What is personalized marketing and how is it used today?
A marketers' guide to personalization and how these tactics can transform campaigns.
With so many brand messages flooding customer inboxes and smartphones, it’s no wonder marketers are having a hard time connecting with audiences. Even with more technology solutions available than ever before, 74% say they struggle to scale personalization efforts, according to a Gartner survey. What’s more, that same data suggests brands risk losing 38% of customers due to poor personalization.
Customers want to be treated as individuals, not as users, accounts or prospects.
In this guide to personalized marketing, we’ll dive deep into personalization and its potential to increase engagement. We’ll cover:
- What is personalization?
- Examples of personalized marketing.
- How personalization can help marketers.
- What are the challenges of personalized marketing?
- What marketing technology is needed for personalization?
What is personalization?
Personalization is a one-to-one marketing strategy that seeks to better understand and connect with customers. It uses real-time data and insights to deliver highly relevant messages and offers.
It is a shift away from a traditional one-size-fits-all approach prioritizing the reach and breadth of an audience toward methods targeting customers based on needs and interests. It emphasizes tailoring messages to specific individuals or segments of buyers.
Personalization is about changing the face of marketing, moving from assumption-based, batch-and-blast approaches to meaningful, personalized customer experiences. It is how brands tailor their offers, communications and advertising to buyers’ needs.
Customers – whether B2B or B2C – expect customized experiences, and marketers must lean on smart targeting solutions to fully understand the people they’re selling to. Personalization tactics apply insights gathered from customer data be used to guide people through the buying process.
Examples of personalized marketing
Today’s customers expect personalization in each interaction they have. These can be built on name recognition, location-based recommendations or messages based on preferences.
Customers also expect seamless experiences wherever they encounter brands. Any disruptions will almost inevitably cause them to drop off.
This is why it’s essential to ensure content meets the personal needs of the audience. Customer journey analytics enable these experiences to be optimized and personalized across all channels.
Explore capabilities from vendors like Adobe, Pointillist, SharpSpring, Salesforce and more in the full MarTech Intelligence Report on customer journey orchestration platforms.
While the principles of personalization can be applied to both B2C and B2B brands, their application often looks different. Here are examples in both areas.
B2C personalized marketing
Personalizing marketing for consumers is quite complex. Consumer preferences are constantly changing, and marketers need to offer solutions to current needs and anticipate future ones.
Fortunately, there are now technologies which let B2C marketers gain insights from consumer data, giving them tools to offer engaging, personalized content.
Here are three examples.
Data-driven strategies. Marketers rely on customer data to make their campaigns run, and this is even more important when it comes to personalization. Collecting first-party consumer data with tools like customer data platforms (CDPs) can help marketers learn what their audience demands and develop solutions to fulfill those needs.
Marketing automation. Brands have more consumer data to analyze than ever, which can be a double-edged sword. Significant insights may be lost due to team capacity issues or poor technological infrastructure. Many B2C teams now use marketing automation solutions for better data collection, task streamlining and audience analysis – all of which improve personalization.
Artificial intelligence solutions. AI tools are all the rage in marketing circles today, and for a good reason – their machine learning capabilities make it easier to provide customized experiences. These systems learn from consumer behavior and improve tactics with in-depth analysis. However, these technologies are far from perfect, so B2C marketers should ensure proper safeguards before deploying them.
B2B personalized marketing
Personalization among B2B brands looks a lot different than in its B2C counterparts. Aside from the obvious differences in marketing to consumers versus marketing to companies, B2B marketers may face frequent data issues – outdated, siloed or low-quality data – that prevent them from getting actionable business information. What’s more, this marketing is aimed at high-level decision-makers whose interests and priorities are more difficult to decipher than the average consumer.
Marketers must understand these buyers inside and out – especially those in the B2B space. Here are three B2B personalized marketing examples.
Account-based marketing. Account-based marketing (ABM) strategies and tools can deliver targeted advertising and personalized content to high-value accounts. Although this method has been around for over a decade, advances in technology now provide more relevant data from high-level decision-makers. This can include buying intent and quantitative business information. By implementing an ABM strategy with one of many available platforms, marketers can foster greater personalized connections with businesses.
More B2B marketers are adopting account-based marketing than ever before. Find out why and explore the ABM platforms making it possible in the latest edition of this MarTech Intelligence Report.
Personalized content recommendations. Understanding where your visitors are in the content funnel is critical, but guiding them through it is even more important. Using information such as past purchases, downloads, or search history, B2B buyers can be given personalized content recommendations at each stage. Showing them you’re aware of their business needs helps build trust.
Location-based marketing. Many businesses operate from a single geographic area and primarily serve customers around them. B2B marketers can better reach buyers by providing messaging that speaks to their locality, whether it’s upcoming events about them or special deals for their area.
While B2B and B2C tactics often differ, many can be applied to both. Here are some examples of the most popular personalized content and strategies.
Personalized landing pages. No set of rules will ensure personalized landing page success. But brands that include information personal to the visitor – their name, geographical location and useful content pertinent to their situation – can further increase engagement.
Product recommendations. Giving customers product suggestions through personalized emails or ads shows you care about their needs. And it can positively impact sales, too.
Connecting video experiences. Videos can potentially increase customer engagement, especially if they’re personalized. Brands may want to consider creating customized videos for individual customers. When used properly, these help companies show customers they understand their workplace challenges.
Social media advertising. There are many customization capabilities available on social media platforms. From retargeting campaigns to personalized messaging via chatbots, brands can use these tools to customize their messaging for customers on a personal level.
Customized email messages. Email is one of the most effective mediums to use when personalizing campaigns. With email platforms, brands can send customized messages, offers, images, and even cart abandonment notifications (for e-commerce sites).
How personalization can help marketers
Although many brands recognize the importance of personalization, some still view it as an optional add-on to their current campaign setups. However, neglecting it is no longer an option for marketers who want to succeed in our individualized digital landscape.
“One-to-one personalization is the future,” said Ehren Maedge, GM of North America at customer engagement platform MoEngage, in his presentation at The MarTech Conference. “Brands need to get there quickly or be displaced by alternatives.”
Personalization can help brands
- Increase customer feedback.
- Improve customer experience.
- Increase customer loyalty.
- Improve lead nurturing.
- Raise customer retention.
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What are the challenges?
Here are a few of the challenges involved with personalization.
Technology limitations. Many companies cite the lack of sophisticated marketing technology as a barrier. Fortunately, campaigns can still be successful without the latest, greatest technology. Most tools available today – CRM, email technologies, social engagement tools and more – have customization capabilities. And marketers who don’t have more advanced tools can effectively leverage their current assets, aligning the strengths of each platform with their goals.
Consumer data silos. Organizational alignment is critical to the success of personalized campaigns. Without it, brands risk alienating customers with unorganized communications, such as sending duplicate or conflicting messages. This issue often arises between sales and marketing teams — two groups that have historically run into coordination challenges due to data siloing.
Brands need solutions to consolidate data between these two groups, which is why many turn to CDPs. These can help centralize customer data, tracking prospects across multiple channels.
Respecting consumer privacy. There’s a fine line between showing customers that brands care for them and being intrusive. People care about their privacy and will only respond well to personalized communication using the information they’ve consented to share.
Still, many marketers lament the possibility of U.S. legislation may restrict companies’ use of third-party data, fearing this will disrupt their strategies. However, this fails to account for the value found in first-party data. This offers actionable insights from customers, and collecting it adheres to consent regulations, making it one of the best resources for creating personalized campaigns.
What marketing technology is needed for personalization?
Despite personalization’s growing popularity, many brands have trouble implementing customized frameworks and strategies. They’re looking for practical ways to personalize campaigns without alienating customers in the transition.
To help with this issue, here are some ways to introduce these strategies and technologies.
Gather and leverage market data using a CDP. Customer data is a major part of these strategies. Brands that can acquire clean data and draw actionable insights can make stronger connections with audiences.
But this is easier said than done. Information such as customers’ shopping history, location, buying behavior and other personal data is more protected than ever due to consumer privacy legislation like the GDPR and CCPA. These laws limit the ability to leverage data from third-party cookies. However, this doesn’t mean customers won’t share their information. It just means that brands must practice proper data compliance to collect it.
Respecting consumer privacy through consent management can build stronger customer trust when collecting data. To do this, focus on gathering first-party customer data via a CDP or similar technology.
Consent management platforms (CMPs) can automate adhering to privacy laws. Still, many can only perform basic functions, such as showing simple banners briefly mentioning their data policies. These platforms fail to protect user privacy and respect the data regulations themselves.
Anyone seeking to enhance personalization with first-party data – while complying with consumer privacy laws – should consider adopting a compliance platform. These can control and govern the flow of customer data with autonomous enforcement of user privacy preferences.
Another approach is creating buyer personas – demographic outlines based on customer data – to understand their market better. These profiles are designed to provide a more accurate picture of customer wants and needs.
Using demographic, firmographic and psychographic data gleaned from CRMs, profiles are built representing customers’ interests and behaviors. Even this data can prove limiting; these personas need to be created using personal aspects that don’t always fit their “professional” roles.
CRMs can be used to glean customer insights for these personas from in-depth surveys, social media interactions, form fill-outs and personalized messaging. They can provide relevant insights for persona creation, but you can take it a step further by focusing on one-on-one interactions. Interviewing recent customers or buyers helps you gain insights into their motivations, objections and decision-making process.
Plan out your customer journey content with analytics. Too many marketers wait to optimize their customer journeys until they launch their campaigns. However, planning out the content beforehand with the customer journey in mind makes it easier to tailor it to their needs.
Customer journey analytics platforms are a way to automate this. They identify key stages of customer buying experiences and provide insights based on past behavior. This improves the chance of providing relevant content to customers at each stage of the purchase journey.
First-party data can be used to repurpose relevant customer insights into content corresponding to the awareness, consideration and decision stages. These can include:
- Blog posts about customers’ interests.
- Infographics pertinent to customers’ problems.
- Webinars featuring topics customers consistently search for.
- FAQ pages with relevant answers.
- Case studies featuring existing customers in similar situations.
As customers move through the content funnel, note how much attention they’re paying to personalization. Data from Renegade (below) illustrates how personalized efforts tend to deteriorate as customers move through the funnel.
There are plenty of ways to personalize content, but marketers who craft it with customers’ journeys in mind can help build trust with an improved customer experience. Fortunately, the sheer amount of data and technologies available to brands today can help them provide engaging personalization at each customer touchpoint.
Identity resolution platforms: A snapshot
What it is. Identity resolution is the science of connecting the growing volume of consumer identifiers to one individual as he or she interacts across channels and devices.
What the tools do. Identity resolution technology connects those identifiers to one individual. It draws this valuable data from the various channels and devices customers interact with, such as connected speakers, home management solutions, smart TVs, and wearable devices. It’s an important tool as the number of devices connected to IP networks is expected to climb to more than three times the global population by 2023, according to the Cisco Annual Internet Report.
Why it’s hot now. More people expect relevant brand experiences across each stage of their buying journeys. One-size-fits-all marketing doesn’t work; buyers know what information sellers should have and how they should use it. Also, inaccurate targeting wastes campaign spending and fails to generate results.
This is why investment in identity resolution programs is growing among brand marketers. These technologies also ensure their activities stay in line with privacy regulations.
Why we care. The most successful digital marketing strategies rely on knowing your potential customer. Knowing what they’re interested in, what they’ve purchased before — even what demographic group they belong to — is essential.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.