“Personalization” is the buzzword of choice for many contemporary marketers. In fact, according to an Adobe study, reported by Ad Age, when asked to prioritize one capability that will be most important to marketing in the future, one-third of marketers answered: "personalization” This came as a surprise to Adobe execs: “Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes expressed surprise personalization trumped hot areas like mobile, big data, social and real-time marketing. “ ‘Mobile is so big -- and, consequently, scary -- that people just don't know where to start, so they're somewhat paralyzed,’ Ms. Lewnes said. ‘While complex, personalization seems more finite to me. Marketers understand the concept of segmentation and personalization is really modern-day segmentation. There are tools for it. And they know it works.’ “ Despite this belief, less than 10-percent of Tier 1 retailers believe they are highly effective at personalization, and nearly one-third report having limited or no capability to support personalization efforts, according to Gartner. This is an on-going challenge for retailers. Another recent Experian survey – fielded among 250 U.S. respondents from a variety of functions, all of whom have knowledge of data management – had similar conclusions. The biggest personalization challenges cited in the study are gaining insight quickly enough (40%), having enough data (39%), and inaccurate data (38%). Interestingly, fewer respondents complained of an inability to gain insight from data, suggesting many are able to extract relevant insights, but not as quickly as they’d like. In fact, acting on proven marketing practices is a common thread across marketing challenges. For example, in another Experian study, “personalized promotional emails were shown to lift transaction rates and revenue per email six times higher than non-personalized emails,” according to a MarketingLand report. “Surprisingly, the majority of companies included in Experian’s study requested customer data, but 70 percent of the brands failed to personalize their email messages.” That’s why, when evaluating new and innovative marketing practices, execution is a key component to determining if it is worthwhile. It’s also important to continue tried-and-true direct-marketing programs, like personalized postcards and mailers.
Gary Pageau is principal of InfoCircle LLC, a marketing communications company based in Michigan, serving local and national clients.