Progressive Profiling: Fuel for Long- and Short-Term Personalization

February 18, 2022 | 6 minute read
Peter Briggs
Director of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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With the phaseout of third-party cookies on the horizon, brands are focusing more on collecting zero-party data for use in personalization and targeting. Zero-party data is information that’s provided directly to brands by consumers. Often, it’s provided in response to progressive profiling efforts—that is, ongoing efforts to build an evolving picture of a customer or prospect over time through forms, surveys, and other methods. Without progressive profiling, you’re reliant forever and solely on the information that was shared at the very beginning of the relationship.

That’s inefficient for two reasons.

First, long forms are daunting and a big turnoff to prospects and customers. Every question you add to a form reduces the form’s completion rate, even if some of those questions are optional. Because of that, it’s nearly impossible to get enough information through a single interaction to build a robust personalization strategy. Brands encounter much less resistance and generate much more success when they ask for a little information at a time, which is central to progressive profiling.

Second, data has a shelf-life. The needs and desires of people and businesses are constantly changing and evolving, so data must be updated periodically. Indeed, some data has a very short shelf-life before it becomes obsolete. That said, both long- and short-term progressive profiling data are valuable and worth pursuing. Let’s look at the key differences between these two types, and then look at how to leverage this data.

Long-Term Progressive Profiling

The key characteristic of this information is that it has a shelf life of one to three years, generally. In some cases, it can be even longer.

Examples of this kind of information include:

  • Mailing address
  • Preferred location or store
  • Company affiliation
  • Vendor(s) used by person’s company
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Number of vehicles owned
  • Gaming console(s) owned
  • Sports played
  • Favorite sports team(s)
  • Favorite hobbies

The best ways to collect this information include:

  • During checkout
  • On webinar or event registration pages
  • On webinar or event registration confirmation pages
  • On resource download forms
  • On newsletter or promotional email signup page
  • On newsletter or promotional email signup confirmation page
  • Via customer onboarding or subscriber welcome messaging
  • As part of user or customer profile page
  • In preference centers
  • As part of re-engagement campaigns
  • After a successful re-permission campaign
  • In an annual request to update preferences, profile, etc.
  • When launching new product lines, categories, services, capabilities, or partnerships
  • When new stores open or in-store offering changes
  • When there’s major company news or PR that’s positive

Many of those are also great ways to grow your audience, as highlighted in our Audience Acquisition Source Ideas checklist.

In terms of timing, you’ll want to use any active long-term progressive profiling campaigns when your data is getting stale and becoming unreliable. It’s important to recognize that many demographic and behavioral data points have a half-life and become less impactful in accurately driving segmentation and personalization. Progressive profiling refreshes that data and revitalizes your targeting efforts.

For example, post-holiday timeframes are always a great opportunity to try and capture shopping, hobby, and other interests. Not only will your subscriber’s shopping behavior look fundamentally different in the fourth quarter compared to the first quarter because of gift-buying, but New Year’s resolutions can cause shifts in priorities and interests, too.

Systemic shocks, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can also trigger or accentuate potential changes in shopping needs and behavior. So, major disruptions should also be a cue to ramp up your efforts to prompt your customers to update their preferences, profiles, and other information.

Short-Term Progressive Profiling around Near-Term Intent

In contrast, the data collected via short-term progressive profiling typically has a shelf life of 3-12 months, representing plans or intentions for the next season or the next year.

Examples of this kind of information include:

  • Spring garden, patio, and landscaping plans this year
  • Vacation destination interests this summer, winter, etc.
  • Interests in various shopping categories this year
  • Interest in holiday gift categories this year
  • Likelihood to buy a new car this year
  • Likelihood to move this year
  • Likelihood to change jobs this year
  • Financial or investment goals this year

The best ways to collect this information include:

  • Using a dedicated message or secondary message block…
    • Going into a new season (i.e., spring, summer, holiday season, etc.)
    • Going into a new calendar or academic year
    • When launching new product lines, categories, services, capabilities, or partnerships
    • When there’s major company news or PR that’s positive
  • Using a secondary message block or administrative link in the footer of every message you send
  • Date-triggered automated messages based on…
    • A person’s birthday, anniversary, etc.
    • The anniversary of a product purchase, particularly for expensive capital goods like vehicles, tractors, factory equipment, etc.
    • A previous engagement
  • Inactivity-based win-back or reengagement campaigns (i.e., 6 months since last transaction)
  • In various forms using progressive profiles functionality, which doesn’t render fields that ask for information you already have for an individual and instead displays fields for data points that you don’t have

The timing of your short-term progressive profiling will be driven by your need for fresh data to use for upcoming segmented and personalized campaigns. You’ll want to do your progressive profiling close enough to the campaign that people are certain of their plans, interests, or desires, while also giving yourself enough time to react.

How to Ask for Information

Almost always, long-term progressive profiling is done by asking consumers a question directly. However, for short-term progressive profiling, it’s increasingly popular to ask for this information more casually and with a more community-based approach by using polls, surveys, and quizzes. Those responses are then used in marketing or community content.

For example, how the community answered a poll would be shared with all participants, with your company providing additional insights, resources, or context related to the question or answers. And if you did a quiz, then their answers might lead to some insight being shared about the quiz-taker, such as indicating what their fashion style is and then sharing appropriate product or styling recommendations.

Whether long- or short-term progressive profiling, it’s best to keep answer possibilities simple. Either a yes-or-no option or a multiple-choice ranging from three to five answers is best.

How to Use Progressive Profiling Data

When you ask your customers or prospects for information, you’re setting the expectation that you will act on that data. So, make sure you store and act on that data in a way that helps serve them better.

The two most common ways to leverage progressive profiling data—all of which are enabled with Oracle Responsys—are to…

  1. Send a segmented campaign or multi-touch experience dedicated to the topic or content the customer indicated an interest in.
  2. Add a personalized or dynamic content module to a promotional campaign, newsletter, webpage, or app page based on the data you recently captured. For example, if an email subscriber indicated that they’d be shopping for jewelry during the holiday season, then your Black Friday email could feature a secondary message promoting that product category.

While ideal progressive profiling implementations would be fully integrated, so that newly captured data is fed into your internal profiling or segmentation engines, that is not needed to leverage this data. As an alternative, you can store your progressive profiling data (along with the date of capture) within a Profile Extension Table (PET). That allows you to use this data for personalization, segmentation, analysis, and follow-up campaigns. It can also allow you to build segment groups to track and report on these audience members uniquely to understand the incremental impact of any strategies you implement.

While predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can all help you create more relevant customer interactions, they have their limitations. Instead of making educated guesses about what your customers and prospects want, sometimes it’s simply more efficient to just ask them. That’s what progressive profiling is all about—a one-to-one dialogue that then fuels one-to-one customer experiences.

Check out our guide to B2C marketing solutions that can help you win over customers and their loyalty. 

Watch this short video (1:44) to learn about personalized campaigns.

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Need help with progressive profiling or better understanding your audiences? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help Oracle customers create stronger connections with their customers, partners, and employees, even if they’re not using an Oracle platform as the foundation of that experience. Handling everything from creative and strategy to content planning and project management, we consistently exceed our clients’ expectations, earning a customer satisfaction rate of 96%.

For help overcoming your challenges or seizing your opportunities, talk to your Oracle account manager, visit us online, or email us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.

Peter Briggs

Director of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Peter Briggs is a Director on the Analytic & Strategic Services team at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. His background includes over 12 years of client and agency consulting experience in the digital marketing space. Peter’s versatile experience and unique blend of creativity and analytical thinking enables him to develop innovative solutions that deliver results.


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