A Marketer’s Guide to Personalisation

by Ryan Brelje, Iterable

Iterable discuss the four foundational pillars of personalisation.

Personalisation is at the core of any good marketing strategy. When executed correctly, it can deliver stunning results for a business. According to a survey by McKinsey, personalisation can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 per cent, lift revenues by five to 15 per cent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 per cent.

The consumer market is changing, and shoppers now have a wealth of information at their fingertips, and more options for brands, than ever before. Marketers need to adapt their strategies to stand out from competitors. Traditional, one-size-fits all marketing techniques no longer suffice. To stand out in this crowded digital marketplace, marketers must craft and execute the marketing strategy that puts customers first: personalisation.

There are four foundational pillars of personalisation. By executing these four pillars properly, marketers can deliver memorable experiences to each and every customer. Investing in personalisation showcases your commitment to prioritising customers. In continuing to master the four pillars, you are creating a scalable framework for not just personalisation, but individualisation – the key to your customer’s heart (and their long-term loyalty)!

User segmentation

The first pillar in our personalisation process is user segmentation. Most marketers are aware of what segmentation is and why it matters (51 per cent of us recognise it as our most effective personalisation tactic), but few know how to execute it correctly. In fact, a recent survey by Gartner shows that brands risk losing 38 per cent of customers because of poor marketing personalisation efforts (which starts with user segmentation). Brands who hope to avoid customer fallout need to be extremely thoughtful in how they personalise their content today – and homing in on which customers you want to reach is the first step.

You’ve probably heard the saying “A man is only as good as his tools”. We’re taking that a step further by applying it to marketers. Today, marketers have more access to customer data than ever before. But these rich pools of customer insights are too often underutilised, especially when marketers fall back on legacy segmentation strategies like basic attributes, general lifecycle, RFM targeting, among others. In this context, a marketer with all the data in the world can’t create an optimised campaign if they’re using lethargic tools.

To take full advantage of available customer data, and deliver high-calibre customer experiences, marketers need a modern application strategy. One that redraws the lines of demarcation between segments and extracts maximum value from customer data! Marketers in this new league of segmentation leverage contextual data to understand customer motivations. Customers are complex, and the industry should consider them as such, by moving beyond one-dimensional demographic personas to building nuanced customer pictures.

With a more sophisticated segmentation strategy in hand, identifying key audiences and the types of content that appeals to them becomes fully ingrained in the marketing workflow.

Lifecycle mapping

Second in the line-up of our four personalisation pillars: lifecycle mapping. There are two critical elements marketers need to consider when it comes to the modern-day lifecycle:

  1. A step-by-step framework.
  2. Readiness to respond when customers choose to go their own way.

A comprehensive lifecycle is a result of methodical planning and a customer-first, creative mindset. It would be helpful at this stage to break down the lifecycle into three basic stages—activation, nurture, and re-activation. Each of these three stages has its own purpose and objective.

Think critically about the ideal customer experience at each stage. Then, pivot to consider the full spectrum of possible interactions your customer has at each pitstop. This process will clarify exactly when and where marketing actions can resolve customer engagement obstacles.

Keep in mind that this three-step plan is built on the (incorrect) assumption that every customer will behave in a linear way. Sure, a significant proportion of your customers will probably venture through the lifecycle in the manner you anticipated. But what about those who don’t? This is where data continuity comes to play, allowing any “unexpected” actions to responsively align with the right stage of the lifecycle.

Before moving onto the third pillar, keep in mind that customers are under no requirements to follow your rules! But you do have to play by theirs. Meet customers on their terms, and ensure the customer experiences you are building support what they are looking for.

Workflow building

Now we can move onto the third pillar: workflow building. Artists need freedom and flexibility to create masterpieces, and marketers need the same when designing truly immersive campaign experiences.

For marketers, freedom means building workflows that guide customers down the right path based on real-time data feedback. There’s boundless potential for growth and experimentation once marketers are empowered to create workflows that are responsive, and unobstructed!

And with everything in personalisation, data is the secret weapon. This time, it enables flexibility – or dynamism – that enables the design of unique workflows. One particularly effective way to drive momentum throughout your lifecycle is to design workflows that automatically add or remove eligible people from certain campaigns or message queues because of their individual behaviours.

So, let’s say you have the freedom and flexibility. Now what?

Now you can ride off into the sunset and master workflow building! But always remember the  “Golden Rule” of workflow building: market to others in the same way you would want to be marketed to — keep the experience timely, relevant, and aligned with the customer’s specific needs. Now let’s ride to the next pillar, hyah!

Dynamic content

Congrats! You’ve reached the fourth and final pillar: dynamic content. Content is a visual representation of user, event, product, and service data.

Dynamic content creation is crucial for achieving sophisticated personalisation. But it’s not the only thing, as many factors come into play in assessing a marketer’s ability to deliver personalised experiences (keep that in mind).

Since our early years, we’ve been familiar with grading systems. Letters and numbers to assess our preparation, talent or effectiveness. Our system is no different: a marketers’ ability to transform their data input into personalised output (aka the level of personalised content sophistication) typically falls somewhere within one of these three levels:

Up first we reach reactive personalisation – by far the easiest to implement. This level utilises data such as customer attributes, event milestones (birthdays for example) or system events like cart abandonment.

Then we reach proactive personalisation, where marketers start to add in externally managed data. Applicable to far more targeted segments, level two brings together customer behaviours and third-party data, and is most akin to individually targeted messaging (eg recommending services based on location data).

Finally we arrive at individualisation. Level three is founded on building a picture of dynamic relationships between user attributes and detailed product data. It incorporates various profile, behavioural, lifecycle data points to create user-specific dynamic content experiences that are unique to each user.

Each level plays an important role in dynamic content creation, putting organisations on a path to start building out your messaging at scale. Indeed, dynamic content enables businesses to regularly connect multiple sources of data and consistently “wow” millions of customers with meaningful messages.

Four pillars of personalisation, one foundation to long-term success

Ad Age found that 80 per cent of consumers do business with companies offering personalised experiences. And this season, 83 per cent of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand they have an emotional connection to. Personalisation equals connection!

With these four pillars of personalisation fresh in mind, take time to think about your current process. Consider how you might strengthen each one to deliver more impactful, personalised experiences for your customers.