Four factors holding back broad adoption of mass personalization…and why there’s still hope.
Personalization. Tailoring. 1:1 marketing. It is clear that marketing executives have grown weary of venders overusing these buzzy terms.
B2B marketers, however, didn’t conspire to drive their customers crazy by all using identical language. There’s a real opportunity for marketers to use the data at their disposal to move away from mass messaging. Personalized outreach is more effective and customers like it better.
Many marketers have made some personalization technology investments. However, if my personal inbox is any indication, few companies have nailed mass personalization. So what’s holding marketers back from implementing effective mass personalization programs?
Four factors holding back mass personalization
- Personalization programs cut across silos
Email marketing teams live in their Email Management Systems. They have lists of known customers, they track open rates and they want credit for anyone who responds to their emails. Social media teams live in Facebook and collect Likes or app downloads. Digital teams live in their DSP and DMP, chasing anonymous cookies. It’s a struggle to figure out if different teams are talking to the same customer, if they know anything about the person they’re targeting.
Each team has their own success metrics and must justify their budgets, often at the expense of other teams. Competition is a recipe for tension and distrust. Since customers, by definition, don’t experience a brand in channel silos, 1:1 efforts cut across organizational boundaries. Personalization programs don’t align with the way most marketing organizations are set up. They require big changes and are hard to adopt.
- Customer data is everywhere
Companies can know a lot of about their customers. They can track purchases over time with their PoS and eCommerce systems. They can see what pages people are browsing, who opens their emails and which ads they click on. This raw data alone, however, isn’t useful for personalization purposes if it lives in separate systems. It’s hard to collate to a single person and activate in execution channels.
To nail personalization, companies need to build consolidated customer profiles that stitch together personally identifiable information, transaction data and marketing identifiers. Customer data platforms like AgilOne help with this, but these are big projects. Until customer data can be collected, associated and activated at scale, mass personalization will be a challenge.
- Asset creation is expensive
It’s clear that tailored messaging is effective, but it’s also expensive to operationalize. Even with perfect data, marketers for large businesses obviously can’t handwrite individual letters to all their customers. A certain amount of automation and segmentation will always be necessary. But someone has to write all those emails, take all those pictures and design all those ads.
More personalization triggers require more tailored content, all of which is expensive to produce and complicated to manage. While it’s easy to import product-listing pictures into a “Recently Viewed” section of an email, additional layers of creative individualization come at real costs.
- Tools weren’t built for personalization
Most marketing execution tools make it possible to segment users and trigger communication based on specific actions. It’s common practice to create campaigns that retarget segments of users based on particular pages they’ve seen or to trigger an email on someone’s birthday.
Mass personalizing, however, requires much more granularity. That means more triggers, more campaigns and more complexity. How many line items can campaign managers be expected to handle in their DSP? With the current tools, true personalization might be 10x more work to setup and manage. It’s a big project to rip out entrenched execution software that everyone knows how to use and where everything is already set up.
Why 1:1 marketing is still the future
Despite these challenges, there’s hope. Restaurant leaders like McDonalds and Panera are doubling down on personalization. Walmart has reorganized its teams to breakdown channel and technology silos. Kohl’s hired a new CMO to renew its “push into more relevant and personal marketing efforts.”
Lots of companies we talk to at Euclid have explicit projects to centralize their customer data. These are big changes and they take time. It’s clear, however, that the 1:1 marketing future is here – it’s just not evenly distributed. The venders, and their buzzwords, might just be a bit ahead of most of their marketing customers.