Should You Really Bother With Personalization?

If you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

Database & CRMIf you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

You’d probably say or think something such as, “It’s common sense … why wouldn’t they do it?!”

Yes, the great “unwashed” have high expectations of the brands that wish to share in their discretionary income.

When IBM’s Watson can carry on a conversation of sorts with Bob Dylan in a TV commercial, and beat a grandmaster in chess, why can’t it send a postcard reminding you to get your oil changed?

These all sound like reasonable expectations to the “Valued Customer,” as we’re referred to by the non-personalized brands we have all engaged with. Don’t they seem reasonable?

For the longest time, Amazon stopped sending “people who bought X also bought Y” emails. Granted, Amazon’s personalization is part of it’s “all of the above” strategy — the company literally invests in everything it sees value in.

Moving Beyond the Basics

Yet most organizations have limited dollars and are fixated on “covering the basics” in their outbound communication. As a result, personalization has been limited in the vast majority of cases. The low costs and high performance of emailing have kept many brands from investing in higher-value touches with consumers — even as the CRM waves hit ever higher crests.

Why? Personalization alone doesn’t add enough value. And the reason is that personalization without relevancy doesn’t work. The basics of personalization in email marketing have been around for years. The consumer is accustomed to it and, in some cases, may expect it.

Relevancy, however, is harder to come by.

“Thank you for your purchase, Mike” works. “Mike, to get the best performance from your new time-trial bike, try using Rock N Roll Gold oil to protect your chain from rust and dirt.” works better.

In order to accomplish this level of personalization and relevancy, you’d need to know a few things. You would need the dexterity with this data to get it into your communication easily. If you know I’ve purchased a time-trial bike, then you need to know about bicycles. This could be challenging for mass/big box retailers like Amazon or Jet. But consider that Amazon is already providing “video shorts” on the categories you spend time in — and obviously, the ideas in those videos fit perfectly with their inventory.

Relevancy can also mean things that personalization isn’t often used for. More often than not, personalization still means “insert variable here.” On the other hand, relevancy can mean very important things that shape and influence a customer relationship … like recognition.

Simple and Powerfully Effective

I’ve found that a simple “thank you” message to the most valuable customers a brand has, thanking them for being loyal, and choosing them ― even without an offer ― generated incremental sales upon open and in the following several days.

Think it doesn’t pay to show the customers you know them and appreciate them? Think that’s not relevant? Think again.

Yet, when was the last time you had any brand thank you? Brands I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars with have provided not-so-much as an email’s-worth of recognition.

How about the “profitability problem” that comes with one-time buyers? Does your favorite brand thank you when you make that all-important first repeat purchase? These individuals are categorically more profitable, and materially more likely than “one-and-done” buyers to buy the brand again and again. A little recognition establishes the context of their relationship — and the fact that they even have one with the brand … goes a long way.

Personalization can be easy without being valuable to the customer. Relevancy can be more challenging, especially if you don’t have your data house in order. Relevancy requires a strategy — but relevancy works, big-time.

Putting Relevancy and Personalization Into Action

Some examples of relevancy in action …

  • Announcing a Sale in a category consumers bought in previously, when they “missed” an expected purchase
  • Social Proof — don’t just say it’s the best product, show them how many stars it was ranked and by how many people. Show them a review from someone most like them. This is more doable than many brands realize — and the “content” is simply … free.
  • Localize — Instead of promoting product, promote Gene Smith in the golfing department (to folks who bought golf equipment). Not only will the employee morale increase, your customers can be nudged into multichannel buying. Think that doesn’t make a difference? Multichannel buyers spend more and spend more often in virtually every category.
  • Product Recommendations are “old news” — but they still work. Don’t leave this out. But combine it with social proof and watch conversion climb.

Personalization is important, but not without building relevancy to an ever-greater level. Consider the simple fact that the less relevant your communications are with your customer, the less they’ll find your brand relevant … and irrelevancy is where brands go to wither and die.

The Bottom Line: Relevancy Is the Value in Personalization

The upside to personalizing can be real. While blanket, low-grade personalization may have become passé, an authentic dialog based on relevancy is an investable business strategy. This requires having your data, your strategy and your knowledge of the customer, and the numerous cohorts that undoubtedly exist in every business.

The bottom line is simple: Personalization without a workable strategy may not be a good business value, and therefore may not be warranted.

Delivering relevancy to your customer experience, however, is priceless.

 

Reinventing Direct Marketers

Staying relevant requires reinventing your skills and marketing approaches. That’s why today we’re launching Reinventing Direct, a new blog where we share what we’re learning about new direct marketing approaches in practical, easy-to-understand recommendations, all geared toward direct marketers, so you can reinvent yourself and become a catalyst for change in your organization

Staying relevant requires reinventing your skills and marketing approaches. Just over a decade ago, many direct marketers moved beyond direct mail and reinvented their approach by creating basic websites, using email marketing and more. But now a decade later, reinventing direct marketing core competencies requires understanding and using even more tools.

As we have evolved and reinvented our traditional direct marketing skills over the years, the editors of Target Marketing have invited us to evolve from our online video marketing blog to broader topics.

Today we launch Reinventing Direct, a new blog where we share what we’re learning about new direct marketing approaches in practical, easy-to-understand recommendations all geared toward direct marketers, so you can reinvent yourself and become a catalyst for change in your organization.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

We’ve chosen online competitive analysis as our first blog topic. Why? Because every thoughtful new business plan and marketing plan includes an analysis of the competition. In addition, at least once every year you should investigate what your competitors are doing online. It will make you sharper and more competitive.

Today you’ll learn about 10 tools you can use to compare how you stack up with your digital direct marketing efforts compared to your competitors. The tools we share in today’s video will give you data points on several areas of online marketing including:

  • Where to get a grade for your website’s overall effectiveness
  • Where you stand with SEO
  • Inbound link comparisons (with domain authority)
  • How your website performs on mobile devices
  • Traffic to your website compared to competitors
  • Engagement and reputation metrics
  • Demographic data comparisons of the age, presence of children, income, education and ethnicity of those going to your site versus your competitors
  • Social media comparisons
  • How your site ranks for keywords compared to competitors
  • Competitor’s daily pay-per-click budgets, average paid position, and the estimated value of daily organic traffic
  • How to know when your competitor has new information posted on the Web
  • The source where you can go back in time to check what was on a competitor’s website in the past

There are many online analysis tools available, and we encourage you to search for them and check them out. We also invite you to share your recommendations of other services that you have successfully used. Please post your recommendations in the comments section below.

5 Interesting Things I Learned This Week

2. Been flogged online? The best way to deal with negative reviews that come along with being more visible in the blogosphere may come from an unlikely source: a section on Yelp’s Business Owner’s Guide titled “Responding to Reviews.”

My blog post this week is a culmination of a few interesting tidbits I learned this week:

1. More retailers are experimenting with social media, despite the fact that social media tactics are still experimental at best and returns are hazy. In fact, according to Fiona Swerdlow, head of research at Shop.org — who presented the opening keynote at Retail Online Integration’s Retail Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo (RMV) — 80 percent of respondents to a recent survey from Shop.org are pursuing the channel because they believe it’s a great time to experiment and learn more.

2. Been flogged online?
The best way to deal with negative reviews that come along with being more visible in the blogosphere may come from an unlikely source: a section on Yelp’s Business Owner’s Guide titled “Responding to Reviews.”

This great tip came via Eric Anderson, vice presdient of emerging media at White Horse Interactive during his RMV presentation titled “Live Retail Website Lab.”

When crafting your message to customers, Yelp advises keeping the following three things in mind:

  1. Your reviewers are your paying customers.
  2. Your reviewers are human beings with (sometimes unpredictable) feelings and sensitivities.
  3. Your reviewers are vocal and opinionated (otherwise, they wouldn’t be writing reviews).

3. The Interactive Advertising Bureau announced guidelines designed to standardize the information that ad networks and exchanges provide to advertisers and agencies. Here are the six new guidelines:

  • Transparency should exist for inventory sources, publisher relationships, content types and ad placement details.
  • Advertisers should be presented with content categories that are universally defined in the industry.
  • Categories of illegal content should be defined or labeled. For example, content that infringes a copyright should be marked as prohibited for sale.
  • Under the industry organization’s provisions, ad networks should rate content for audience segments.
  • Data disclosure terms should be outlined for offsite behavioral targeting and third-party data.
  • Companies should provide for IAB training of appointed compliance officers in each certified network or exchange.

4. Email’s influence over multichannel purchasing is powerful, according to a study from e-Dialog. The majority of consumers (58 percent) surveyed said they’ve been driven to make a purchase in a store or over the phone by a marketing email. And while websites are the preferred place for consumers to opt in, they’re also very willing to subscribe to email messages offline — e.g., when placing a catalog order (46 percent), at the point of sale (29 percent) or via SMS text message (13 percent).

5. More than 50 percent of consumers have come to expect personalized merchandising, starting with a personalized homepage. Furthermore, 77 percent of shoppers will make an additional purchase when presented with personalized recommendations.

These findings came via a report from MyBuys, a provider of personalized recommendations for multichannel retailers, titled “Consumer Insights into Multi-Channel Interactions: Practical Tools for Profitable Selling.” For the report, MyBuys commissioned the e-tailing group to survey 1,000 consumers to gain insights into how shoppers interacted with personalized merchandising and where they expected to see personalized recommendations.

Did you learn anything interesting this week that you’d like to share? Post it here.