I recently came across this comic from the ever-amusing Marketoonist, entitled ‘The Personalization Gap:’
It’s an interesting conundrum, because I can relate to both the woman in the chair and the marketer at the other end of the laptop.
Personalised marketing means creating an experience that’s designed to be relevant to a specific customer. For example, being addressed by your first-name at the top of a brand email, or seeing purchase recommendations on your Amazon home-page are both forms of personalisation. These days, the majority of companies are able to craft these experiences for customers by collecting their personal data and using it to inform what’s displayed to them.
2018 has delivered a shockwave to the world of data collection, however, from Facebook’s data-misuse scandal to the GDPR regulation that led to all our flooded inboxes in May. These events have led to a renewed awareness of the ways in which our data is recorded, sold, used or misused - and its led many people to become wary of how much they allow companies to see.
A recent Accenture report, for example, reports that: “half of U.S. consumers (49%) are concerned about personal data privacy. And 43% fear intelligent new services will come to know too much about them and their family.”
It’s a valid concern. This being said, the same study also found that “44% of U.S. consumers are frustrated when companies fail to deliver relevant, personalised shopping experiences,” which leaves marketers with a puzzle to solve.
Research undeniably demonstrates that personalised content results in significant boosts in content engagement, as well as an increase in conversions at the end of the buying funnel:
A demand metric study from 2016 reported that 80% of marketers say personalised content was more effective than unpersonalised alternatives.
Personalised emails have been shown to result in transaction rates that are six times higher.
BusinessWire reports that personalised homepage promotions influenced 85% of consumers to buy while personalised shopping cart recommendations influenced 92% of shoppers online.
Episerver has noted that that 98% of consumers have been dissuaded from completing a purchase because of incomplete or incorrect content, with 32% of consumers being dissuaded every time.
Research by Onespot shows that 56% of consumers would reward personalisation with a purchase, whilst 94% of brands said it was key to success.
The same research also demonstrated that personalised content resulted in a 190% increase in response rate and a 25% higher click-through rate.
These statistics clearly demonstrate that personalisation is desired by consumers to an extent - but with data privacy also at stake, which should a brand prioritise? Those who are too nervous about collecting data risk frustrating their customers with irrelevant content, whilst those who are too keen to delve into customer data risk losing audience trust by coming across as invasive.
The key phrase in the paragraph above is ‘to an extent.’ Personalisation is clearly a feature that can benefit both consumers and brands, and its future success depends upon finding the point at which it stops being useful, and starts becoming intrusive. There has to be some compromise between user privacy and delivering the smart, tailored experiences audiences have come to expect.
Determining that point seems to depend on a variety of factors, from the type of data being collected to the method through which it’s gathered, to the specific purposes for which it’s used.
Very few people, for example, would likely take issue with a website changing its form of currency to match the country you’re accessing it from. On the other hand, I imagine more people would find it slightly unnerving for a company to look through your browser history at articles you read in order to send you related product ads.
As Mel Carson, Principal Strategy Consultant at PR agency Delightful Communications recently put it:
“The notion that a brand is following them around the web is still not something that sits well with people, especially when it comes to the negative experience of, say, those remarketing ads for that laptop you researched more than a week ago and had already bought.”
This being said, there would no doubt be others who simply see the above example as a useful way to find products they may actually be interested in. It’s a subjective issue, which means that brands will have to carefully consider for themselves what their own boundaries are, and find out what their audience prioritises most.
For those who are interested in pursuing a data-driven approach, some options for personalisation that remain fairly innocuous include:
Mobile-optimisation: Creating a mobile-friendly version of your site, perhaps with larger navigational buttons and shorter copy, can be a great way to make it more accessible to customers using their phones.
Location relevance: Creating different versions of your site depending on the country from which its accessed can help users find relevant products - e.g. a clothing company may recommend warm-weather clothes for people accessing from Hawaii, and a different set for those accessing from Iceland.
Buying cycle calls-to-action: A new visitor to your site might see a banner that recommends your most popular product or your sales phone number, whilst a visitor who has already made a purchase might see the email for your customer support team.
SEO integration: Many customers find brand websites through searching for certain keywords on search engines like Google. In order to strike a chord with new visitors, your website could display different copy incorporating the keyword they used to find you.
There are multiple ways of implementing these features - whether you opt to use a plugin for Wordpress, for example, or outsource a more customised version from a dedicated company. If a social-based approach is better suited to your brand, many social platforms like Facebook also now offer ad targeting options.
And if you err on the cautious side when it comes to using data, there are still a variety of ways you can personalise your content.
Content filtering: Displaying different content doesn’t have to be done automatically. For example, a B2B company could include buttons for a user to select their job role in order to see articles specifically aimed at them.
Research: It’s not always necessary to use complex data-gathering technology to personalise content for your audience. Traditional research methods like surveys, focus groups, and simply having conversations with customers can give you a great idea of how to make content more specifically appealing to them. Creating audience personas is one particularly useful tool for ensuring your content remains well-tailored.
Creative campaigns: Take Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, for example. The company produced coke bottles with 250 popular names on so that people could buy what felt like a more personalised product, and it became one of their most successful campaigns to date.
The ‘personalisation gap’ is something that every business will have to find a way to bridge for themselves, especially as the technology to do it becomes more sophisticated. Whatever your stance is on data-use, it’s clear that properly optimising content for your audience is more important than ever before.