Sylvia Jensen
Sylvia Jensen 13 July 2018

Consumers say they don’t care about personalisation — but that doesn’t mean marketers shouldn’t do it

A recent survey of UK consumers by Acquia revealed lacklustre demand for personalised experiences. Sylvia Jensen, VP EMEA marketing at Acquia, argues that these findings shouldn't dissuade marketers from investing in personalisation.

What do consumers care about most when it comes to digital experiences? Engaging content? Effective social media? Personalisation? That was a question we at Acquia asked recently of consumers in a survey, and the results were, in some ways, surprising, and in other ways, completely understandable. Actually, when it comes to digital experiences, consumers say they value simplicity above all — saying all they want is just a brand website that’s quick and easy to navigate. Personalised experiences fall way down the list of consumers desires.

Personalisation works

Our initial reaction to consumers’ lacklustre opinion of personalisation was that of surprise. Certainly, from a business point of view, personalisation is paramount to success, and multiple studies have shown that it’s key to driving brand loyalty and repeat sales. McKinsey believes effective personalisation can lift revenue growth by as much as 15%. Econsultancy concluded through research that 93% of companies see an uplift in conversion rates from personalisation. And Gartner predicts that by 2020, personalisation technology that recognises customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase profits by up to 15%.

So, if businesses believe in it, why don’t consumers? Our argument is that while consumers may say they don’t care about personalisation, marketers must not take that to mean that personalisation efforts are futile. Part of the reason consumers told us they don’t care about personalisation is almost certainly down to the fact that it’s much subtler than a website that’s easier to navigate. Arguably, the best kind of personalisation is when the customer doesn’t even know they’re getting a tailored experience. So, it’s understandable that consumers don’t list it as a top priority.

Having said all that, the whole marketing industry is going through an incredible change at the moment, thanks in part to GDPR and thanks in part to scandals like Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. Consumer awareness around data collection and personalisation is increasing, and now is the time for brands to hammer home the message that they’re using customer data to improve the experience for customers through personalisation rather than anything sinister.

But getting personalisation right is still a massive challenge

The trouble, though, is that brands are finding personalisation to be a huge challenge. Previous Acquia research found that 48% of large businesses struggle with personalisation because they don’t know anything about their website visitors. 45% say they don’t have the budget for it, and more worrying still, a third (34%) say they don’t have the support of their board of directors. We conducted that research more than a year ago, and then took the opportunity to ask how things were getting on again at our inaugural Acquia Engage Europe event in June 2018, which saw the heads of digital at major world brands like Virgin Sport, Hiscox, Warner Music and Stage Entertainment come together to share their experiences with digital. It turns out, everybody’s still finding it difficult. Only 11% of attendees had the confidence to say they weren’t struggling with personalisation.

Why personalisation is difficult

When you’re a big brand that operates in multiple regions, cultures and languages, and you have different business units in each region working towards their own objectives with their own level of autonomy, it’s no wonder personalisation is difficult. This kind of global structure makes executing on even the most basic of marketing principles difficult, let alone the newest and hottest trends like personalisation.

And quite often as you grow as a business, your technology infrastructure takes a while to catch up. The number of times we at Acquia have spoken to big businesses operating on small-business technology is huge. And it’s the technology that was once fit for smaller businesses that’s holding back from taking advantage of the biggest marketing trends like personalisation.

My recommendation — a global platform to manage a global brand before crawling, walking and running with personalisation

Before doing anything, you need to make sure you have the right infrastructure in place. Using a single content management system that enables you to manage a brand at a global level while giving each specific region the autonomy they need to succeed is key. This kind of setup will help you maintain a consistent brand in multiple regions, enable you to spin up new sites quickly, and help you to manage content much more easily.

Once that’s in place, your next step is to read our recent blog on how to crawl, walk and run with personalisation… No-one’s every said it would be easy, but it’s an approach we take with clients to help them beat their competition that works.

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