For more than a decade, marketing hasn’t stopped talking about personalization. Much of the conversation started when Amazon launched its web services back in 2002, a few years after it had started using personalization to better sell books and other products to those on the platform.
Think about it. How many times have you read that this is the year of personalization?
I read 100s of marketing articles every year. All of them decree that this is the year that personalization. 2011 is the year of personalization. Or is it 2012? What about 2013?
And so on.
So, when is it actually the year of personalization?
I’m kidding, but only sort of. I would argue personalization is just getting more personal.
It’s hard to determine when exactly personalization started in marketing, after all, we’ve been receiving “personalized” direct mail for years.
Every year can’t be the year of personalization in marketing… can it?
I’d say yes. Why?
Narrowing Focus on What Personalization Is
I’d argue that every year is the year of personalization. We have simply watched that definition get more and more narrow.
Personalization used to just be:
- Broad segmentation — this was based on broad, sweeping demographic data. This includes location, age, income, etc. This is broad personalization.
- Personalized web pages and emails — By personalization, I mean that forms and other written works are customized to have the actual name of the user. In best taste, this is only done when the user has consented to receive marketing messages from you. In the past, you could determine who sold your data by intentionally mistyping your name.
- Responsive design — You needed to make sure that your emails and web pages looked good for every viewer on every device. Responsive design caters to every size screen and operating system.
But personalization has gone from these high-level views of users and has gotten narrower.
You can no longer afford to slap someone’s name on an email and send it to everyone between the ages of 25 and 30 in Seattle. The standard has been set higher as personalization gets more personal.
Data From Varying Sources Converges
We are getting to the point where brands can link customer and prospect data from varying sources into holistic views of each individual.
Good personalization systems gather a lot of data but should be able to tie in data from all the sources you collect from.
Today’s personalization includes integrating data from varying sources to provide hyper-personalized content experiences. It gives you more than the classic first name, last name data.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Today’s personalization is moving towards taking all of that data and using it to make informed decisions on what an individual likes or doesn’t like.
Sure, you could make guesses using A/B testing and behavioral data, but machine learning and artificial intelligence help you focus on each individual you’re targeting.
From Paid to Organic to Paid
Part of this tailoring of the customer experience will involve paid media.
It’s interesting because paid media used to be the primary form of marketing. Then the internet exploded and many brands were able to get a lot of reach organically through Google and social media sites.
But now, that is shifting again. In order to have the reach you want on many platforms, you’ll need to dive into paid social media posts and other forms of paid media.
Here, you pay for personalization and it works. I think we’ll continue to see all platforms pushing paid ads over organic engagement.
Customization is Key
Events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal made users aware and wary of how and where their data is being used by marketing companies.
In 2013, 84% of all email traffic was spam, “personalized’ spam, but spam nonetheless. Consumers haven’t forgotten that either.
In 2019, you need to give your customers and audience more control of their data. Let them see what you have and allow them to customize their experience accordingly. Just because you have a massive amount of data on these individuals doesn’t mean you should strongarm them into super personalized experiences.
Let them pick their customer experience and they’ll be less uncomfortable or creeped out by your personalization efforts.
When you have user profiles filled with data, you still need to properly wield them in order to have success.
You need to send the right messaging at the right time to the right people.
That means tailoring your messages to reach those people based on both historical data and actions leads take.
Timeliness will be a key factor in 2019’s personalization efforts.
So, as so many others have done in past years, I will declare 2019 the year of personalization. We are moving towards truly personal personalization, as opposed to the clumsier efforts made at it in years past.
In a survey by Infosys, 86% of consumer say that personalization has some impact on what they purchase. One quarter say that personalization significantly influences what they buy.
In 2019, we will see the fullest expression of personalization marketers have achieved yet. This is made possible by data, technology, and one-on-one conversations between brand and buyer.
Let us know what you think:
- How has your personalization strategy evolved over time?
- Do you have any personalization tips you want to share?
- What other personalization trends have you observed?