Every year, it seems that marketers are talking about the upcoming one as the “year of personalization.”
But, like anything digital, the meaning and usage of personalization is perpetually changing.
In the past, personalization was as simple as inserting the prospective buyer’s name into an email.
As time passes, marketers have noticed that, often, this strategy isn’t all that effective. At this point, everyone includes your first name in their emails. Users used to open emails with subject lines featuring their names because they thought they were addressed to them personally.
But as brands continue to clutter user inboxes with first names, users are getting worn out. Sure, using someone’s name makes them more likely to connect with it, but not when every single email in their inbox uses this tactic.
That’s why in 2017, many brands seemed to step away from that style of personalization. But what can we expect to see from personalization in 2018?
Email Addresses as a Basis of Identity Across Platforms
As personalization gets more complex, marketers will need to learn how to connect every touchpoint back to the lead’s email address.
This means if someone engages with you on Twitter, that you can unify that data with the same person who opened your latest marketing email.
To get started with this, first, you must create user identities for everyone who visits your website, even if you don’t have a name or email address for them. How?
Start creating identities for websites visitors by finding out what channel referred them (organic search, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). Backfill even more information, like what device they are using, their location, and any other identifiers. Most of this can be done using cookies. Cookies track everything from viewing preferences to remembering passwords.
From there, see what this anonymous visitor liked. See what pages they visited, how long they were there, etc. Start building this information so once they take an identifying action, you will immediately be able to link it to the rest of their user profile.
In 2018, users expect personalization even if they never reveal their identities to you. Keep that in mind as you collect data on those who have not yet revealed their identities to you. Once they respond to an identifying CTA (like filling out a form or signing up for your newsletter), you can connect their identities so you can give them a heavily personalized experience.
As mentioned above, quality personalization now starts in the database. Instead of sending out the classic “email blast,” learn to segment your audiences based on the data you already have about them.
If you’ve built your database right, you should have a massive amount of data from which to segment and distribute content.
Look at your offering and your customers before you start determining your audience segments. Look at the factors that all your customers have in common. Maybe most of your leads are from a specific city and serve a specific industry. Block off anyone in your audience who fits this profile and serve them relevant content.
If you find a lot of people in your database aren’t converting and don’t share relevant segmentation patterns with most of your customers, maybe it’s time to reexamine your content strategy. You might be inadvertently targeting the wrong audience. That’s a waste of time and resources.
Machine learning sounds intimidating, but it isn’t that bad. And it’s certainly the future of personalization.
To get started, you select a series of base algorithms, which are simple ones based off obvious, crowd-oriented factors. Some examples of this are trending, recently posted, etc.
From there, you add a series of filters, to determine who gets what. This can be based on factors like company size, location, etc.
From there, machine learning takes over and depending on the type of software you are using, machine learning can track mouse movements, content preferences and more as it learns what your audience likes vs. what they don’t.
Machine learning is going to be a hot trend in personalization in 2018, so you might as well get your company on board now, so you don’t fall behind.
Interactivity as Personalization
Another way to personalize content is to allow your audience to personalize their own experience. This is done through interactive content.
Interactive content is the choose-your-own-adventure of the marketing world. And as more and more tools emerge for marketers to embed interactive content both on their websites, and across email and social, it will be common for most marketing to have an interactive element.
As marketing technology advances, personalization will get smarter and smarter. Make sure your business doesn’t get left behind in 2018 by keeping up with the latest trends in personalization. And while countless people have declared every year the year of personalization, know that personalization will continue to be important; just the definition of what personalization means will constantly evolve.
What are you doing to improve your company’s personalization in 2018? What goals do you have for your personalization? Do you have any suggestions for tools?
Acadia Otlowski is the editor and copywriter at HiP. She handles writing subject lines and email copy as well as contributing weekly to the blog. Acadia is a journalism major turned marketing enthusiast with a heavy background in research and writing. Outside of work, she is an avid reader and storyteller, as well as a fire performer.