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B2C Marketers Grapple With Personalization Tactics

By Richard Adhikari
Jun 29, 2020 4:00 AM PT

Marketers at B2C companies realize that personalization is key to business, but they are having problems implementing personalization strategies, according to a recent survey.

Thirty-three percent of 202 B2C marketers Adweek Intelligence surveyed online in April, in association with IBM Watson Advertising, said that personalization is extremely important, and another 33 percent said it's very important.

How Do Marketers Define Personalization?

The results of the survey revealed that:

  • 39 percent of the respondents consider it to be segmented marketing in which different messages are sent to differently defined personas;
  • Another 25 percent think it is marketing messaging that's tailored to consumers based on context or prior observed behavior;
  • Another 20 percent define personalization as the use of real-time data to understand where a consumer is on their journey, and deliver more contextualized communication; and
  • the rest define personalization as the use of individualized CRM elements, such as name or gender, to customize outbound messaging.

"In general, the goal of personalization in digital channels ought to be building the same kind of customer affinity and engagement that we used to build much more intuitively than when we humans did business face to face," Nicole France, a principal analyst at Constellation Research, told the E-Commerce Times.

To her, personalization consists of addressing the individual, by name if possible; inferring and anticipating the needs based on what's known about them as well as what's known from the behavior of other customers; testing the understanding of those needs; and remembering what was learned in such a way that the whole organization has access to the knowledge.

"By making your interaction contextually relevant to your customers, you directly increase the value of those interactions for the customer and indirectly demonstrate that the customer is valuable and important to you," France said.

Lens of the Customer

Twenty-eight percent of the survey respondents said their goal with personalization was to get higher conversion rates. Another 22 percent sought improved marketing ROI; 14 percent wanted a better overall customer experience; 12 percent looked for greater brand affinity; and 11 percent wanted enhanced customer loyalty.

However, "the problem we've had, and continue to have, is that marketers define personalization through the lens of what we can accomplish," said Liz Miller, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"Defining personalization has to start, stop and be continuously refined through the sole lens of the customer."

'Signals of Need' Drive Strategy

Data is a significant tool for the survey's respondents:

  • 59 percent are using a data management platform as part of their personalization efforts, and another 27 percent plan to do so within 24 months;
  • 56 percent are using a customer data platform for personalization and another 28 percent plan to do so within 24 months;
  • 56 percent are using digital asset management and 29 percent plan to do so within 24 months; and
  • 21 percent are using AI or machine learning-based analytics and 28 percent plan to do so within 24 months.

Thirty-five percent of the respondents said fragmented data across organizations was the main hurdle to delivering personalized experiences.

Another 28 percent pointed to the lack of clear ownership of data.

Data analysis is key, Miller said. "All the data being collected is actually the binary manifestation of your customer. Stop looking for moments of personalization and start hearing signals of need that will drive personalization strategy, because it will start to inform engagement teams when, where and how value can be driven to purposefully deepen and extend a relationship."

Personalization "must be measured in impact on the overarching relationship and experience," Miller observed.

Pick the Appropriate Technology

"Start to look at the processes and workflows that are being created and ask the hard questions," Miller said. "Are you creating a personalized relationship, or did you just use technology to apply a personalization tactic because you could?"

Next, companies should ask what type of data they need to achieve the kind of personalized relationship they want to have.

"In many cases, fairly simplistic capabilities can yield very good personalization," France said. "It's a matter of critical thinking and understanding your customers rather than having lots of bells and whistles."

Technologies that let companies use what they already know about a customer are fundamental, France said. Customer profiles, purchases, or two-way interactions with the company, for example, are all grist to the mill.

Tools that help identify behavior patterns and characteristics that define distinct customer segments, and artificial intelligence and machine learning tools are important, France noted.

How the information gets used will differ depending on the requirement. Say, an outbound marketing campaign or a customer service inquiry, but "it should inform all of those different interactions," she recommended.

The technology all has to fit together, Miller said. "We can't afford to think of opportunities to personalize engagements in silos. Data and our need to connect across systems, and so should our technologies."

Personalization Is Profitable

According to Jivox, a personalized digital marketing technology provider, more than two dozen global brands across seven industries, including e-commerce, automotive, and telecommunications, using the firm's technology, saved more than US$640 million and realized more than $1 billion in ROI through 2019.

The cost savings were realized using Jivox's Dynamic Canvas technology which automatically generates thousands to millions of personalized content variations from a single master creative design, and its Dynamic Image Resizing technology, which lets brands reuse existing images and feeds, without having to manually edit and resize them for various creative and content formats, the company reported.

Brand campaigns included in the ROI analysis delivered more than 5 million creative variations across display, video, mobile, social and email formats. With the inclusion of asset variations (individual product images in rotation), more than 148 million unique variations of personalized messages were delivered by these brands to more than 2 billion consumers globally.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.


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