CTO at Econsultancy
19 February 2004 02:02am
I was recently asked to quote on an e-mail marketing solution for a client which would allow personalised content to inserted into e-mails and sent to each user based on their profile. My initial thoughts were there must be a hundred products out there which can do this, my realisation was that there wasn't or I haven't been able to find one.
What I discovered was that although e-mail marketing & eCRM packages exist (ranging from very cheap low end solutions to large enterprise suitable solutions) they all seem to suffer from the same problem in relation to my requirement. None of them from my experience are be able to build personalised e-mails for users. They all offer segmentation of users, and sending e-mails to those segments, and allow custom fields to be added into the e-mail, but what about a closer integration of one's content management systems and e-mail CRM systems? i.e. products such as Vignette and Broadvision have long been offering the ability for a user to view a web page with all the content pulled into that page which is most relevant to that user. Do they offer similar products for e-mailing?
I imagine Amazon and other big eTailers must have bespoke systems they have built to offer this type of functionality: truly customised e-mails for each individual user.
Does any one know of any products that offer closer integration of CMS functionaltiy and eCRM functionality? If so, are these products solely for the big players and out of reach for medium sized businesses?
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Product Marketing at Google UK
19 February 2004 10:43am
Very interesting thoughts in your post, but you might be a step ahead of the market here.
Many retailers still hardly segment their email database at all, i.e. just send 'this month's offer' to the whole list. The ones who do send out differentiated offers usually base those on segments. I think this even goes for Amazon, I've been getting their emails for years and although targeted they are always fairly broad-brush ('you bought Harry Potter before, why not pre-order the new Harry Potter').
To be honest, at this stage I think it is better for retailers to stick to segment-based rather than truly personalised emails, as they are easier to set up, manage and track results. It gets them a good chunk of the way towards making emails more relevant to customers, so I question the value of truly individual personalisation – I suspect this may be more appropriate in a B2B environment where an account manager deals with large corporate clients who do demand personal service.
In fact I have the same view about personalising content on retail websites – it’s not that high on the agenda anymore. eCommerce merchandisers are currently much more interested in developing a robust method for setting up cross-sells and other online merchandising, and transferring promotions such as multi-buys from the offline world to their websites. Most of those are not personalised to an individual, but relevant to a segment or even the whole customer base.
In terms of systems, most retailers are going away from personalisation systems such as Broadvision towards commerce engines such as Websphere, and nobody I know is using Vignette for a retail website. If retailers are concerned about content it is usually product content, so they are much better off using a proper product management system such as Pindar.
One more thought to throw in. There may not be such a strict dividing line between segmentation and personalisation anyway: If you have robust segmentation targeting in place, you can start cutting the segments finer and finer until you ultimately arrive at an offer that is so targeted that it is pretty much personalised.
I’d be interested to see what other people think.
Director at Keynet Marketing
19 February 2004 16:09pm
Bluestreak (www.bluestreak.com) have been providing such email personalisation for many years as part of the standard product suite. We call the personalisation portions in the email “SmartBlocks” – in true American style!
Based on your preferences (whether a tick box on a form, a click on a link, etc) you will then be categorised by that choice. The appropriate SmartBlock for each preference will only then be inserted in, what amounts to, a one-size-fits-all email.
Let me know if you’d like any more information on this feature.
19 February 2004 16:24pm
Yes, I would like more information on how exactly that works i.e. the process that people would follow from inserting content into the system and what formats are supported, to creating personalised e-mail campaigns, to integrating with existing user demographic databases, to deciding on what content (or number of pieces of content) is included in each e-mail.
On 16:09:32 19 February 2004 David Godden wrote:
>Bluestreak (www.bluestreak.com) have been providing such
>email personalisation for many years as part of the
>standard product suite. We call the personalisation
>portions in the email “SmartBlocks” – in
>true American style!
>Based on your preferences (whether a tick box on a form, a
>click on a link, etc) you will then be categorised by that
>choice. The appropriate SmartBlock for each preference
>will only then be inserted in, what amounts to, a
>Let me know if you’d like any more information on
Fndr at Majestic12.co.uk
22 February 2004 15:27pm
On 10:43:54 19 February 2004 Obi Felten wrote:
> There may not be such a strict dividing line between segmentation and
>personalisation anyway: If you have robust segmentation
>targeting in place, you can start cutting the segments
>finer and finer until you ultimately arrive at an offer
>that is so targeted that it is pretty much personalised.
Indeed I am in full agreement here - finely grained segmentation is indistinguishable from personalisation. Sounds good, but what’s the catch? The catch is hidden in _manual_ nature of traditional segmentation whereby content has to be created to satisfy segments. So why is it a problem? Well, most companies don't do personalisation beyond customer name because they have to create unique content for each of the segments, which takes time and they are simply not prepared to do so!
This is exactly where Matt's question is lurking - how to link finely grained segments to Content Management System, which would be able to generate unique personalised content (more relevant offers) without manual design work!
Back in Jungle the email marketing platform that I developed linked our campaign management system to content so that marketing could just use SKUs, which would be automatically used to generate content for given segment. Later we went even further by using associations (like product X will have relevant up sell products A, B and C), which will then be used to generate very finely grained emails - in essence we had lots of automated segments inside bigger manually selected segment (say customers who bought printers). The key, again, was close integration with CMS, not least because prices, availability and all that tend to change about 5 minutes before you need to deploy already made emails!
This is certainly the way to go for email marketing, as this is the primary reason why we managed to run 1,200 campaigns in just 3 years using part time marketing effort. It is because of our finely grained personalisation that we managed to keep drop outs very low and response and conversions high.
So, my answer to "Segmentation may be more than enough" would be that no, segmentation might have been enough for 2000 but it is certainly not enough in 2004+.
Manager at Cisco Systems APAC
16 October 2004 15:23pm
While we are talking of segmentation and personalisation can anyone put their hands on the evidence that it works - show me the test and the results and I'll be your friend for life.
I've been trying to convince some of my clients about segmentation for some time. I am a firm believer having come from the deep inside the Tesco Clubcard database marketing team, Without the evidence its very hard to convince people to even try it because of the percieved costs of content creation for each segment and even more difficult the differentiation of offers for each group. What I'm finding is that approval of offers goes way beyond the marketing team that I deal with into the finance and sales department, who clearly don't see the need for segmentation let alone personalisation
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