Personalisation: You Know It’s Important, But Do You Know What It Means?

What Is Personalisation

In a relentlessly competitive marketplace, knowing what your customers want and promoting your products in the right way, with the right context and at the right time has never been so important. Most of today’s marketers already recognise the importance of personalisation, but only 72 per cent know how to implement a personalisation strategy, according to eConsultancy’s Multichannel Retail Survey.

So many businesses across retail are missing out on the benefits of truly personalised customer experiences – namely increased conversion, loyalty and revenue. This missed opportunity is primarily due to the misconception of what personalisation really is and how it can be applied in real terms. Let’s take a closer look at what true personalisation means in today’s marketing landscape.

Personalisation Is About Unique Experiences

Personalisation that truly impacts ROI and engagement is more than just customising a promotional email or newsletter with each customer’s first name. It’s more than creating a segment that consists of your highest value customers by location. And it’s certainly not just cross-selling a product to a customer because ‘people who bought the same product also bought related products’. While these elements are important in their own right, true personalisation that attracts and keeps customers coming back for your business encompasses these elements, and much more.

Take Majestic Wine, the UK’s largest retailer of wine by the mixed case. It uses expert product knowledge to automate personalised recommendations. The aim is to replicate the in-store experience and grow sales using their expert knowledge to make alternative and complementary wine suggestions. Majestic Wine has hundreds of knowledgeable wine-experts within its business. In-store, each customer receives a personal experience with a sales assistant, who, in turn, is learning about the customer’s preferences, likes and dislikes to guide them to the right kinds of wines and spirits the customer might like.

Using personalisation technology, Majestic Wine has replicated this experience on its website by using transparent algorithms and rules, instead of “black box” systems, which decide what content to show without input from their experts. Majestic Wine’s product recommendations are now decided using the collective knowledge of its experts, enabling the website to suggest the perfect bottle of wine, every time.

Personalisation Is Holistic

Together, all four of these types of data – demographics, preferences, past behaviours and real-time behaviours – enable your marketing to be relevant and far more likely to engage each customer with the right content, for the right reason at the right time. That’s true personalisation. Demographics (such as gender, age or location) remain an important marketing element, but on its own is just static information about your customer. eConsultancy reports that 34 per cent of businesses are able to adapt content using personal data, however this generates the lowest ROI compared to other methods.

Preferences are explicit pieces of information that your customer has shared with you. This may include topics or categories they are interested in or their preferred frequency of communication. When combined with demographic data, this gives you the ability to engage in the beginnings of a basic conversation with customers. Past behaviour relates to transactions or interactions that customers have had with your business previously. This could be products they have browsed or purchased. Again, this is very useful information – but what customers bought yesterday or last week doesn’t necessarily convey all of their interests. There’s much more to customer profiles.

The use of real-time behaviour provides that crucial understanding about what your customers are doing right now. It acknowledges that each customer is a continually moving target and this data enables you to continually adapt your marketing accordingly. Combine all four areas together and marketers will have a more well-rounded view of their customers. Using this data, they will be able to provide their customers with a unique and relevant shopping experience.

Personalisation Means Staying Personal

Consumers continue to find experiences with brands frustratingly inconsistent when interacting across different channels. For example, imagine a customer receives a personalised offer via email, and then clicks through that email to open a window to the retailer’s website. The website should then build on the message and experience they have been promoting. When retailers do not develop their interactions on the journey or the preferences they know about their customers – real-time and past behaviour, preferences and demographics – they are spending money starting the same conversations, but never taking them beyond a ‘hello’.

In the age of the always connected consumer, multi-channel marketing is more than just using multiple means to reach a customer; it’s about understanding how your customer interacts with your brand across different channels to deliver a consistent, personalised experience across those channels. For marketers, this presents a significant challenge. As Cory Munchbach of Forrester Research notes in her Embed the Customer Life Cycle Across Marketing report, “The explosion of personal technologies and social network connections has ruptured the formerly linear customer purchase path, disrupting what it means to have a seamless brand experience.”

There’s also a high consumer demand for multi-channel experiences. We know that 40 per cent of consumers state it is very important to be able to purchase from a retailer via different channels, while another 50 per cent said it would be useful, according to eConsultancy. Marketers are not helped by the fact that a lot of providers offer personalisation technology, but many only enable personalisation through a single channel using basic sources of customer data. To regain control of the customer experience and become truly multi-channel, marketers must focus on building an on-going relationship across channels by utilising data to understand what each customer wants.

Customers expect relevant and consistent experiences. In fact, according to eConsultancy, more than 90% of marketers say personalisation is critical to their future success to drive sales. To succeed, businesses need to implement multi-channel personalisation strategies for the long-term with the aim that each customer feels was designed personally for them. By promoting products and offers to the right customer, marketers who harness the power of personalisation see a significant return-on-investment. Businesses that truly personalise their marketing interactions will not only benefit from increased sales and revenue – they will create stronger customer relationships and build long-term loyalty.

Anthony Wilkey

Anthony Wilkey has worked in the fields of CRM and marketing intelligence for over 15 years, spending the last four years with SmartFocus following time with Experian, Sage and Frost & Sullivan. He has extensive experience of working on collaborative, often multi-national digital ventures and is especially focussed on topics such as multichannel marketing, marketing automation, and data-driven marketing strategies. Anthony is also involved with the DMA, sitting on the Email Marketing Council and its Benchmarking Hub, responsible for producing and editing a number of industry reports each year.