Taking It Personally

Everyone likes to feel special. And delivering that all-important personal touch to consumers has always been a great way to generate loyalty and drive sales. However, the stakes have recently got a lot higher. A new study by marketing and automation software business Marketo shows that consumers now demand a personalized experience and will tune out from those brands that don’t deliver.

Marketo polled over 2,200 consumers across the U.S., the UK, France, Germany and Australia, and found that almost two-thirds (63%) were annoyed at how brands continued to bombard them with generic advertising messages. More than three-quarters claimed to be more likely to take up offers if they were directly related to previous interactions with the brand.

Research by Accenture backs this, showing that 55% of consumers want a personalized experience through all engagement channels, perfectly tailored to their personal needs.



Encouragingly, the latest study from Econsultancy suggests that retailers understand this, with 96% of those polled believing personalization is right for their business, yet only 6% said they had adopted the practice. 

I’m not convinced that even those that are using personalization are doing it particularly well. By using the invaluable cookie information retailers have at their fingertips more creatively and intelligently they could effortlessly deliver a better, more personalized customer experience and increase sales. 

Like other consumers, I want a better online buying experience than I’m getting. And I know that delivering it will resonate with the millions of other people like me, which will hugely benefit retailers.

So here comes the gripe. I was recently shopping at Argos online for a new electric toothbrush (not very sexy, I know), but I didn’t actually buy anything due to the fact that, despite Oral B products being offered with a 50% discount online, I suspected I could get a better deal elsewhere. I was right – Boots was offering 50% off too, but the price point was £3 cheaper than Argos. 

Now, Argos is clearly cookie matching me to an email address they have on file from my previous purchases in order to send me offers on relevant products. But that’s where the retailer stops. Box ticked, let’s move on.

However, that’s clearly not enough, as the retailer is not encouraging me to buy. Argos and other retailers need to work harder. I thought I could get my toothbrush cheaper elsewhere, so that’s what I did. I’m an existing customer and clearly in the market for a given product on the Argos site, yet it hasn’t used these facts to target me with a display ad, or further encourage me to convert by offering a deeper discount to secure my purchase. And that’s given the fact that the cost of acquiring me is already much lower knowing I’ve already been in market for that specific product. 

In my particular case, a deeper time-limited offer would certainly have encouraged me to buy the toothbrush for a number of different reasons, mainly time already invested, but potential additional contributing factors could have been a competitor price match and review score such as Feefo. 

Lazy personalization isn’t limited to traditional marketing channels, given the wealth of data available in social, I recently experienced another example of lazy personalization, this time through Facebook. Annoyance on this occasion was an understatement,  definitely not the kind of reaction the retailer intended, especially given my secondary reaction was to take to their Facebook page to publicly criticize their lack of personalization and certainly not one that’s likely to boost loyalty. I bought a tension band for my tennis elbow online, only to be retargeted by the retailer on Facebook a minute later with an ad selling me a similar product to the one I’d just bought, but for £5 cheaper.

This was personalization alright, but definitely the wrong type, and smacked of automation without intelligence. To really excel in the personalization stakes – which we’ve seen are very high -- retailers need to realize that customers are humans with emotions. This is why good intelligent personalization works so well -- and why there’s no room for laziness.

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