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Personalisation: Why All the Talk and No Action?

First published in Digital Marketing Magazine on 23rd November 2015

I recently read a piece of research which said that 9 out of 10 marketers lack confidence in personalisation use and believe that their brand is behind rivals. In today’s digitally powered world, where time poor consumers are continually bombarded by brands and looking for ways to cut the irrelevant noise out, this is a worrying statistic.

Brands that fail to get with the personalisation agenda risk getting shut out and falling behind.

Personalisation should in theory be the Holy Grail for marketing, which at its heart is harnessing what we know about our customers so that we can offer them products, services and content which they actually want and will engage with. So why, when we have the technology and channels to do exactly this, and importantly do it efficiently and effectively at scale, would you not get involved? While here at Redberry we have recently been lucky enough to do some very innovative things around personalisation with our clients I still believe there are four barriers preventing many brands from fully harnessing personalisation:

1. Scared of being scary

There are those that are scared of it and recent data breaches, incoming EU legislation and memories of the backlash against companies such as US retailer Target (who worked out how to predict when a customer was pregnant based on their purchases), don’t help.

This shouldn’t put marketers off, though. Of course you have to be careful when harnessing customer insights to engage with them in more relevant and engaging ways, but the technology and processes exist today to safe guard brands. At the same time consumers are increasingly and actively engaging in activity that opens the door to a more personalised brand response.

2. No digital champion

Another barrier to personalisation, particularly when it comes to online channels, is a lack of a digital champion within organisations. Despite all the noise around digital needing to be hard baked into the marketing mix (back in 2013 no less, a report from Forrester predicted that digital marketing would have lost its prefix and simply be referred to as ‘marketing’ by now) we are finding that businesses lack someone to push the personalisation agenda and get the buy-in needed internally.

Without one, some of the most creative and engaging methods of reaching customers will continue to be left on the ‘too hard’ pile. It’s vital that the industry as a whole continues to invest in the skills and training required to give marketing teams the confidence and know how they need to unlock these opportunities.

3. Look beyond demographics

We are also seeing that many brands continue to rely on demographic data to tick the personalisation box. This is only scratching the surface and doesn’t unlock the potential at their fingertips. The really exciting opportunities harness actual behaviour and passions to engage with customers while they are in the moment. This could be sharing personalised film trailers, as we delivered for Twentieth Century Fox’s The Martian recently, to those chatting about the latest film release on Twitter or sending customers a message while they are window shopping with an offer in-store. This isn’t inferring whether someone likes something or shouting a message at them, it is engaging them in a highly relevant way.

4. Measurement

And of course there is the old age question of measurement. True personalisation requires brands to have an understanding of how customers are engaging with them in the here and now and the means by which to respond to those interactions.

Programmatic ad buying, ecommerce personalisation engines, buyer clustering and other behavioural techniques mean that we can contextualise so much more of the communication. True personalisation is best achieved when a person understands the need of another person and responds in a relevant and human way.

The era of a one-size fits all approach to engaging with audiences is well and truly dead. It’s very noisy out there and brands can no longer ignore the opportunities that personalisation offers them, in both a B2B and B2C context. Consumers now expect to be engaged in relevant and engaging ways, so before they ‘unfollow’ and install their ad blocker, it’s time to get down and get personal.

Tim Redgate, is co-founder of Redberry, the digital engagement experts and creators of EchoMany, the personalised video marketing platform.

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Co-founder of Redberry Digital and respected media industry figure with 20 years experience of leading and devising engagement and personalisation solutions for global brands.

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