Do you remember when personalized marketing was a big deal?

Me neither.

In the past 10 years, personalization has evolved from a novelty to an expectation. Generic marketing strategies are as outdated as landline telephones — and are more likely to shrink your customer base than expand it.

Personalized Marketing Connects Customers

Customers today are demanding. They want to feel understood, valued, and connected. They expect relevant marketing, delivered at the right time — personalized to their interests, wants, and needs.

And they want it everywhere, across multiple channels and in every form of marketing, from search and social to content, email, display, and digital.

Hyper-personalization is no longer optional for brands, it’s imperative,” said Aseem Chandra, vice president, Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Target.

In a recent report titled “The AI Revolution,” Salesforce Research reports 52 percent of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them. In addition, 65 percent of business buyers say the same about vendor relationships.

But businesses struggle to deliver on customer expectations.

Business Struggle to Personalize

According to research commissioned by Sitecore and conducted by Vanson Bourne, up to 86 percent of customers see personalization as a critical factor when making a purchase, yet a third of brands admit they lack the tools and skills needed to properly provide the experience customers desire.

The research found that 80 percent of the 680 marketing and IT decision makers surveyed rate personalization a priority.

But 96 percent of 6,800 customer respondents think many brands provide “bad personalization” because they use out-of-date information about them (59 percent), get personal customer details wrong (57 percent), and make assumptions about what consumers want based on single interactions (54 percent).

“Brands must take urgent action to improve their ability to collect, connect, analyze, and act on customer data,” said Scott Anderson, CMO of Sitecore.

Clearly, there are significant gaps between the promises and the realities of personalization. And that’s creating big losses for businesses.

TimeTrade, a provider of online appointment scheduling, estimates US retail stores leave about $150 billion in potential revenue on the table annually by failing to offer shoppers the personalized shopping experiences they want.

According to TimeTrade’s State of Retail 2017 survey, nearly half of 2,000 customers questioned said they “never” or only “sometimes” receive what they consider to be personalized service.

Personalized Marketing Considerations

Personalization is an integral part of exceptional brand experience. However, brands need to act thoughtfully to deliver meaningful personalization.

Where is the line between personalized and invasive?

A few years ago an executive at flash-sales pioneer Gilt Groupe told me about a memorable personalization fail. The company launched a massive email campaign around a “We’ve got your size” message.

The site offers limited quantities of size-specific products. So it expected customers to be excited to learn about items available in sizes they had previously ordered.

But they weren’t. Someone may have ordered a size small sweater last year, but isn’t small anymore — and didn’t like to be reminded of it, the executive explained.

The lesson: Businesses need to weigh personalization efforts against respect for privacy.

As Forrester Analyst Ian Jacobs said, your customers are “walking, talking contradictions” and addressing their wants and needs take diplomacy. “In the age of the customer, default to privacy. Offer your customers the option to see exactly what they’re sharing with you, and show them how sharing their data will directly benefit them,” he suggested.

What’s the secret to cross-channel personalization?

According to the fourth annual Salesforce State of Marketing report, creating customer journeys augmented by artificial intelligence (AI) is a good option. The report suggests AI can help marketers make smarter use of data to reach customers more effectively. It’s based on a survey of 3,500 marketers worldwide.

The marketers surveyed expect their AI use will grow more than 50 percent over the next two years. They further expect AI will help them deliver more targeted campaigns, enhanced personalization, and higher ROI. Fifty-seven percent of marketers using AI say it’s absolutely or very essential. They say it helps their companies create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint, the report notes.

The lesson: Use AI to link disparate systems and integrate data sources. This will help you provide better brand experiences across channels, business functions, and data sources.

In the Artificial Intelligence Index’s 2017 Annual Report, artificial intelligence expert and Harvard University professor Barbara Grosz suggests early adopters will see the benefits of implementing AI-assisted personalization, on-demand content, and even content generation. However, she cautions, the success of AI systems should be measured by their impact on people’s lives.

Interested in learning more about personalized marketing? At Arke, many of our clients leverage Sitecore, a leading digital experience provider. Email Sitecore MVPs Chris Spears or Margaret Wise for more information.

About Arke

Atlanta-based Arke develops strategies and implements digital technologies for better brand experience for your customers.