Personalisation: The Delicate Balance Between Intrusion And Relevance

We now live in the age of the customer, a time when consumers increasingly understand and expect a personal interaction with brands both online and offline. The advent of the Millennial consumer is a huge contributing factor to this now-expected level of personalisation, which includes tailored messages that reflect previous purchases or interests. 

The McCarthy Group recently revealed that Millennials rank friends, news sites and social media as trustworthy sources of information, with company websites, advertising and sales coming out lowest on the scale. This leave brands asking how they nurture that trust, and the answer in part lies in personalised digital interactions, which can result in the two outcomes that every brand marketer wants to attain – brand loyalty and, even better, advocacy. Last year, Accenture also carried out its own research into the shopping behaviours of Millennials across eight countries. It discovered that this generation demands a customer-centric shopping experience both offline and online. Many seek personalised, targeted promotions and discounts as the price for their loyalty and more than 95% said they wanted their brands to court them actively through online channels and text messages. 

However, the age of the customer is still in its infancy and how brands effectively build consumer trust is a path less-travelled. One thing that brands are beginning to understand, however, is that the only way to deliver a truly personal experience is to understand every aspect of each customer. For example, how does a customer behave when given access to information that relates specifically to their interests? What time of day would a customer prefer to receive content and in what tone of voice? Does a customer only like to receive emails or do they prefer to receive notifications within the brand’s app? And which types of content are most engaging to them? This is just a fraction of a brand’s essential considerations for each and every individual customer.

Above all else, consumers indicate to us that a personalised experience should be a pleasant one. Push too hard or attempt to disguise how you’re using people’s data and a negative reaction will follow, akin to the current backlash surrounding Facebook’s Messenger app and its user permissions and emotional manipulation experiments. But you do need to be using data in order to personalise because the age of the customer no longer allows for batched campaigns. Individual customer knowledge (data backed up by analytics) is the only way to provide a truly personalised campaign and it needs to come from every platform, from every response to email marketing and from every shift in social media behaviour.

The only way to achieve this is with the right tech that allows you to gather your rich consumer data and build actionable and persistent customer profiles across all digital touch-points. It should also enable you to track a customer’s behavioural feedback and engagement across all digital touch-points and analyse and respond in real-time with the appropriate, personalised content and experiences that best align to the customer’s intent. Beyond this the choice facing marketers now is to go with one of the Goliaths like Oracle or Adobe who are buying up "Davids" and look to integrate them into their system, a "closed suite" where everything comes from a single vendor and works together, or an "open platform" that works across all vendors.

Selecting the solution that will take you and your company to the next level is one of the most important decisions you'll make, because it will play a major role in whether you can keep pace in attracting new customers—and retaining current ones. Unfortunately, you haven’t got long to choose. With radio it took more than 30 years to achieve a consumer adoption rate of 50%. Mobile phones took only 15 years to reach the same level and social media — a mere 3.5 years. The hard fact for brand marketers is a year may be all the time you’ll get to prepare for the personalisation revolution.

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