The Importance of Personalization

You’ve seen them in retail store fridges, on TV, in customers’ hands: bottles of Coca-Cola embellished with names like Rachel, Laura, and Dan. As part of its “Share a Coke” campaign, the brand personalized its labels with some 250 popular names. And according to The Wall Street Journal, the effort “reversed a decade-long decline in U.S. Coke consumption.”

We’ve learned a lot about personalization this year. We know that personalized emails can produce transaction rates and revenue six times higher than non-personalized messages. Based on data compiled in Britain, digital marketing solutions provider Webtrends tells us the average consumer has 260 unopened emails in their inbox, 56 of those from brands. Sixty percent say they would open those messages if the subject line was personalized.

On the mobile marketing front, we’ve been told consumers’ big gripe is that the brand messages they receive aren’t relevant to their interests and needs. Fifty-two percent of surveyed consumers say brand messages feel “intrusive” and “spammy.”

Consumers have learned a lot about personalization, too. Through their experiences with various ad mediums – and various levels of ad quality – they now understand that personalization delivers value. In its white paper “The Balancing Act: Getting Personalization Right,” Yahoo says, “Content personalization represents the fulcrum balancing the consumer ‘need to know’ with their ‘want to know.'” Seventy-eight percent of surveyed consumers told Yahoo they want some degree of personalization, with 62 percent preferring a mix of algorithmic and curated content.

There are services aplenty that aim to help brands personalize their content and campaigns. Automaker Land Rover partnered with personalized video advertising company Eyeview to serve up interest- and location-specific video ads to car shoppers on its brand site. The effort resulted in a 50 percent increase in brand awareness and a 53 percent lift in purchase intent.

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Real-time content optimizing engine Dynamic Yield has made personalization the basis of its product line. The company uses “the library of information” collected on site visitors and an ad network-like content management model to deliver more relevant advertising with an eye toward increasing conversion rates. For marketers, the company offers optimized display campaigns, A/B testing, and omnichannel personalization. Publishers get real-time headline optimization, user-customized content delivery, and tools that allow for article performance comparison.

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As brands morph into content providers, and consumers become more and more accustomed to seeing content that’s customized, the importance of personalization rises. It’s now a best practice for marketing with email, mobile, and display. Many a marketer would call it the only way to get a customer’s attention. The Internet media promise of granular measurement and data collection that’s been repeated in ad agencies since the arrival of the first banner has been realized.

The next chapter in this serial story will see marketers refine their personalization strategies and improve on an already efficient approach. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Think omnichannel, not silos. Keep personalized messaging consistent across all channels to create and maintain a cohesive experience, from product recommendations based on information users are actively searching to shopping cart reminders sent by email. Not only does this make for more useful advertising, but it also sets a precedent and ups user familiarity with personalized ads.

Be helpful, not creepy. There’s a limit to what consumers will endure. Customize based on location and shopping habits to provide relevant information, but not right off the bat, and not all at once. Give your customers a chance to get comfortable with personalization, especially when it’s coming to them through an intimate medium like email or mobile. If you give them too much too soon and it closely mirrors what they’re searching for online, they could feel uneasy about your brand.

Get your ducks in a row before you do a thing. Don’t even attempt to personalize a campaign until you’ve built a solid customer profile, confirmed that your data is accurate, and acquainted yourself with your customers’ needs. Nothing kills a marketing experience like a personalized ad that isn’t personalized for the right person.

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