Last week, we hosted a virtual event on a topic essential to enhancing the customer journey across channels and ensuring brands provide relevant and unique experiences to shoppers in an increasingly digital landscape: personalization.
Our panel shared insights into how brands can deliver value to customers through enhanced personalization and strategies for sharing seamless experiences. Emily Keith, VP of Regional Sales, East, AdTheorent moderated the panel, joined by Kelsey Chickering, SVP Comms Planning, Havas Media, and Melissa Bermudez, VP Strategy, Walden Local.
Here’s a look at the key takeaways from the panel:
Give consumers something relevant to them in the moment
Consumers are savvier than ever before. They are scrolling on their phone while watching tv and served ads while driving. It is critical the messages they receive are relevant to them in the moment to improve awareness and acquisition. It is about having the right content in the right context to capture consumers’ attention and connect with them when they have the mindset to take action. Even if you target the right individual, you want to make sure it is at the correct time and with the proper message. From an upper funnel perspective, it is about being contextual. How does the brand message fit in with the show they are watching or the messages they are consuming?
At the same time, it is important that when a consumer acts, you can provide what you are advertising. Brands, especially in light of today’s supply chain challenges, need to be aware of inventory and shipping timelines, monitoring their ads accordingly to ensure they are pushing readily available products.
Being relevant versus exact: avoiding making personalization too intrusive
Personalization can cross a line when it seems too intrusive, and when data is used to a fault. While it’s true that we invite technology into our lives, and even our homes (e.g., Alexa), going from relevant to exact can make a big difference in consumers feeling that they have privacy. Kelsey provided a great example of when personalization went too far. She was teaching her child the sounds animals make and shortly thereafter, Alexa said, “you can ask me a question, like what sound a cow makes.” Providing information on things someone looks up is one thing, but even with that, it can be helpful to delay an ad in direct response to a search by a few days as not to seem overly intrusive.
The shift to first-party data: how marketers are getting more creative
One way to combat going too far with personalization is for brands to rely on the data consumers give them (i.e., first-party data). For example, if a pizza shop knows someone likes pepperoni and orders for large parties can, then they can use the previous order history to ensure they hit the consumer with relevant offers. This allows them to continue growing the relationship with the consumer or encouraging more frequent orders. At the same time, they can avoid sending offers for pepperoni pizza to a vegetarian, which could lead that consumer to feel the brand doesn’t have a handle on their preferences. While relying on first-party data may leave opportunities on the table, there are trade-offs. Today, consumers better understand their rights and how their data is shared. With recent Apple iOS updates, consumers can decide which apps they want to share data with and if they want apps tracking them across the internet. Fewer users are allowing this type of tracking, which impacts data collection. In many ways, it is good these restrictions are happening, Kelsey said, as it “forces us to look at how we were doing things and how can we be more impactful than they were before.” Marketers can contextualize ads to make them more relevant, versus tracking everyone and making things seamless.
You can’t boil the ocean: building customer journeys based on an understanding of your customers
As the saying goes, “you can’t boil the ocean” or you can’t take advantage of everything out there. As Kelsey points out, it is important to “look inward first and study your customer base, who they are and what motivates them, who should your growth audiences be? Start with the end goal and understand the customer base.” You not only want to know who your customers are, but what motivates them, who influences them, what are the areas of highs/lows, and their psychological influences. From there, you can work to build impactful customer journeys.
“Look inward first and study your customer base, who they are and what motivates them, who should your growth audiences be?”
– Kelsey Chickering, SVP Comms Planning, Havas Media
The tools in the toolbox: the technology that can help achieve personalization at scale
Machine learning can certainly help with personalization. Dynamic Content Optimization (DCO) tools can match ads based on data we know about an individual. An example of this would be for a travel brand to use DCO to serve location-based ads determined by the locations a consumer is searching for flights to, which in turn helps bookings success and lower funnel KPIs. From there, Flash Talking is a tool that can deliver the personalized ads. IBM Watson can also be leveraged to look at themes along the consumer journey and combine the tech side with responses for an understanding of the consumer mindset along the journey.
Even with the best-laid plans, frequency capping should be used to ensure that if a consumer is no longer in the market for a flight, a new car, or another one-time purchase, ad spend is not being wasted and irrelevant ads are not continuing to be served to them.
The role of social media in the personalization journey
For more resource-constrained brands that may not have a robust set of machine learning and other tools, it can be common to rely almost exclusively on social media because personalization can be achieved on a more limited basis at a lower cost. However, Kelsey reminded us that the recent Facebook and Instagram outages having such a big impact on small brands is a reminder of the importance of diversifying channels. And, when exploring a new channel like TikTok, for example, it is important to show up in a way that feels inviting. Understand the subcultures of the channels and where your target demographic hangs out on those channels.
Melissa reminded us that the human touch goes a long way as well and while it takes time, it is quite cost-effective. Brands don’t always have to spend money to create personalized and meaningful customer experiences. A handwritten note with a purchase can go a long way!
In conclusion, every brand needs to ensure they have a measurement system in place to know what is and is not successful. It is critical to have a key measure of success, whether that be retention, new customer acquisition, or something else. Best wishes for your personalization journeys!