‘Dear First Name’ is not good enough

The path to meaningful personalisation is littered with unopened emails, writes Veronika Birnkammer.

The CMO Council recently released the findings of its ‘Predicting Routes to Revenue’ report proving that marketers have yet to master the art of personalisation. Only 5% of marketers surveyed said they had “mastered the ability to adapt and predict the customer journey and what actions will derive maximum value.”

So, as marketers, why are we still approaching personalisation like its 2006? Just the other day I received an email titled, ‘Special offer for Birnkammer’. I don’t know what it was as I deleted the email instantly, as most people would when receiving an email with a wrong name or a last name instead of a first name. Why is this still happening when there is enough customer data available to create a unique experience for each and every customer?

Incorrect personalisation hurts the customer relationship more than no personalisation at all. Expansive testing has shown that just mistyping a name in an email or direct message has such a negative impact on engagement that you may as well not have added a name. Below are a few of my tips to help marketers overcome the challenge of meaningful personalisation.  

 

Gain a single view of the customer

As a marketer, if you only have access to data generated by customer’s interaction with various campaigns (or lack of interaction) it’s impossible to have a 360 view of the customer, in his or her life context. The industry needs to move from marketing based on what customers have done to meeting them where they are about to go next.

For example, a customer is potentially interested in buying a new dishwasher. They clicked on an email promotion you sent and visited social media forums to compare machines. However, what you don’t know is that they have already purchased a dishwasher online from your own web store. Data from your commerce platform has already informed the company you work for but it hasn’t been shared with your department – it’s stuck behind an organisational silo. So your poor marketing team continues to promote the dishwasher to a customer who doesn’t need one anymore, wasting money and resources and worse, annoying the customer by sending them irrelevant communication.

Today forward thinking companies are investing in integrated toolkits spanning marketing, commerce, service and sales to create seamless experiences across all channels. Customers don’t want to be managed, they want to engage with your business whenever and however they please.

 

CMOs need to own the customer data

The role of the CMO in the future will be a more technically savvy one if they are to leverage a full 360 degree view of the customer for business success. If marketing is to own the customer experience it’s critical they understand and work with all customer data available. Ultimately, the sensitivity of this data means the responsibility is with the CEO and the CIO still needs to ensure security, but when it comes to analysing the rich insights and developing effective customer campaigns, marketers must take centre stage.

 

Put the customer at the centre of the marketing journey

To achieve ongoing relevant, contextual and personal customer engagements, marketers need to reengineer everything they have traditionally learnt. They have to put the customer at the start, middle and end of the marketing journey.

We’re used to designing engagement models where we backwards engineer the customer and the context. We start with a product release, event or campaign and we think about the customer at the end of that activity funnel. But, the customer doesn’t care about our business agenda, our processes, our budgetary and other limitations and they don’t necessarily care about what product we want to promote (unless we’re Apple), they have their personal agenda, budget, need and preferences. In order to be successful our marketing campaigns must adjust flexibly in real time based on insights about the customers’ behaviour, intent and current circumstance

The ultimate goal for our industry is therefore to completely abandon the idea of a ‘campaign’ or a ‘marketing program’ and work only with content, offers, ideas and products that are personalised to an audience of one. In the future (and I hope it’s not so far away) marketers will set up automated technology campaigns that are intuitive, so if the customer does X it will automatically do Y.

 

Beware the creepy factor  

Finally, with personalisation it’s important that the customer doesn’t perceive it as creepy. This comes down to how you collect your personal data at the outset. Always make it clear what you are collecting and why – don’t hide opt-ins and unsubscribes in the tiniest print somewhere at the bottom of a registration form or email. If this means capturing a little less data than before, so be it. But do use the data you have intelligently.

Am I walking the talk here? Of course not. What I am describing here is an ideal case scenario. Those don’t happen too often in business. However, working at SAP Hybris, I’m fortunate to have access to some of the best marketing tools available which allow me to move significantly closer to the ultimate goal of creating truly contextual, personalised marketing. Done right, personalisation increases sales and boosts customer loyalty. As fellow marketers, I’d encourage you to start moving towards greater personalisation today; no matter how far you’ve got to go.

 

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Veronika Birnkammer is marketing director ANZ, SAP Hybris.