The Case for Personalization

Eva Maria Schmidt
April 4, 2019

There was a time, not long ago, when inserting the first name into an email subject line was considered revolutionary. Today, personalization has evolved much further, driven by skyrocketing consumer expectations and tremendous advances in technology. It’s safe to say that it’s no longer just an option for marketers; it’s imperative. Here’s a quick look at personalization – and why you need to deliver it.

A Brief History of Personalization

Remember when Starbucks started to let you customize your beverage, and how cool it was when they served it to you with your name on the cup? And how about Build-A-Bear workshops, when they first started delighting children and parents alike by letting them choose outfits and colors for their teddy bears? This opened up the personalization path to where we are today, with everything from customized sneakers to Siri and Alexa offering custom-tailored information right in our homes. Netflix has taken this to a new level, experimenting with interactive programs like “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” that offer a choose-your-own-adventure viewing experience to individualize the direction and outcome of the storyline.

With each of these kinds of advances, personalization has become second nature for consumers, who now expect similar experiences wherever they go and whenever they shop. And it makes sense: as humans, we all want to be recognized and remembered. These desires are very real to us as consumers, too.

The Case for Personalization

According to an Accenture study, over 75 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that know their name and purchase history and provide recommendations that are appropriately on-taste. And 52 percent are more inclined to change brands if a company doesn’t offer personalized communication.

Personalization is the key to keeping your customers engaged – and spending money. Marketers that get it right stand to gain a lot. Those who don’t, lose. Consider some of the major retailers that have failed in recent years. In the U.S., casualties of the “retail apocalypse” in 2018 alone include Toys R Us (881 stores closed), Walgreens (600 stores closed), and Sears/Kmart (462 stores closed). Major cutbacks and shop closures in the U.K. in 2018 include Debenhams, Maplin, and House of Fraser. One major common denominator among these retail casualties is this: they each failed at some level to adapt to escalating consumer demand for digital experiences and personalization.

Mar-Tech & Personalization

The good news is, tools exist today that allow marketers to hyper-personalize at a level previously unseen. Consumer data is the fuel for achieving previously impossible levels of personalization and consumer-centric engagement. Marketing technology is the vehicle that allows you to deploy messaging across every channel, in a way that ensures every automated message feels personal, every intelligent product recommendation appears hand-picked, and the timing and channel of communication is always right.

Forward-thinking brands are already spending major dollars on marketing technology for personalization and the data it requires. Demand for customer data platforms (CDPs) continues to grow, as brands and organizations move towards building a single, 360-degree view of their customers. And marketing automation is expected to grow by nearly ten percent in 2019, with more than half of companies surveyed using some form of automation already.

The Critical Role of AI

Marketers are also beginning to recognize artificial intelligence (AI) as the game changer they’ve been waiting for. AI engines developed specifically for the needs of engagement marketers can boost personalization and individual relevance by automatically turning consumer insights into on-taste messages – and they can do it at a scale that is beyond the wildest imaginations. AI is unlocking the hyper-personalized future of marketing. Not only is it satisfying the demands of today’s entitled consumers, but it can also save you a lot of money: according to an August 2018 survey of 400 retail executives worldwide by Capgemini, AI could save retailers as much as $340 billion annually by 2022.

The Key to Survival

Traditional experiences and methods are no longer enough to satisfy consumers today. To survive, brands need to start thinking from the point of view of the customer, putting their individual preferences, histories, and current states at the center of every interaction they have with your brand. Examine what you’re delivering versus your consumer’s expectations – and make sure you inject each message with a human touch and personal relevance for every single consumer. Brands that do so, with the capability to deliver hyper-personalized messages on the right channel at the right time, will be first-in-mind for today’s entitled customers.