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Is personalisation really worthwhile- or are marketers missing the mark?

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(Posted on Mar 14, 2014 at 06:16AM by William Cosgrove)


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When we walk into a shop or a restaurant we appreciate the personal touch, and being treated as an individual goes a long way. Now, with consumers spending more of their time online, marketers must take steps to maintain the “personal experience” across a brand's entire digital presence.

Building up a rapport without having the opportunity to meet face-to-face isn't easy, but there are ways to achieve it. The emergence of Big Data, for example, is allowing marketers to drill down into an incredible level of detail, and this in-depth understanding of who is visiting the website, mobile site or app, enables marketers to target customers with things that make the whole journey more relevant.

Just like being in a clothes shop and the assistant suggesting things they think you might like, thanks to Big Data, brands can offer their customers articles, adverts or products which are more relevant to them. 

When done right, personalisation is a win-win for both the customer and the brand. There is a treasure trove of information on people visiting a site that marketers can use to deliver an online experience that, much like a real-life service, is tailored to suit the customer.

This way, the consumer has a better experience through things like exclusive offers, or information on products that interest them, resulting in three key elements of loyal behaviour; willingness to buy more, reluctance to switch and likelihood to recommend. 

Time wasted? 

Personalisation has evolved very quickly. A few years ago, you’d be lucky to get a simple “welcome back” on a website, let alone a web page specific to you. By trying to transform into an integrated, multichannel business and through harnessing Big Data to learn about each online shopper, brands can now greet their customer with a site that suits them rather than just a simple “hello again”.

Nonetheless, despite the benefits to the customer of a personalised experience, our "Click Here: The State of Online Advertising" research found that just 23% of those surveyed find customisation valuable, which suggests brands still aren’t getting it right.

This is an important wake up call to brands and should make us question if it is a worthwhile practice, or if brands and marketers are simply missing the mark.

We only need to look to brands like RSA, one of the world's largest insurance companies, to know that when personalisation is done properly it works.

RSA is able to determine what kinds of services customers want and, in response, continually optimise online experiences. By capturing insights into its customers' interests and preferences, it is addressing its customers as individuals and the results speak for themselves. Conversion is up 2% and profits are up by almost £1 per sale, proving that personalisation can and will have value to the customer - as well as a huge impact on the bottom line.

The same Click Here: State of Online Advertising research found other brands doing it well include online giants Amazon, eBay and TripAdvisor, with their helpful product and page suggestions inevitably playing a big role in them being named by consumers as top brands for personalisation.

Creating demand

Online marketers clearly understand the benefits of personalisation, with 52% of those surveyed claiming that being able to effectively personalise content is central to their marketing strategy, and 71% claiming it has a big impact on ROI. 

If brands want to maximise the benefits personalisation has to offer, they need customers to not just be accepting of it but to actually demand it. It is only when individuals experience and appreciate the same personal touch online as they do in-store that a strong, two-way relationship will emerge.

The only way marketers can create this demand is to do personalisation well, and for this to happen there should be a number of considerations. First, there needs to be a seamless experience for the customer across all channels, campaigns and marketing activities. Marketers can then analyse the customer's digital journey to decipher when conversion is highest, and create the personalised experience that has the most potential to grow conversion or engagement. Timing is also key in the online marketing process, and it is important to capitalise on the customer’s interest in your products as early as possible. 

Fortunately, the technology now exists to do most of the hard work, deciding which content and offers are most relevant to the customer. But while the machines can look after most of the data and analytics, a blend of data-led and intuitive marketing often works best.

If marketers continue to improve their understanding of the individual customer, delivering what they want, when they want it, customers may join marketers in realising the real value of the "personal touch".

Tresilian Segal is head of marketing Northern Europe at Adobe Marketing Cloud.