Personalization: As Simple As a Visit To The Barbershop?
The concept of personalization isn’t new to the world of marketing and continues to evolve along with technology and the reality of consumers. In the digital realm, the personalization of experience is accomplished through the use of data to identify characteristics and better understand users’ context in order to offer them the most pertinent interactions and content possible. Adaptation to particular channels and customer realities enables the promotion of engagement and satisfaction with the platform and the brand.
The personalization challenge
Personalization on the web is inevitable in order to ensure good customer experience. High-performing platforms understand that they need to present offers and content adapted to specific groups of individuals. Consumers expect offers adapted to their realities and respond in a positive way to personalized messages. It’s also one of the digital tactics perceived as among the most complex to deploy effectively.
When set up properly, personalization can have a positive impact on business results while improving your customers’ experience. It therefore plays an essential role throughout the user life cycle: consideration, acquisition, engagement, conversion, and even for limiting your customer churn rate.
The benefits of personalization
Research shows that personalizing experiences pays off. In an October 2016 study from OneSpot and Marketing Insider Group, 59% of U.S. internet users agreed that content customized for them increases their purchase intent somewhat, while another 19% said it significantly increases their intent to buy.
While brands aim to personalize their offer on a large scale for their customers, the effort and investment required to achieve this represent major obstacles for many organizations. Underdeveloped infrastructure or difficulties organizing data across different platforms and channels can affect the consistency of your offers and their relevance to users.
The complexity of personalization
Many marketers are still hung up on the notion that personalization means creating hundreds of tag lines, creative variants and more. In reality, personalization is just as much about making the experience relevant to the consumer.
John Douglas, senior director of product marketing at Sizmek / Why Marketers Struggle With Data-Driven Personalization
For consumers, data use is a growing preoccupation in the current context of information security. But users are nevertheless open to having their personal information used for marketing initiatives if these initiatives are relevant and minimally intrusive. The most important takeaway is not to break the relationship of trust between the brand and the customer.
Avoid intrusive personalization
Even in the era of privacy, consumers are clamoring for better use of their personal data to drive relevant and consistent omnichannel shopping experiences. Because brands and retailers have built trust with consumers—after all, you’re logging in to the site and willing to fork over your credit card information—you want that trust reciprocated by delivering an experience that respects the user’s time, attention and money.
Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer / Marketers Struggle to Deliver Omnichannel Personalization that Consumers Crave
When faced on the one hand with technological challenges related to the access to and use of data, and on the other with the changing needs of the industry and customers, what can marketing professionals do to benefit from the major advantages offered by personalization?
The solution to these challenges is bring personalization back to its core concept: identifying users and offering them an experience that corresponds to their needs. In its simplest formulation and to use an analogy, personalization is like the services offered by your local barbershop.
There’s nothing more comforting than going to your usual hairdresser or barber and saying, “I’ll have the usual,” then leaving feeling satisfied with the haircut you had initially imagined having. The professional in this scenario is able to 1) recognize their customer and 2) identify them by name, then 3) offer them an experience in line with their expectations, which then leads to 4) the return of the customer the next time they need service.
This example allows us to understand that successful personalization doesn’t necessarily depend on super-complex data architecture involving artificial intelligence and machine learning.
There are three essential levers behind every personalization initiative, irrespective of context. But watch out—a major issue with even one of these levers will require a revision of your entire personalization strategy.
The pillars of personalization
Am I able to precisely target a group of users and identify a discriminating factor that unites these individuals within my segment?
Example: Identify a group of users that are new to financial investment products by the pages they have viewed: A visitor who browses articles with titles such as “How to invest,” “My first portfolio,” and “Investment 101” should be associated with a “Beginner investor” profile.
Am I able to offer a message or content adapted to the group I’m addressing and lead them to effect the desired actions?
Example: On a product page, amongst the functionalities and article details, emphasizing the company’s ecologically friendly status or its green initiatives would be relevant in order to promote the engagement of a user associated with a “Pro-environment” affinity.
Does the exploitation of certain user information run the risk of making the user uncomfortable? If our personalization strategy makes the front page of The Gazette, would we be proud of it?
Example: If your barber asks you how was the bottle of red wine your friend Tommy brought last night for dinner when he wasn’t there, it’s a little intrusive. He should review his personalization strategy.
To establish a solid foundation
Relevance, which involves the identification of specific characteristics, is the lever most often highlighted by the big data providers/technologies and other optimization tools.
New personalization technology obviously provides many advantages, both in terms of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. For example, in addition to using artificial intelligence to achieve advanced personalization, it’s now possible to anticipate consumers’ needs with the help of predictive analysis and trend identification via sociodemographic data. These tools can also offer the possibility mixing various sources of quantitative and qualitative data to enrich the segmentation profile of consumers.
However, the very precise identification of micro-audiences remains less useful when you’re incapable of offering this group a message, content or a specific offer, which is why the pillar of coherence is so important! It therefore remains essential to deal with the first two levers (relevance and coherence) simultaneously to ensure our efforts have real impact on our users and generate better engagement with the platform.
Can personalization be simple?
Absolutely! Identify a discriminating factor amongst your users, decide on a specific message for this user group and deliver it in a measurable way without giving the impression that you’re invading their privacy. By basing your tactics on a solid foundation and a simple approach to relevance, coherence and intrusiveness, it will be easier to offer a range of marketing initiatives adapted to segments that are growing in terms of both number and specificity.
Interested in getting started with personalization, or going even further? Make sure all your teams are on the same page and be ready to hear what they have to say. This approach involves customer service just as much as it does technical support, marketing, sales, product development and other departments.