And in our global 2016 Digital Trends report, ‘targeting and personalization’ was the most popular response when marketers were asked about top priorities for their organisation.

But what’s the reality? How much are marketers actually using personalisation?

In one recent survey, The State of Email and Marketing Automation in South-East Asia, less than one in ten (8%) of respondents said that they were able to do content personalisation, beyond using the customer’s name.

And in a different survey, Email Marketing Industry Census 2016, only 8% of marketers surveyed said that they ‘can send emails based on individual activities and preferences’.

So despite its popularity, personalisation does not seem to be used very much by marketers.

If the interest in personalisation is there and it’s still not being used, then there must be problems with the implementation.  

So what should marketers do when they are implementing personalisation?

To find out, Econsultancy recently held a roundtable event on Understanding the Customer Journey in Sydney, Australia.

Dozens of client-side marketers came to discuss the trends, best practices, and issues they are facing in CX.

The roundtables were moderated by subject matter experts from Econsultancy and our event sponsor IBM Marketing Cloud. Participants brought their own experiences, questions, and challenges to the table for open discussion.

Below are recommendations from the table at which brand marketers discussed implementing personalisation.

1. Decide what personalisation mean to you and your organisation

When asked what personalisation means, participants came up with a number of definitions.

Some felt that personalisation is a campaign technique which produced ads which were more relevant to the target market.

Others said that it was a way to ensure that the brand’s content was more relevant for visitors to its website.

And some felt that personalisation meant changing how marketing was carried for a particular segment or geographical location.

Whatever the definition, it is critical that marketers agree on the direction and scope of a personalisation program before starting.

One attendee added that all personalisation programmes should have similar goals though, including:

  • increased relevance for the consumer,
  • an improved customer experience,
  • and an increase in conversions or more sales for the business.

2. Involve the customer when devising a personalisation strategy

One of the most important next steps, according to participants, was to map the customer journey.

Many felt that it is best to understand how customers interact with the brand, both online and off, before developing personas and segments.

There are many ways of determining the customer journey, but one of the most important techniques is to talk to your customers.

Using surveys and interviews, marketers can find out in which parts of the customer journey would personalisation be most meaningful.

Questions which you should be able to answer:

  • Who are our customers?
  • What customers are we missing out on on?
  • What is it they need and how can we serve that need?
  • Through which channels can we continue to help them?

Knowing the answers to these questions will also expose opportunities for nurturing customer relationships on an ongoing basis, as well.

3. Get senior buy-in from the start

Improving customer experience is a company-wide effort. Often, the whole business will need to change from a product-focused culture to one where the customer is at the center.

One participant said that a good way to get this started is to embark on an education project about the business benefits of personalisation.  

Key performance indicators (KPIs) which link the proposed company changes to a distinct business benefit should be included as well.

One attendee said that providing metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer acquisition cost (CAC), and customer lifetime value (CLV) are useful in winning the business over.

4. Having the right data is key

It is well-known that data underpins most new marketing efforts these days. Personalisation, however, requires more data than possibly any other marketing tactics.

Personalisation is unique because it can leverage many different data sets – including demographic, financial, and behavioral – and even combine them to improve the bottom-line.

Because of this, it is best to make sure that all departments who ‘own’ the data understand the personalisation programme, how the data will be used, and the benefits for the company.

Testing is also very important. One participant added that they test whether personalisation improves performance on their website using A/B tests and the test results have been incorporated into many of their design decisions.

5. Personalising content is much harder that people think

According to one attendee, many marketers underestimate the difficulty in providing personalised content on an ongoing basis.  

For their personalisation programme, website users were identified according to the content they read by a points system, through which they were able to create user segments.

The really hard part, though, was deciding what content to show them once they had identified their customer type.

One way to address this problem, one participant noted, would be to identify the most lucrative opportunities first and concentrate on content relevant to them.

Another suggestion was to start with people who are nearest to buying, which may be more sensible than trying to personalise for those at the top of the funnel.

Relevancy, however, is key and offering meaningful content to people who have already shown interest to your brand is a great opportunity for personalisation.

6. Learn as much as you can

Finally, participants noted that marketers should learn as much as they can about innovative marketing technology in order to help with their personalisation efforts.

Besides subscribing to Econsultancy (as mentioned by a few participants – thanks!), where should marketers go to find out more on the topic?

The first suggestion was to read as much as you can. There are numerous tomes written on the broad subject of personalisation and countless blog posts on the topic so marketers should seek these out to start off.

Another place marketers can learn about personalisation technology is from other marketers. Attending conferences is one way to do so.

The conversations which happen over coffee at events are invaluable for finding out what other people are doing.

Technology providers can help, too. When reviewing a particular platform or solution, marketers should ask technology providers for customer references and ask the referees about their experiences.

Typically, these customers will be far ahead of those just evaluating the product and can offer advice about what worked well and what should be avoided during implementation.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the client-side marketers who participated on the day and especially our moderator for the Personalisation table, Dominic Byrne, Head of Digital & Ecommerce at Coco Republic.

We’d also like to thank our sponsor for the event, IBM Marketing Cloud, and we hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!