The Marketer’s problem with Personalization

Thursday 31st, March 2016

Why aren’t we doing it right?

Personalization and personalized customer experiences can be the key differentiators in today’s marketing playfield. There is customer data that is available at all the touch points that can be consolidated, sifted and analyzed to derive useful information and meaningful insights. This can power strategy and customer engagement in ways that have not been possible before.

While there is limitless potential on the one hand, in theory, it does not translate into amazing personalized reality.

Why is that?

In order to truly personalize communication and engagement a marketer or a business needs to really know his customer. And how does he do this? By getting a single view of a customer with all the data that he has access to. Working just with some event level information or transaction data is just not enough. Of course getting a hold of the kind of data that would facilitate personalization is not easy. That is the first issue. And then what to do with the data is the next problem – meaningful insights need to be drawn out of the mountain of raw data and then these insights need to become actionable segments. Only then can a marketer truly understand a customer as a person. On a personal level. As a human. And not as a cluster of machine-derived data. This is very important as customers can smell the “not a human” thing from miles away. They need to be engaged with on a personal human level – even if everything that went before came from a marketing tool.

The next thing is that customers don’t always bare their souls, as it were, to you. You may have bits and pieces of information about him (this is after all the data processing and the analytics and the actionable insights) – but that certainly does not give you a total picture of who an individual really is. That is of course because customers are wary about divulging personal information about themselves or their intent. So a marketer gets a sketchy skeleton about the individual that he has to flesh out using statistical techniques and modelling.

Going beyond that this calls for an Omni-channel mind-set to be in place. But the best that most places can hope for, is a multi-channel approach. Then how can personalization work? (A business moves from a multi-channel approach to an Omni-Channel one, when every platform or device that a customer would use to engage with it, is tracked and accounted for. The data that is gathered from these is consolidated and analyzed to offer the customer a completely integrated and consistent experience, regardless of the channel that he might use. So as you can see, while many businesses might have multi-channels, not all of them offer the Omni-Channel experience)

eMarketer had an article saying that there are many reasons why marketers fail at personalization –  there are several huge reasons for this –

  1. They don’t have the technology or if they have it, it is not good enough and doesn’t stretch to cover what it takes to personalize.
  2. They don’t understand the immense benefits that this could bring, or they don’t feel the need for it.
  3. They tried it, but it didn’t work. It’s too tough and they are not able to make it happen.
  4. They don’t have the data now the resources or the bandwidth to try something like this.
  5. We are not into content marketing!

personalization stats

Of course on the other side of the fence is the customer – he wants personalization but can scuttle off like a frightened rabbit the moment he thinks it gets a little too much for him to take! They like things like automatic discounts at checkout for loyalty points or coupons, real time promos and offers, and suggestions for further purchases. But a business crosses the line if he told a customer that he was overshooting his budget or if was buying something that was outside his diet restrictions, or if a store person called a customer by name as he entered a store!

Personalization in marketing still has some ways to go before it works like a well-oiled machine and is a win-win situation both for the customer and the marketer!


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