant impact yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not today.

If you want to achieve conversion uplifts of 8-13% and increase marketing ROI by 10-12X, then every day that goes by is an opportunity cost. You can’t afford to leave money on the table!

By partnering with a third-party omnichannel personalization vendor instead, you can jumpstart your personalization journey much faster. The usual internal concerns around time required for integration and deployment when choosing an external vendor are well-founded, but are no longer true.

In fact, with Smartech’s Omnichannel Personalization module you can integrate the Javascript snippet on your website in less than 15 minutes and go live in less than 5 days!

2. Resource, Talent, and Technology Investment:

It is tempting to build personalization capabilities in-house. But, it also requires major investment in terms of:

  • Talent
  • Technology
  • Time

In such a case, you would have to either re-align existing in-house talent or hire externally to build out an A1 team.

If you re-align available in-house talent, you’ll need to give them time to adjust to a new function, project, KPIs, style of functioning, and team dynamics. And, if you hire externally, finding quality Data Scientists, AI/ML Specialists, Engineers, and Developers could take far longer; depending on talent availability, hiring cycles, laid-down qualifications, experience, and salary negotiations.

If you’re looking to build enterprise-grade level personalization solutions in-house, this could cost you $200,000-300,000 in talent assembly and team building alone…

…and, all of this to initially build out a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that can be taken to market only in the next 4-6 months. Also, remember that these budgets would vary depending upon your industry vertical, company size, monthly active users (MAUs), and business priority for personalization.

Evaluating and finalizing an external vendor is associated with a negligible time and monetary cost. But, you get to save sizable costs on talent assembly/acquisition and requisite technology – by leaning on the industry expertise, proven track record, and cutting-edge technology of the external personalization vendor of your choice.

3. Customer Data Control:

There is no denying that your customer data is your Holy Grail! And, you understand customer behavior across your platforms and channels at a granular level. By choosing to build your personalization capabilities in-house over this customer data layer, you feel like you’re in control and capable of delivering rich 1:1 customer experiences. And, that’s true for the most part.

However, working with an external personalization vendor doesn’t mean that you relinquish control over your customer data.

A vendor works closely with you as an enabler by seamlessly integrating into your existing tech stack. As a catalyst to help you create and deploy those powerful and memorable customer experiences faster, and more consistently.

A personalization vendor will further help you consolidate and reconcile customer data across all sources, platforms, and channels to prevent such critical data existing in silos. At Smartech, we help you build a continuously enriched, unified view of every customer. This provides a 360-degree view based on both historical and live demographic, geolocation, device-related, and behavioral data – at an individual customer level.

Not only does this help you gather more granular insights based on advanced analytics, but it also allows the vendor’s AI engine to power your personalization and recommendation strategy in real-time.

And, an external personalization vendor serves merely as a data processor, gathering customer actions and inactions, with you still retaining complete control and ownership over your customer data.

4. UI/UX Control:

Personalization is a long-term growth pillar that relies heavily on cross-functional collaboration. This means that even though your marketers may experience a direct impact on their KPIs through personalization – they’re still dependent on product and engineering to make that magic happen.

Also, embedding personalization into the core product can have a direct impact on other functions such as product management, merchandize management, analytics, and data science – impacting their KPIs, deliverables, and roadmaps.

In our conversations, we’ve seen that this collective buy-in across functions – while delivering a seamless product experience – can take a lot of time and effort. Rapid alignment when building this in-house can be a challenge. And, devoting that much time, development, testing, and deployment bandwidth for. every. single. feature is an even bigger challenge!

If you choose to buy from an external vendor instead, product capabilities and degrees of customizability aside, multiple internal stakeholders will weigh-in on the purchase decision. But, once you’ve made a decision, a strong vendor onboarding and training program can help you maximize these personalization capabilities.

5. Scalability and Customizability:

At the end of the day, you want to create personalized customer experiences relevant to a segment of one, and at scale. Building that capacity in-house takes a lot of time and rigorous optimization to ensure scalable experiences don’t break.

The last thing you want is for a carefully acquired and engaged customer to switch to another competitor due to a bad or broken experience…despite your best intentions to add more teeth to your personalization value chain!

On the other hand, buying from such a solution from an external vendor allows you to deliver those well-intentioned, 1:1 customer experiences at scale, consistently.

Also, when it comes to deploying a third-party platform, customization built on open-architecture comes built into it. It’s not just a superficial turnkey solution. Personalization is no longer a “vendor-dictates-all” black-box that you can’t tailor-make to suit your needs.

At Smartech, you can deploy 1:1 recommendation widgets across your entire website or mobile app. You can even trigger personalized recommendations across high-conversion channels such as email, app push notifications, and web messages. You can personalize certain elements of your platform while also defining the rules that our AI engine, Raman, accounts for in its patented algorithms.

It gives you the added benefit of orchestrating pre-built customer journeys that embed a contextualized approach across every stage of an individual user’s lifecycle.

Building all of that in-house is always going to be a massive ongoing project. A project for which you may not always have the budget, risk appetite, or time to market for.

6. Maintenance and Upgradation:

Newsflash: Everyone loves the new, shiny toy; but keeping it shiny and scratch-free takes a lot of effort!

Launching an in-house personalization solution is only the first rung of your new growth ladder. The backend technology requires regular maintenance as existing features get upgraded or new features get added to the stack.

That’s a lot of (unappealing) engineering grunt-work, if you choose to pursue the in-house route. Not to mention that it is time, money, and bandwidth-consuming.

At Smartech, our top-notch engineering team ensures that you free up that same bandwidth to focus on elevating your product strategy and experience. Not only do we work closely with you on optimizing the use of existing features, but also help you deploy new features that complement the overall 1:1 customer experience.

7. Industry Expertise:

There will be challenges specific to your industry vertical, customer base, or market. Attempting to address those challenges in-house will always sound like the soundest course of action – on paper.

But, the sheer complexity, scale, and scope of building an omnichannel personalization solution internally is daunting. Even if it addresses very basic pain-points. Especially when you’re looking to do this at a world-class, competition-beating standard.

Sure, you might see a conversion rate uplift of 2-5% within 8 weeks of deployment across your website or mobile app – but does that really justify all that effort?

An external vendor brings a proven KPI track record having addressed the same, similar, or more complex pain points for other players in your industry.

At Smartech, we bring years of deep industry knowledge and hands-on expertise to help you effortlessly deliver personalized customer experiences at scale. A lot of what we’ve learnt has been through endless experimentation and data-backed optimization, working with hundreds of global clients.

A lot of it is down to trial-and-error. And, a lot of that has shaped and re-shaped our understanding of what works best for you and your end customers.

Additionally, we take ownership of your KPIs with our AI engine and growth consultants working closely beside you to deliver conversion uplifts of 8-13% – in less than 5 weeks of going live.

That’s the degree of confidence that a third-party vendor can bring to the table…and, that you can leverage to unlock new waves of growth for your website or mobile app.

Bob, the Builder or Buyer?

via GIPHY

When fleshing out your personalization strategy, it’s never going to be a binary build or buy approach. External vendors bring a compelling value proposition – at a justifiable price – to the table. But, at the end of the day, we function as digital enablers and growth catalysts to your product and marketing narrative.

You don’t lose control over your customer data, UI/UX, or even your macro-personalization strategy. All you do is pick a proven winner to help you cross the conversion finish line, lap after lap, quarter after quarter – by outsourcing some of the infrastructure that drives it.

To understand why you should pick an external vendor to elevate your omnichannel personalization game, get in touch, today!

[This is the first in a series of blog posts to help you break down the age-old “Build vs. Buy” decision-making conundrum, across industry verticals.]

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Pradyut Hande

Pradyut Hande

A data-driven marketing strategist with a hard-nosed penchant for frugal innovation, Pradyut is the Senior Growth Marketer & Product Evangelist at Netcore's Smartech.

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