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Personalisation – four steps to put the customer at the centre of marketing

By Marie Myles | Director of Analytics and Consulting

March 5, 2015 | 6 min read

One topic that we’re seeing a lot of debate about currently is personalisation, but it’s actually a fairly simple concept and one that has been around for decades.

Personalisation simply refers to the focusing and tailoring of a brand’s interactions with an individual, based on what they know about them. The key factor here is ‘relevancy’. Making sure a brand is being relevant ranges from something as basic as using customer’s name in an email, right through to tailoring content pages to reflect an individual’s browsing activity and/or demographics.

The potential of personalisation increases exponentially when applied to digital marketing. This is because the ability to personalise relies on two things; the amount of information available and the ability to deliver a tailored experience… Both things that we know the digital environment more than caters for.

While getting personalisation right is by no means an easy task, it is probably more straightforward than you might think - especially if you break it down into manageable steps and don’t over complicate things. With this in mind, here are the four key steps to help personalise digital marketing:

1) Think about context

Start with your business needs (e.g. lifecycle programmes, sales conversion) and establish the benefit personalisation will provide to the customer, such as; better brand experience, relevant offers or reminders. This is pretty fundamental and should be considered whenever personalisation is discussed.

Once you have identified both of these, you need to define the KPIs and metrics which will prove ROI. That way, you know if the investment in personalisation has worked or indeed is the right (or best) thing to do to meet your business objective. From there, identify what data and insights are required to drive personalisation rules, decide whether you have the content assets available to personalise interactions and finally, check that you have the right tools and people to action these changes.

2) Get your data right – know your customer

Any application of personalisation will only be as successful as the data and insight behind it. Make sure you have as accurate data as possible. Does your data tell you the following?

  • Who they are? (gender, identity, age, etc)
  • What do/could they mean to you? (segmentation eg RFM/RFV, actual or potential lifetime value and propensity scores)
  • How much they have previously engaged with you? (behaviour, content usage, preferences, etc)

Utilising a central data management system is key to successful personalisation, but it is a complicated task. This is where Single Customer View and traditional customer databases collide with digital data management. Get each of these elements in the best shape possible before trying to integrate them into a ‘Single Digital View of the Customer’.

3) Get the right insight and decisions

It is important to define analytical requirements based on your business requirements to ensure you are able to see what’s happening, what’s working and what isn’t. Your technological capabilities need to ensure you have the right insight, at the right time to drive deployment in the right channel.

Ideally this should be a central single source of the truth, but in reality a good step forward is to have consistent customer insight by channel. The importance of defining your audience should not be ignored. No amount of personalisation with content or copy will work if the offer is of no interest or relevance to that customer.

Once the right people have been identified for the right proposition, you then need to work on the content and assets which will enable you to personalise the content and messaging to enhance your customers’ experiences and conversion rates.

4) Get the right deployment software and people in place

Admittedly, the ‘Holy Grail’ here would be one piece of software that manages all content, data, decision and deployment channels. However, the reality is that the industry is not there yet and, in truth, it’s highly unlikely that one vendor would ever be able to offer the best solution across all channels.

The best way forward is to choose the right solutions that achieve the required goals (see stage 1) and then focus on the internal people and skills required to not only manage and use each tool, but to do it consistently across channels. A key step is automation - creating rules that populate and manage customer interactions without manual intervention should be a priority. In email, this means lifecycle and event driven campaigns as well as developing rules to manage dynamic personalised content (within template emails) for all relevant non-automated campaigns, consistent with website experience.

Make sure you get it right

The options with personalisation are almost endless. Web pages and websites can be dynamic so that they show specific content, to specific visitors. Likewise, recommended content can be personalised to the individual and communications can be tailored - more than just the name they are addressed to.

However, there are dangers out there. Being too personal or delivering the wrong message to the wrong person will damage the customer’s experience and their opinion of a brand. Remember it’s all about customer experience and the aim here is to deliver better, more relevant interactions.

Therefore, be realistic and ensure you are working within your capabilities. Start with easier and higher return initiatives and prove the worth of personalisation. Once you have these foundations you should develop, upgrade and test. And, above all, don’t get caught standing still. If one thing is for sure when it comes to interacting with customers in the digital world, it’s that things will continue to evolve, and they can change quickly - so don’t get caught napping.


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