Personalization: Why Having a Dialogue Is Not Enough

It wasn’t that long ago that the word “dialogue” was bandied about as a badge of competence in the world of digital – a badge announcing that the wearer understood this new era in marketing. Of course the new era heralded the end of push marketing and one-way messages and replaced it with the idea of engaging in conversations with consumers. (You’ll all remember those images of clip art figures using megaphones representing the end of the old days.)

This change happened largely with the rise of social media and the notion and opportunity of dialogue was presented in very obvious ways with the unique immediacy of Twitter and the inviting space of Facebook fan pages.

With these very established notions of dialogue via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, the challenge for marketers now is to up our game and bring the notion of conversation into the less obvious touch points we have with our consumers.

This idea came nicely to life for me a few months ago when we were discussing a new website with a client with one of our key technology partners. Our prospect’s website was its key consumer touch point and was, by far, its most important sales channel. Understanding this in the context of human interaction, we posited the premise that its website – its most important sales person – really should recognize returning customers or enquirers when they came back. It would be rather odd if every time I went to see a “human” sales person she had to get to know me again. I wouldn’t think much of a sales person in my local electronics store if after one visit I’d narrowed my choice to between a Samsung TV and a Philips and on my return she didn’t make reference to that and treated me like a brand-new customer.

In the case above, our talk of comparative “real life” shopping situations was aimed at convincing them that a clever content management system would allow them to make their website work far harder. In this example, we’ve taken the idea of conversation and dialogue beyond a simple exchange of sentences and questions (probably on social media) to a point where a previously dumb website understands the previous “dialogue” (pages visited, search strings, time spent in various product categories) and nods toward that by serving highly customized and personalized content. It is a basic consideration of all friendships and all relationships of course that everything goes on between us and our friends is determined by the sum of all our interactions that have gone on before.

We have other opportunities, too.

When it comes to display, demand-side platforms (DSP) in addition to managing real-time bidding allow the clever marketers to understand the context of the site visitor. Based around a cohesive creative, we can offer a range of display options based on our understanding of where our target might be in the decision process for a particular product or service. Our message for someone simply exploring a category for the first time could and should be very different from what we’d like to say to someone who seems ripe for making a purchase.

I’d argue, too, that any email sent to someone in our database should, wherever possible, understand and be sensitive to all we know about that person and be guided by everything that’s gone on before.

You will be familiar with the throw-away lines in everyday conversations around the importance of non-verbal communication and what we have now in the world of digital are ways of understanding the more silent and less obvious conversations and dialogue we now have with our consumers driven by context and the insights we should derive from the sum of interaction and engagement.

Increasingly now, it will be the marketers and their brands that move onward and upward from the obvious conversations in social media into a deep understanding of the silent conversations and contexts described above that will distinguish themselves from the rest.

Ask yourself, for every visitor to your website and for every digital communication you might have with them, “What do we already know about them, and how can I best acknowledge that and speak with them in the most appropriate and relevant way?”

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