Personalization Pitfalls

Everyone has encountered bad document personalization. In the early days of computer-printed correspondence, consumers received sales letters with their names, usually printed in all caps, scattered through the text. Document composition has come a long way since then, and marketers have embraced the value of personalization for both print and electronic communication. However, those same hazards that plagued business communication pioneers, along with new perils, still present challenges to document developers.

User-friendly interfaces now allow business users to generate sophisticated output with logic to create documents customized for a single individual. The process is easier, but sophisticated software does not protect document designers from coding mistakes or inconsistent data. Complex personalized communications creation requires comprehensive testing before going into production. Marketers sometimes overlook this important step.

Old Challenges

Document designers should reserve time to analyze and clean data files and create test data that includes all the variable conditions and segmentation.

  • What happens if a data value is missing?
  • What if a data value is unusually long or unexpectedly short?
  • If data elements control variable text or image selection, what happens the program encounters a data record with an undefined value?
  • Is all the data in the same format, or is some in uppercase and some in mixed case?
  • Are all the names formatted identically (First Last or Last, First). How are professional titles and suffixes handled?

These are just a few of the conditions document designers should include in their test data to ensure their specifications produce accurate documents. Each application may suggest different areas to test.

New Challenges

Multi-channel distribution adds complexity and a need for additional testing such as:

  • Does the message incorporate responsive design techniques? Be sure to test on different devices!
  • Will special characters render inaccurately if a device lacks the intended font?
  • Are all images accessible online? Do they download quickly? Are text descriptions included?
  • Do all buttons and links connect to the intended web pages?
  • Will colors reproduce accurately on all devices?
  • Has the team tested the document in all popular email clients and web browsers?
  • Will email messages avoid spam filters and junk folders?

Rendering documents in print has its advantages–the document producer has control over the presentation and format of the items. Marketers should definitely take advantage of all the features modern document composition software provides for creating personalized and relevant documents.

Studies have shown that these efforts pay off in greater response rates. But faulty personalization is worse than no personalization at all. Reducing exposure to embarrassing errors with adequate pre-production testing is great advice.
Want to learn more about personalization? Contact our experts today.



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