Commentary

Personalization - Are You Really Ready To Do It?

Marketers get caught up in the promise of personalization, but is it beneficial for all brands, particularly data-constrained CPG brands? Before investing in personalization, brands need to answer the following questions.

1. Is the target open to providing personal information, and can the brand respond immediately once the information is shared?

Not everyone likes to provide personal information. A 2017 global study commissioned by SAP Hybris found that 52% of Americans feel comfortable sharing an email address, but only 37% feel comfortable sharing past purchases and preferences, and only 25%, a mobile number. Other research has found that women and those over 45 years of age are less forthcoming with this information.
Brands can overcome shopper hesitancy by building trust via an immediate and relevant response. SAP Hybris discovered that 87% of those providing information expect acknowledgment within 24 hours. Other studies have found that marketers have less than an hour to provide a relevant discount.

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2. Is the brand grounded in a passion?

Brands that succeed with personalization, particularly in CPG, are typically linked to a passion. Unilever and CVS run a highly successful personalization program, “Your Style, Your Way.” Launched in 2015, the program marries rich insights from CVS’s database with Unilever’s extensive hair care product line to provide personalized solutions based on a woman’s desired fashion statement. Rather than focusing on an individual’s hair type or problem, Unilever addresses the woman’s underlying passion — the style she craves. Quizzes help CVS shoppers envision a new look, enhance a current style, or adjust to a new lifestyle.

For more functional categories, a sense of personalization can be achieved by linking to a belief, value, or higher-order joy. The key is to find a unique and credible role the brand can play in an everyday delight or social cause. L’Oréal’s “Worth It Rewards” program goes beyond beauty to include aspects facilitating social change with its “Women of Worth” recognition program.

3. Is the brand’s customer knowledge relevant and seamless across channels and digital devices?

Brands are typically reliant on retailer or third-party data to execute personalization. These sources provide rich profiles, but many focus on a small aspect of a target segment. Understanding values, preferences, and unmet needs beyond a brand’s immediate category makes it easier to surprise and delight with interesting content and offers. Brands that can link information across different sources (retailers, social platforms, etc.) are more likely to succeed with personalization.

Furthermore, brands should be prepared to show a consistent level of familiarity when engaging with individuals across multiple touchpoints. An online survey by Segment noted shoppers experience some level of frustration when their experience isn’t personalized online and in-store. Brands should strive for personalization consistency across touchpoints to avoid making individuals feel as though the brand “forgets” who they are in different situations. Individuals think in terms of ongoing brand experiences, and marketers should too.

4. What is the right balance of customization and personalization for the brand’s target?

Customization and personalization are not the same thing, and a good program artfully combines the two. Customization enables the user to shape an interaction, while personalization refers to the content, offers, and information driven by the brand or retailer. When the wrong type of content is personalized, the creep factor sets in. How did brand X know a user just took a photo, and when did that user give permission to access his or her camera? Make information sharing as consensual as possible versus legally compliant but cajoled.

5. Are KPIs (key performance indicators) aligned with immediate and longer-term goals?

Data from the most recent annual study of personalization trends by Evergage and Researchscape revealed an interesting paradox for performance measures. The most common KPI for personalization is conversion lift (68%), yet the top reason to do personalization is to deepen a relationship. Ironically, only one in three organizations measures retention, an assessment of the relationship. Additionally, if relationship building (versus acquisition) is the goal of personalization, brands should look for ways to incorporate owned and earned media, along with the paid media used for personalization and acquisition. 

Personalization is part art, part science. Success comes when technology, selectively applied, makes the human experience better. Smart brands will ground themselves in the human needs first and judiciously use data to serve the needs of shoppers.

2 comments about "Personalization - Are You Really Ready To Do It?".
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  1. Patrick Stroh from Brunner / data science, analytics, January 2, 2018 at 3:17 p.m.

    Nicely summarized, Leslie.  Some might big lifts of course to do personalization. One additional piece is predictive personalization; so much of what is done today is simple "database mapping" of prior purchases, responses, behavior, etc. that leaves big gaps in the content, etc. of personalization.  

  2. Leslie Clifford from Geometry Global, January 7, 2018 at 10:49 p.m.

    Excellent point! 

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