The Future Is Personalized

Move over, content: In digital marketing, personalization is king.

Now more than ever, consumers expect personalization from brands. In response to a survey on online shopping behavior conducted by IBM, nearly 50 percent of consumers said they want personalized promotions online.

“Retailers may not be doing enough to meet consumer expectations shaped by digital experiences outside of retail,” IBM concluded. Indeed, digital marketers are demonstrating a devotion to experimenting with personalized messaging in multiple forms. A recent survey of VentureBeat readers revealed that while marketers are most likely to incorporate personalization into email, they’re also personalizing social media interactions, owned media properties, display ads, and mobile messaging. Let’s take a look at some of the tactics, formats, and channels they’re using to create a more meaningful consumer connection.

In Programmatic Marketing

Recently, ad platform Jivox introduced a new functionality that makes it easier for brands and agencies to serve highly personalized display, mobile, video, and native ads with programmatic technology.

“Personalization is no longer just an option for advertisers, it’s the norm,” says Diaz Nesamoney, chief executive (CEO) of Jivox. “For campaigns to be successful, consumers need to feel connected with the content they are being served, and it needs to be relevant and engaging. In order for advertisers to achieve the level of personalization that is expected, advertisements need to be data-driven, serving the right content, to the right person, at the right time.”

There’s no question that the demand for these capabilities is contributing to the industry’s remarkable growth. The U.S. programmatic ad market surpassed $10 billion last year and is expected to reach $20 billion by 2016.

Brands like Sears Canada are running both dynamic retargeting campaigns and data-optimized original creative. “When we are serving back to the consumer the same products that they are interested in or had researched, it provides a reminder and a comfort of convenience of access,” Nurullo Makhmudov, Director, Online User Experience & Strategic Initiatives with Sears Canada, recently told eMarketer. “It’s an invitation to come back and finalize your purchase. In that sense, it becomes a highly personalized and individualized execution.”

In Wearable Technology

There are few better occasions to personalize a brand interaction than when a consumer is sporting a wearable device. Gadgets like the Apple Watch afford a level of brand intimacy that surpasses even mobile phones and tablets. Digital marketing firm R2integrated – which recently acquired New York-based Make Me Social and works with such clients as Under Armour and MasterCard – says wearables are an important extension of a brand’s mobile strategy.

“They represent an opportunity to deliver more personalized, more relevant, more targeted, more timely and more connected experiences,” says Matt Goddard, CEO of R2integrated. “For the marketer, understanding (consumer) behavior and using that data to achieve attribution of marketing touch points should be a key focus when building an integrated wearable strategy.”

In Branded Content

Personalization plays a part in branded content as well. In February, Forbes announced that it partnered with AOL-owned Gravity.com to customize the content recommendations that appear to readers in the Promoted Stories section of its site. The alliance is meant to increase user engagement; according to Forbes, Gravity’s technology determines which topics readers engage with most often, and delivers content recommendations based on these preferences.

Personalized branded content can also take the form of user-specific responses to tweets. Last year, American Express offered Twitter users personalized digital autographs from musical artist Pharrell. Part of the #AmexUNSTAGED campaign, the effort was designed to promote the brand’s sponsorship of a series of concert films.

Also last year, Travelocity partnered with creative agency McKinney to launch a Twitter-based campaign inviting users to share their dream destinations using the #IWannaGo hashtag for a chance to win a trip. Travelocity’s gnome mascot responded to 60 of the tweets with personalized Vines. According to Twitter, the brand was able to gain more than 34,000 followers.

“Campaigns that personalize not just the greeting but also the content reinforce that the brand knows more than the consumer’s name,” says Chick Foxgrover, Chief Digital Officer of the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies). “People will first connect with the brand representative and then identify with the personalized content, which makes the brand message that much more attention-grabbing.

“Whenever this level of personalization is possible, it will have a strong positive effect on the messaging or offer,” Foxgrover adds.

The future of digital marketing lies in creating personalized brand moments. And it’s already here.

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