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Where are you on the personalisation spectrum? The six stages of sophistication


Nicholas Moore

Where do you sit on the personalisation spectrum?

This article uses data taken from the 2016 Digital Marketer Report. Click here to download your free copy now.

With the growing need to tailor your marketing to your customers in order to deliver relevant and interesting experiences, personalisation is more important than ever before. It’s no longer a technique that should be considered in order to improve performance, instead it is a level of interaction that customers expect.

There are many different types of personalisation and multiple levels of sophistication. Most marketers will be able to say ‘yeah, we do personalisation’ but that doesn’t indicate to what level that personalisation is.

With this in mind we have created the ‘personalisation spectrum’ as a way of benchmarking where you are now and what the next steps are.

You’re probably targeting customer segments, using name personalisation in subject lines and building dynamic content blocks on your website — or at least you’re aware of those techniques. But what about real-time individual customer experience management and pre-qualified product selection? Personalisation, like most marketing disciplines, is continuously evolving both creatively and technically. The result is a wide range of practices, from the simple and familiar to the more complex.

Some of the more sophisticated techniques can seem daunting but don’t be fazed. Using the personalisation spectrum below you can see the various levels and determine what kind of personalisation is best for each type of communication you send.

Stage 1: Static

The first stage in our spectrum is the absence of personalisation. Even the most sophisticated marketer may conduct static campaigns and sometimes it is the best course. It doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of consideration. Campaign-level analysis can provide insights that are subsequently fed back into the campaign optimisation loop. Monitoring campaign performance in response to variable changes (for example, a change in the day of week on which a campaign is sent) shows an appreciation for the customer’s experience. But in treating an audience as a whole, it’s not considered personalisation.

Stage 2: Identity

In seeking to treat customers as individuals the most basic step a marketer can take is to address them as such. This stage can include many quick wins to enhance currently static campaigns but the main one is addressing each person by name. Other identity variables can include gender, location and age. Each of these can help you use relevant language or make basic content selection decisions.

Stage 3: Insight driven

Using insight to design customer segments based on characteristics such as engagement status, propensity to purchase or membership tier takes the personalisation strategy to the next level. Though often fairly broad, segments allow you to move away from generic messages and communicate with specific groups in meaningfully different ways. Knowing the commonly held interests or needs of a segment drives more relevant dynamic content or creative. Relevancy is not an end in itself, though. The objective is to use these relevant communications to increase efficiency, engagement and, in many cases, revenue.

Stage 4: Enriched insight

An enriched insight approach is broadly the same as the previous stage, in that communications are refined based on segment preferences gleaned from analysis and insight. The crucial difference is that an enriched insight approach adds further granularity by increasing the number of variables by which a group or segment can be defined.

This highlights one of the limitations of an insight-driven approach: access to data. You may have a limited number of fields per record available and will therefore be forced to base your segment preferences on fewer variables than you might like. Enriching insight with second or third-party data helps to work around this limitation by enhancing a record with additional fields. This enables you to develop more accurate views of your segment as well as their preferences, needs and interests.

Stage 5: Single customer view

An effective single customer view provides real-time, individual customer experience management across channels. Where insight-driven and enriched-insight personalisation bases communications on segment or group preferences, a single customer view enables you to tailor communications to an individual identity, behaviour and circumstance.

For real-time email, this involves using information about a specific customer and data from that customer’s device to present highly targeted, contextual content. There is an important distinction to be made here between real-time email and dynamic content: the latter is created using fixed data that cannot be updated once a campaign is deployed, whereas the former is crucially more fluid, taking into account circumstances local to the opener such as geo-location, local weather and device language settings.

Check out this white paper for more on Single Customer Views.

Stage 6: Predictive optimised

Predictive optimised marketing is at the more advanced end of the personalisation spectrum. It takes the single customer view approach a step further by using personal data to anticipate the customer’s future needs. Predictive scenarios — or “next best actions” — can be calculated using variables such as past purchases and browse, click and cart activity, with the end goal of enhancing your communications with highly targeted offers.

Offering products that are pre-qualified to a specific individual is a good example of predictive optimised marketing. Pre-qualified product selection can help increase both engagement and conversion by removing some customer legwork. This type of predictive model is particularly relevant in relation to more complex transactions that are subject to approval — think financial products such as loans and mortgages, or larger items that may require financing.

Keep the customer first

At the core of any decision on personalisation is the need to keep the customer first. Remember, personalisation is about improving the customer first so unless you have the interests of the customer front of mind you risk undermining the whole exercise.

Ask yourself if your personalisation strategy is adding value? Do you have the right data assets and technology to execute effectively? As you can see, the more sophisticated techniques require a fuller understanding of who your customers are, a robust set of actionable data and the technology to seamlessly bring it all to the customer to build better relationships.

This is a sample from the 2016 Experian Marketer Report available in full here.

Experian Marketing Services helps bring brands and customers closer together.  Using our own industry data and analytical expertise we can help businesses build up an accurate and actionable understanding of their customers and using the Experian Marketing Suite technology, accurately engage with them

This article is about: personalisation