Marketers, Forget Personalization. Start Offering Personal Experiences

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Azlan Raj, chief marketing officer of Merkle EMEA.

Personalization has become a topic of debate in marketing. On one side, we’ve seen advertisers explore work-arounds and loopholes as they seek a cookie-free approach to targeting or audience modeling. But there’s also a hunger for a less complicated and more human solution. 

A recent study found that content that isn’t personalized annoys 42% of consumers. However, 63% of consumers said poor personalization tactics would stop them from purchasing items from a brand. 

This research points to the attitudinal shift among consumers. Great reach and targeting have always been and will continue to be important, but people increasingly judge brands by overall experience. That experience consists of a combination of paid media contact and interactions across digital services, information and support channels. 

As marketing shifts from personalized to personal, every interaction across these channels will count. Moments of connection that provide holistic experiences are on a journey to replace data-based advertising. And with the rise of technologies like blockchain and the metaverse that make consumers more connected than ever, it’s time for brands to accelerate that journey.

Unlocking total experience

Third-party data allows marketers to build up a large bank of prospects to target quickly. But it doesn’t provide a full view of the customer relationship over time. The result is a frustrating, incomplete outline of customer traits without a single source of truth. Instead, marketers should enrich their bank with relevant CRM data and media to provide a full view of the customer that they can instantly understand. This is where the process requires emotional intelligence. 

Inevitably, brands are investing heavily in first-party data to drive personalized marketing. But focusing on new mechanisms to enhance personalized advertising will only get them halfway to a total customer experience.

While many brands have great systems and media buying in place, without every single channel being connected in near real time, even the biggest brands will make mistakes.

For example, you are a loyal customer of a large department store. You receive regular emails with personalized suggestions or offers that are relevant to you. So far, so good. But the day after you make an online purchase at that store, you are ad targeted by the same store for the same product. The brand doesn’t have all of its touch points aligned, and now the store has annoyed a loyal customer. 

Mobile apps, voice skills, desktop web, in-store POS or experiential tech, customer service SaaS and AI service solutions are creating a powerful layer of channels and authentic data gathering opportunities. These channels, when linked, can augment first party data to build a more personal, tailored experience.

Rather than using these channels to enhance short-term campaigns, brands are beginning to think with more strategic purpose. They’re enhancing business performance based on a lifetime of customer experiences and journeys recorded, analyzed and fed back into the data infrastructure.

Embracing this wider universe of channels with a focus on a more strategic business view results in an adaptive organization. In parallel, brands must know their data and use digital transformation to curate the total customer experience. However, this requires a higher level of design and implementation than simply switching from a data management platform to customer data platform.

The ability to unify emotive forms of information as much as indicative data and use it effectively over time will be the hallmark of future brands.

CXM gets personal

Orchestrating available data and evolving the marketing approach into a more personal one  require a new discipline: customer experience management (CXM). To deliver this, organizations have to become more adaptive and think beyond their own transformation. This will enable them to respond to customer needs with more speed and agility. 

CXM requires a specific mindset as much as it requires technology. It places people at the center of the experience and allows marketers to truly understand their needs and behaviors. The technology is there. What’s needed now is strategic intent among marketers, CIOs and CEOs.

Understanding the customer and their expectations on a deeper level is the only way to move beyond personalization toward relationships that are legitimately personal. And consumers crave “personal,” as long as it’s done well.

Follow Merkle (@Merkle) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Niklas Heidelbach

    “However, 63% of consumers said poor personalization tactics would stop them from purchasing items from a brand.” That statement is not part of the linked article, where does this number come from? There are three studies mentioned by Adobe, i guess it’s the Gartner study, too?

    Also this article made predictions for 2020 (as it was published 2019), were they confirmed or is the impact of AI/ML higher/lower than they expected nearly three years ago.