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The Evolution of Personalized Marketing

Customer expectations are higher than ever as consumers are empowered to choose where and when they interact with a brand. As a result, marketers are faced with the seemingly impossible task of delivering a contextual experience at every customer touch point. Add in the requirement to deliver these experiences on a global scale across languages, brands and products and the challenge of marketing personalization becomes even more complex.

When considering the number of engagements that happen every second across various channels, it is no surprise that marketers struggle to manage the vast amounts of data. To make matters worse, the same marketers are also under pressure to prove the value of their efforts to the rest of the organization. Metrics around engagement, conversions, and bottom-line are all frequent requests.

The Rise of Personalization

In the early 2000s, marketers launched “personalized” email campaigns to engage their customers. Simply incorporating a customer’s name into the text of an email would surely create that intimate, long-lasting relationship marketers desired with their customers - right? All that while simultaneously collecting customer data in the company’s CRM was a fool proof plan. Until it wasn’t.

Options are limitless for today’s buyers as they have access to more information on brands than ever before. With vast amounts of online content, including product reviews and customer testimonials, consumers are able to research every detail of a brand’s offering (as well as that of their competition) before making a purchase decision. No product review page on a website? No problem for the customer. They can move their research over to one of the many social channels that have become a staple in their everyday life, or simply ask a peer’s opinion based on what they find.

This concept of user-generated content (UGC) changed the world of marketing forever as it officially marked the end of an era. No longer could an organization completely control how its audiences interacted with its brand. With this loss of control came the challenge of trying to understand their online customers’ needs and desires. Where and when a customer prefers to engage and what content that they want to consume are all key components of an impactful interaction. Without the right customer data, the marketer is left guessing. Unfortunately, with the emergence of technology and content at the buyer’s finger tips, there is no room for error. One misguided interaction and audiences can shift their attention toward the competition who are after the same goal–the execution of an impactful, personalized experience that will convert prospects into loyal customers.

Eventually, customers’ behaviors started shifting from email to web and from web to mobile and social. While marketers worked toward perfecting interactions across all these channels, the data they captured lived across disparate technologies. Without a holistic view of customer engagement across various channels, there is no way to provide a cohesive experience. Fortunately for today’s marketers, there are more sophisticated marketing technology solutions to aid in this process.

Important Questions to Ask Before Evaluating Personalization Solutions

The reality is this shift in power is relatively recent and marketers are learning how they can better meet the demands of their customers. Creating a personalization strategy and identifying the technology that will best align with business goals is a requirement for success.

Unfortunately for the marketer, Scott Brinker’s 2016 Marketing Technology Landscape identifies almost 4,000 companies in the marketing tech space. YES, 4000. Of those, there are over 130 personalization solutions. It turns out selecting a technology solution that aligns with overall business objectives might be the most daunting task of all.

When evaluating what personalization solution is right for you, there are some important questions that need to be answered first.

  • What existing Martech and Adtech solutions is your organization already leveraging? It is essential to select a solution that offers open APIs capable of integration. Your organization has most likely already implemented some marketing technology to help drive customer engagement. You don’t want to select a personalization solution that will displace those investments. The once popular marketing “stack” offerings are losing momentum as marketers are realizing the significance of an agile solution.
  • Do you have a central view of your customer data? In order to deliver a contextual experience to your audience, you needs customer data aggregated into a single view. For instance, a personalization solution must be able to integrate with a CRM, marketing automation platform, or email marketing tool for bi-directional data exchange. In addition, a personalization solution should be able to merge anonymous and known data as users are identified across various websites, sessions, and devices. With a unified view of customer profile and behavioral data, you will be able to ensure the right content is delivered at the right time to drive conversions.
  • Do you target your audiences in real-time? Targeting buyers with the right messaging is no longer enough. If you are not adaptively segmenting and targeting your audiences based on the behaviors they exhibit, you are most likely losing opportunities to engage them in the most impactful way. One example of a brand doing personalized content right, is financial services company BAC Credomatic. BAC wanted to provide their customers with a responsive and engaging online experience and implemented a new digital platform to help push tailored content to specific personas in order to provide the most personalized experience for their audiences, regardless of their entry point. Make sure that when you do evaluate a personalization tool, you require the ability to target users in real-time in order to ensure you capitalize on every customer interaction.

Personalized marketing is not going away, but it is getting smarter. I hope these considerations help you in your personalized marketing journey.

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