Tim Burley
Tim Burley 23 December 2021

An Experience Like No Other: The Quest for Personalisation

In the recent past, consumers would be alarmed if they received an email correctly addressing them with their name in the greeting. However, the growing shift to digital has made consumers more appreciative of the value of personalisation. How can brands get it right? By Tim Burley, Head of Client Services at Organic.

Not so long ago many consumers were alarmed if they got an email with their name correctly addressed in the greeting. Even worse for some were the retargeted ads ‘chasing’ them around the internet.

For the most part, the post-modern consumer now understands the added value a personalised approach to marketing brings them. Gone are the days when they found the personal touch from brands deeply creepy - for the most part, anyway.

To that end, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the importance brands are placing on personalisation within their digital experiences. This is due in no small part to the great shift towards digital that has accelerated with the pandemic.

Opportunities to connect with audiences offline reduced dramatically in lockdowns, leaving digital channels to do so much more of the work than had previously been the case.

The desire to interact with audiences in a way that feels personal is as old as marketing itself, but technology’s ability to deliver this at scale is still in its infancy, and marketers everywhere are looking for ways to build their confidence in this important area.

But getting it right is no easy task, and the best-in-class practitioners achieve excellence across a number of related areas: developing the right tools, acquiring the right data, adopting an experimental mindset, creating the right content, and then putting in place the right analytics and reporting.

To find out what makes personalisation tick - or sputter if not done right - we surveyed 250 marketing professionals. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what we found.

Personalisation’s Priority Gap

The panel of marketing professionals told us their top five biggest challenges when trying to deliver personalised customer experiences:

  • 39% - Using data effectively
  • 30% - Inadequate technology
  • 27% - Cost of personalisation
  • 26% - Lack of skills in business
  • 25% - Lack of first-party day

But their main focus for improving personalised communications is content. More than four in ten respondents (42%) named better customer content as their first fix.

Furthermore, 39% stated that being able to serve more appropriate and valuable content to users is the most important aspect of personalisation. This is perhaps unsurprising, because content has been squarely in the marketer’s wheelhouse for some time.

But a gap in thinking between obstacles and better outcomes should be viewed as an opportunity to solve the problems that are always present on the journey to personalisation.

Data for Personalisation

Meanwhile, a closer look at marketers’ favourite facets of personalisation reveals a range of features - acknowledging the nearly four in ten respondents who consider content key - that can be enhanced by smarter use of data:

  • 35% - Providing a better understanding of customer needs
  • 30% - Making touchpoints relevant to individuals’ needs
  • 29% - Ability to show a better return on marketing investment

When it comes to getting a grip on data, marketers should focus on quality, not quantity.

A more experimental mindset offers progress, in particular for brands at the start of their personalisation journey.

Practical Approaches to Personalisation

On a practical level, there are several approaches to personalisation brands can take to improve their strategies.

Effective personalisation should be considered primarily through a customer experience (CX) lens.

Enhancing experiences begins by gaining a better understanding of prospects and customers, so their needs and desires can be met more successfully - provoking delight and loyalty.

We’re seeing the rise of marketing technology that helps marketers tackle the urgent data question many of them are increasingly being asked.

For instance, the fundamental purpose of a Customer Data Platform (CDP) is to free data from traditional silos so it can be used across multiple systems.

Meanwhile, Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) can also play a vital role in supporting organisations as they grow in confidence and ambition. Contentful is a good example of a DXP. It takes a flexible, ‘API-first’ approach, allowing firms to evolve the tech stack over time as needs change.

A Roadmap for the Personalisation Journey

When asked as part of our research to consider the most important aspects of personalisation, marketers gave an even spread of responses.

Nearly four in 10 (39%) name the ability to serve valuable content to users; 35% say it gives them a better understanding of their customers; 30% state it adds relevance to customer touchpoints.

There’s such a range of issues, frustration and opportunity that it can be hard to view a clear road ahead.

Here, though, are some practical pointers for a successful strategy.

Put Customers First

To be most effective, personalisation should be directly aligned with - or overlaid onto - the customer journey.

Audit your Work

Consider what you’ve already achieved, celebrate this, then work out what should come next. Work towards attainable goals, whether that involves a focus on data, devices, channels or content.

Get your Data in Shape

Not all marketers are data analytics experts, and that’s fine. Organisation and planning is the first step - it’s about having the right data, not just masses of it.

Review your Tech Stack

A platform-neutral approach, focusing on desired outcomes rather than technology, fits the bill. When what you have is simple enough to achieve your goals, but not so simple it limits growth or experimentation, you’re on the right track.

Clear up Cloudy ROI

When tools and analytics are aligned, a true picture can be drawn revealing integration between marketing automation, paid media, brand websites, CRM, Google Analytics, and more.

Seek Expert Support

This is often the best way to fully understand the customer journey and integrate technology that can give you real control over your personalisation efforts. An external view can provide clearer line of sight to the stable foundations and strategy you’ll need to have in place to succeed.

Get the basics right first, experiment, learn, and progress - those are the keys that will unlock the door to delivering truly personalised digital experiences.

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