The marketing landscape is changing once again. Whereas most marketers are just starting to implement one-to-one personalisation, along comes a new marketing technique dubbed ‘hyper-personalisation’.

But what exactly is hyper-personalisation?

Hyper-personalisation is a marketing tactic which leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and third-party real-time data sources to enhance brand messaging with relevant, context-sensitive information. For example, an email may be personalised with the customer’s name, but it could then be hyper-personalised by dynamically changing its content depending on the receiver’s past purchase history, physical location or even the time of day when the email was opened. Ads, too, could be hyper-personalised with CRM data and in-store experiences with a shopper’s online behaviour.

From this definition, implementing hyper-personalisation requires advanced data management, extensive systems integration and AI for orchestration.

With such hefty requirements, one may wonder whether marketers are ready to adopt hyper-personalisation – or are there gaps which need to be filled first?

To find out, Econsultancy, in association with Oracle recently held roundtable discussions with client-side marketers in Bangkok. At the Hyper-personalisation table, moderated by Samson Masih, Chief Marketing Officer, BIZense, attendees discussed what was required to adopt the new approach and their current state of readiness. Below is a summary of what was said on the day.

Getting started with hyper-personalisation

While participants felt that they understood the principles of hyper-personalisation, they were less sure about which technologies would be required for their brands to start using it.

One attendee suggested that hyper-personalisation was simply an extension of personalisation and could, therefore, be delivered with existing marketing technology, though it would require significantly different configurations.

This notion was challenged, though, by another delegate who said that a system capable of delivering messages which could be enhanced in real-time would not be possible with the current generation of email service providers or marketing automation platforms.

Participants decided that for hyper-personalisation to work, a marketing platform would need integrated AI so that the system could automatically choose the right data to enhance brand messaging for an individual. Attendees indicated that most marketing tech stacks did not currently have this capability and so they felt new technology would be required to implement hyper-personalisation.

Skills required for hyper-personalisation

In addition to boosting up their marketing technology, delegates also felt that they needed to acquire new skills before they could adopt hyper-personalisation.

First off, one participant said, marketers need to have a much deeper understanding about how emails, ads and other messages are delivered. Presently, said another, marketers are insulated from messaging platform technology but to leverage hyper-personalisation, they would have to understand how they work to a much greater extent.

Additionally, marketers will have to acquire data management and coding skills. Deploying hyper-personalisation will initially require bespoke development and in order to commission and manage the project, marketers will need to understand the data sources and algorithms used to integrate them into emails, ads and other messages.

Finally, marketers will also need to learn how to manage the systems which deliver hyper-personalised experience. As noted earlier, hyper-personalisation will be deployed using new technology which, at first, will require low-level configuration and manual intervention, unlike existing email and ad platforms.

Organisational requirements for hyper-personalisation

To deliver hyper-personalised services, delegates agreed, organisations will have to change too. Companies currently have data spread across too many departments to support many personalisation efforts, much less hyper-personalisation.

Also, noted one participant, marketing departments typically do not have close relationships with technical talent in companies and to launch hyper-personalisation they will need more technical support than ever.

And, said another, organisations are unprepared to set the strict rules about how to use hyper-personalisation appropriately. Integrating highly sensitive or offensive data with routine marketing communications could harm the brand in the eyes of the consumer and risk starting a social media crisis.

Ongoing maintenance of hyper-personalisation

Even with the systems and skills in place, attendees felt that monitoring and maintaining hyper-personalisation would present new challenges that have not yet been considered by most companies.

What, said one delegate, would a ‘hyper-personalised experience dashboard’ look like? How would they know what data was being delivered with what message so that marketers could answer a question or handle a complaint?

Additionally, with each customer seeing a different, context-sensitive message, how would marketers measure the impact of a hyper-personalised experience? Engagement may rise in aggregate, said one participant, but too much personalisation may, for example, discourage customers from providing additional data in the future.

Finally, noted one attendee, a system with so many components was more prone to human error than the current generation of marketing technology. A misconfiguration by marketing, IT, the system vendor or even the data provider could end up providing a sub-optimal experience for consumers. And without manually reviewing every email, ad and message sent to customers, it would be hard for marketers to detect a ‘bad message’ and perhaps even more difficult to determine what caused it to be sent.

So, are marketers ready for hyper-personalisation?

Following a lengthy discussion, delegates said that hyper-personalisation sounds promising but there is a lot of work to do before it will become a reality. Marketers need to upskill and address the potential organisational issues.

Hyper-personalisation promoters must also secure budget to upgrade their marketing technology and seek support from internal tech teams.

Yet, despite all these hurdles, attendees agreed that hyper-personalisation would help them with one of their biggest problems, getting through to customers who were becoming increasingly hard-to-reach on digital platforms. With more customer engagement, participants felt they could boost sales and deliver positive ROI for the additional budget required to deploy hyper-personalisation in their marketing mix.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank the moderator of the Hyper-personalisation table, Samson Masih, Chief Marketing Officer, BIZense, as well as Oracle, the sponsor for the event.

We’d also like to thank all the brand marketers who attended the event and shared their thoughts about hyper-personalisation as well as their feelings about whether their company is ready for this new and exciting technology. We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!