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Has data-driven marketing personalisation lost its way? 

Some organisations are being lazy in their approach by relying on data alone. Jil Maassen, Lead Strategy Consultant at Optimizely, looks at how businesses can re-introduce old fashioned creativity in their approach, and why customer insight isn’t just driven by technology and data, but real experiences.

“Customer-centricity” has become a board level concern for businesses. This was highlighted in Optimizely’s 2019 Digital Experience Economy Report, which found that 82% of decision making executives in the UK talk about having a customer-first focus.

As a marketer’s way of addressing this trend, data-driven personalisation has risen. By embedding every decision in data, marketers are able to target customers like never before. Users now get more relevant experiences and recommendations for them, and marketers have an unprecedented amount of insight at their fingertips. In the same way teleshopping revolutionised retail in the 1980s, social media users are now being served up tailored product recommendations in the comfort of their home.

However, as with most things in this day and age, users have become desensitised to this — and brands are at risk of fading into the noise.

Don’t become the needle in the haystack

It is impossible to stand out amongst a sea of competitors if you aren’t doing anything new. Ultimately, businesses who are vying for the same audience’s attention have near-identical data at their fingertips, and slightly modifying your approach based on the same insight is no longer enough. Customers can see through the pseudo-personalised banner ads, based on recent search history, so businesses need to evolve to stay ahead of the game.

Currently, the only prevalent approach to personalised advertising is: “you clicked on this previously, so now we think you might like this similar product”. Yet, there is so much more potential for meta-analysis of our behaviours and predictions for what we may be looking for next. 

For example, imagine that I have been searching for swimwear on ASOS, and looked at sandals on Zalando. From this, advertisers should know I am summer-ready. They could then target me with ads for beach holiday destinations or taxi services to and from the airports, rather than showing me another shade of the shorts I’ve already bought.

Whilst data is becoming the centre of all decision-making for businesses, we still have not reached the point where these companies use customer data effectively. For example, if a media company has up to 30 different ads on a single article, the first indicator of success is how many clicks it has, or how much revenue it has generated.

This is just the start of what businesses can learn. Understanding which ad works in which area of the site, and how users navigate and behave on the page, should be the next step to better understand how advertising could target the user. This ultimately relies on the marketing team having the autonomy to try different tactics, assess the results, and scale up or down accordingly.

Go out on a limb, that is where the fruit is

Risk-taking is essential to creative marketing. After all, challenging the way things have always been done, brings as much potential failure, as it does reward. But this is the only way to unlock innovation. There is currently a negative attitude towards failure within corporate structures, which is stifling marketing’s ability to innovate.

Our report revealed a quarter (25%) of UK business decision makers have a culture where failure is not an option. This is a problem businesses must address as they look to foster creativity in their approach. It isn’t just an issue that sits in the marketing team. Businesses can benefit from giving everyone in the business autonomy to have an impact on customer facing touchpoints.

Insights and ideas from customer-facing staff are an untapped resource senior executives rarely use effectively. These workers are at the forefront of what makes the company tick and are an invaluable resource when it comes to understanding the customer. They understand when something is wrong and often how to fix it.

While customer-facing staff are occasionally given a mouthpiece, it is rare for their insight to turn into action. This is not from a lack of intent from individuals involved, it is purely a symptom of a wider cultural issue. Businesses need to address their attitude to failure if they are going to unlock the creativity sitting within their very walls. Ultimately, to take personalisation to the next level, a combination of data, real customer insight and good old fashioned common sense is key. This is how we win at reaching the customer.

By Jil Maassen
Lead Strategy Consultant

This content was originally published here.


Find out more about how data-driven marketing fits into our lead generation service here 


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