Personalisation has long been a ‘fantasy’ most marketers indulge in where they’re able to directly interact with individual consumers, whilst controlling the context and timing of the content that’s delivered.
But as technology has improved – and data has become easier to generate – what might’ve been somewhat of an illusion before, is in fact now more real for marketers.
It’s important to realise there are limits to the personalisation fantasy. For example, organisations will never have the levels of control that one-to-one, human-to-human, real-time personalisation would require. But then again, why would they want to? The overheads of managing such a thing would be enormous, and the gains are typically less clear.
Personalisation is a spectrum
Major digital businesses like Amazon and Netflix can attribute much of their success to powerfully predictive personalised content recommendations, and email marketing has long been using basic personalisation tools. Yet historically, when marketing departments tried to recreate the personal, connection-creating experience of having a strong, responsive – but restrained – shopping assistance, there have been technological stumbling blocks.
For all confident use of the word, personalisation really is a spectrum. For many ecommerce businesses for example, diminishing returns have been found when trying to build cumbersome programmes into their backends. Similarly, the speed at which content could be tested meant that automating optimal content servings to specific user segments proved time-consuming – and they were ultimately unable to keep up with consumers’ constantly shifting needs.
All of this has meant that the majority of existing personalisation has existed at the shallow end of the spectrum.
But personalisation – as Amazon or Netflix would have customers envisage it – is just the beginning.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the engine for progress
As real-time data becomes more actionable for marketers to utilise effectively, platforms possess greater agility and adaptable, personalisation efforts become more granular, this will leave businesses with some serious decisions to make.
AI will allow the extraordinary quantities of data currently available to carve into detailed, accurate and nuanced psychographic segmentations whereby marketers can dissect the information to draw out patterns of contextual behaviour within them.
What this ultimately means is that content – everything from brand offers and messages to specific calls to action and product recommendations – can be served to hyper-specific personality types based on specific context, giving marketing the power to affect behaviour online on a whole new level.
However, there are caveats to this. When personalisation is seen as a ‘quick fix’ for conversion problems and brands expect to manipulate their consumers into buying, they’re on to a losing battle. Why? Because growing concerns about data use, an ever-increasing awareness of how digital media operates and a general scepticism towards businesses are all concerns enterprises must be wary of. By creating an impression of surveillance and misusing data could both spell disaster for an organisation in today’s climate.
Trust is the key
According to research conducted by Boostify, 90% of consumers report feeling positively towards firms who treat them like an individual, but only 20% feel there are any brands that understand and care about them – clearly suggesting that marketers have a lot of work to do.
The spoils of personalisation will go to those who are willing to put customers first and seriously prioritise individual needs over profit. The reason Netflix and Amazon’s shallow personalisation works is because it solves the problem of ‘information overload’.
Similarly, brands who want to make the most of personalisation need to see it as a way to get rid of irrelevant messaging, making navigation and communication easier, serving only content which is genuinely compelling and relevant, and ensuring that their process is more transparent.
By doing this, an organisation can demonstrate it is trustworthy and make consumers feel valued as individuals. And, in turn, personalisation will prove as powerful an investment as anything else in 2020. However, it will have to be accepted as a long-term strategy – almost as a way of increasing brand loyalty and sustainably growing an enterprise.
So, there will bottom line gains to be had in the short-term, for sure. But, fundamentally, the state of personalisation in 2020 is no different to the state of business in 2020 more generally – that trust is the all-powerful commodity.
How we choose to implement our technological capacities is just as important as what they actually are.
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