Marketing and the power of personalisation

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There has been seismic change in the last decade alone. The development of new technologies, new tools, new channels and new rules has led to the emergence of increased consumer demands, more savvy customers and bigger requirements from the marketing profession than ever before.

Widespread reduction in budgets and the changing nature of customer communication demands more of marketing to generate better response rates and more effective engagement with consumers.

I want to discuss how the power of marketing personalisation is contributing to real competitive advantage for some businesses, and what emerging techniques are typifying the trends we can expect from the future of personalised customer experiences.

The rise of the 21st century consumer

Consumers today face an onslaught of complex messages and content from multiple directions and across multiple devices. Facebook tells you what your friends like before they do, and brands are competing for your attention everywhere you look.

The transformation in how we absorb and share information has not only led to a more empowered 21st century consumer in terms of their expectations from the businesses they interact with, but has led to a growing demand for consumers to get relevant, captivating and genuinely useful content, while marketers reach their commercial goals more effectively, efficiently and innovatively.

A successful and mutually beneficial relationship between brands and consumers depends largely on first interaction, that all-important ‘first impressions count’ theory, and getting it right can determine whether the relationship will ultimately be meaningful or not.

In a nutshell, consumers are increasingly viewing their relationships with businesses much as they do when evaluating a personal relationship; they want respect, trust, transparency and added value when it comes to receiving a truly personal brand experience.

Far from seeing this as a problem, marketers are recognising the opportunities afforded by personalisation, and I do not mean simply putting someone’s name at the beginning of a mass email circulation.

Product recommendations based on interests and preferences are increasingly popular for example – something that retailers such as Amazon do particularly well. Another example is EasyJet, which tapped in to this demand for personalisation by creating a homepage for EasyJet visitors, enabling them to see real-time pricing information, flight times and travel suggestions based on their past interactions and travel history.

Another brand benefitting from offering a personalised experience is UK bar chain Wetherspoons, that, as part of an initiative to showcase their diverse menu, offered customers with special dietary requirements the option to plan their meal beforehand from a range of options, which they then present to their local outlet.

What more and more businesses are realising is that getting true personalisation right is about being able to give customers what they want before they even know they want it, and the good news is that advances in technology such as CRM systems are benefitting businesses of all sizes meaning you do not have to be left behind if you’re a smaller player.

Performance and the personal touch

Effective personalisation is about listening to your customers and knowing what they want, and no other function is best equipped to do this than marketing. There are a few areas of consideration however; it is important for brands to have ‘consistency’ in their communications and not overload people with information that makes them feel suffocated.

Indeed, our own research about social media use in 2014 revealed that 64% of consumers were likely to stop using social media if they are bombarded with advertising and content that isn’t of relevance to them, and 58% said they would ‘hide’ brand content if they receive it too often.

Get it right though, and the benefits are vast. You build brand advocacy, increase sales, enhance corporate reputation and, through a positive customer experience, help create ‘brand ambassadors’ for your business who will not only return themselves, but will speak highly of your propositions and influence the opinions of their friends and family - something that has become significantly important through the emergence of social media.

Despite most marketers being aware of the advantages that come with personalisation, surprisingly, there are still many failing to adopt this as a tool for customer engagement.

Essentially, personalisation can help to make your marketing more meaningful. Done right, it leads to customer retention and solidifies the relationships required for customer satisfaction without overstepping the mark and becoming intrusive. It should form part of a marketing and growth strategy, and should not be for the sake of trying to get as many products and services in front of consumers as possible.

The future is bright, the future is tech

So what does the future of personalisation look like? Without question, emerging technology and the continued use of social media will feature extensively –providing brands with platforms to establish their own unique ‘voice’ and personalities and further personalising content through different degrees of customer segmentation.

  • Online video will continue its inimitable rise – something that is reflective of consumer behavioural change due to the surge in smartphone and mobile device use and the way content is created and shared.
  • In contrast to self-promotion and advertising done by businesses, customers themselves will become the real stories and a more customer-centric approach will be adopted by many businesses.
  • Wearable technology has been predicted to overshadow the likes of phones and tablets, being attached to us, quite literally, as jewellery and enabling a constant stream of business interaction and personalised content.

Planning in personalisation should begin with understanding how your customers want to engage with you and your businesses, particularly when it comes to data collection and communication preferences.

Privacy and big brother concerns have made consumers more cautious about how their data is used and what they can expect back. The real key is giving them something that is going to make you stand out and more importantly, that will leave them with a positive and memorable customer experience.

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