Last week I moderated the roundtables at our Digital Cream London event on personalisation and I wanted to share some of the themes and takeaways from these sessions. 

Personalisation is certainly on the radar. It was named this year’s top digital priority by B2C marketers in our Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing published in January.

But this is a nut we have not yet cracked. Whilst it’s an exciting opportunity, it is also a long-term priority.

Marketers expect personalisation to be the third most exciting opportunity in five years time (after customer experience and multichannel campaign management). 

 Top Digital Priorities 2014: Targeting and Personalisation

Top Digital Priorities Targeting and Personalisation

Participants of the Adobe-sponsored roundtable conversations varied in experience from those who are doing little to nothing to those that are doing quite sophisticated segmented targeting based on context or past behaviour. However, none felt they were at the point of personalising one-to-one. 

The definition of personalisation varies from person to person and company to company. As Ashley Friedlein wrote in his blog post on the rise of context for customising digital experiences, there are good opportunities to tailor the customer experience based on context such as location, device (mobile versus desktop), time or day and even weather.

Participants at the roundtable confirmed this loose definition of personalisation. The level of personalisation on websites of those participating in the roundtables varied from basic geo-targeting to recommendations based on past purchase behaviour to advanced segmentation. 

The challenges most frequently raised by participants included migration from legacy systems, skill gaps, data management, the technology behind personalisation (including recommendation engines, content management systems and campaign attribution software) and for those just getting started – where to start!

Where to start? 

The most common form of personalisation was in email marketing and was said to be the easiest place to start.

It is easier to control the email content and landing pages and there are fewer departmental silos involved. ROI is also easily measured, making it easier to allocate future resources. 

Some participants were using behavioural and past purchase data to fuel recommendation engines. There was much discussion as to the effectiveness of these engines.

Those further along the personalisation journey were exploring displaying personalised website content, beyond just recommending additional products based on past purchases. 

There was a strong desire to hear best practices and successes in personalisation. Participants lamented the promised increases in ROI from vendors and came in search of real world success stories.

Some success stories and best practices were shared including a bank using life-change triggers such as change of address to serve personalised website content.

The Outnet’s emails showing offers available in the consumer’s size were also heralded. Amazon’s recommendations received mixed reviews. In particular, many experessed frustration with the lack of relevance based on past gift purchases.

Future

Firms are looking to improve personalisation based on advanced segmentation. There is a desire to align content management systems with individual purchases to personalise the content displayed on the home page.

Participants seemed to feel that they were doing a good job with personalising email campaigns. The next step is to personalise website content and the web experience. 

Data and organisational silos seemed to be the biggest challenges to personalisation as well as a feeling that if one goes to far, the damage could be huge. One participant asked: Do you only show clothing in size six and risk offending customers who’ve gone up a size?

2014 should be the year when personalisation really takes hold. Email, social, marketing communications, mobile, in store and web experiences should become much more integrated and much more focussed on the individual. 

From the 30 or so brands sitting around the personalisation roundtables, it seems that retailers have been pushing fastest and hardest on this but banks, telcos, media businesses and travel companies are catching up. Watch this space.