Personalisation of digital content or marketing messaging is now thought of as common practice, with consumers coming to expect a personalised experience from brands.

A survey by Cloud IQ found that 64% of respondents now expect an individualised experience, while 83% think of an individualised experience as important. There are many factors to this, of course. Cloud IQ states that it boils down to four elements, with consumers wanting relevant offers, to be remembered, to feel listened to and understood, and to be in control.

It sounds fairly simple when broken down this way, however, other research suggests that personalisation is still not so easy to achieve. Econsultancy’s ‘Harnessing the Power of Personalisation’ report explores this notion, highlighting the reasons why marketers are prevented from implementing the level of personalisation they (and customers) want. For more, subscribers can download the report in full, but in the meantime, here’s a quick summary of the challenges faced, and how they can be overcome.

Identifying visitors & accessing the right data

Since GDPR came into effect, the challenge for many companies has been to identify visitors who arrive at their websites, and to gather as much data as possible about them. With the appropriate consent, data can be stored via cookies, however it is vital that companies provide clear, accessible, and easy-to-understand statements on privacy policies, stating how customer data will be used.

Accessing the right data is also key, with the phenomenon of ‘bad personalisation’ increasing as personalisation grows more popular. Brands use outdated or irrelevant information to target customers, which in turn cancels out any benefits of personalisation – even creating an overall negative customer experience as a result.

A survey by Sitecore found that 59% of respondents have experienced brands using out-of-date information about them, while 57% said companies have got their personal details wrong. Companies must therefore ensure that data is up-to-date as well as compliant, and to identify the best areas of personalisation. This can be done by combining insights from transactional data, real-time behaviour, CRM systems, social and so on, in order to deliver content in the context of both past and current behaviour.

With an increasing pressure to be data-driven, companies can also focus too much on sourcing new data, without properly making use of the data they already have. This can be particularly detrimental, leading companies to forever chase the ‘perfect’ data-set, while executing irrelevant and sub-par campaigns. 

Again, while GDPR has presented a challenge, it has also given companies an advantage. That being the opportunity to focus less on masses of (potentially irrelevant) data, and more on gaining consent for contextually important and actionable data.

Senior buy-in and investment

One common challenge cited by the interviewees in Econsultancy’s report is the ability to seek and secure investment from senior leadership. This is because the value of personalisation can be hard to determine (particularly in the short-term).

However, one strategy is to demonstrate to leadership what happens when you do not have personalisation in place, versus when you do.

Saul Lopes, former Head of CRM and Loyalty at Virgin Holidays, says that he focused on this tactic when securing investment for the brand’s ‘Ready to Travel Programme’ campaign, which focused on personalising the pre-departure journey.

The team printed out what the customer was receiving when they went on holiday, Saul explains. “We put this into a deck and gave one to each director in the meeting and forced them to read through it for 10 minutes.”

“Bringing all the current communications to life and giving them this practical example enabled us to obtain buy-in straight away. There was recognition that we were not serving the customer the way we should be.”

Another way to secure buy-in is also to first prove the value of personalisation with minimal investment. In other words, to create test campaigns focusing on existing segment data and one or two variables (such as headline copy). Through testing, and gathering tangible evidence, senior teams are able to see the potential return on investment.

Delivering personalisation at scale

A final and perhaps the biggest challenge cited by interviewees in Econsultancy’s research is creating personalisation at scale. Indeed, previous research backs this up. The ‘Bridging the Customer Experience’ report states that more than a quarter of survey respondents said they ‘do not have the technology needed to deliver great customer experiences’. Similarly, 66% agreed that ‘technology platforms are not sufficiently joined-up to deliver great customer experiences’.

Without a joined-up infrastructure, marketers are likely to be unable to gain a 360-degree view of the customer, as well as to deliver the right personalisation at the right time.

The solution here goes back to investment, with companies recently channeling budget into artificial intelligence and machine learning in order to overcome these challenges and deliver personalisation at scale. It’s important to reiterate, however, that a clear strategy (with defined goals and objectives) is the key to securing this investment in the first place.

To read more on building a personalisation strategy…

…subscribers can download Econsultancy’sHarnessing the Power of Personalisation’ Best Practice Guide.