THE CURE FOR PERSONALIZATION PARALYSIS
Bridgetree’s Four-Step Framework for Effective Personalization
Personalization in marketing is a generally understood concept, but a capability that is rarely mastered. Why do marketers struggle to deliver effective personalization? Challenges related to data, technology, and expertise are common scapegoats. Bridgetree contends that the root causes of suboptimal personalization are actually gaps in (1) a proper understanding of what personalization means and (2) a scalable approach to implement and measure the efficacy of personalization efforts.
Bridgetree believes that effective personalization is not only possible, but an imperative. In this publication, we make the case for personalization, define the role of personalization within consumer marketing, and prescribe a CURE for personalization paralysis.
THE CASE FOR PERSONALIZATION
Personalization continues to be a focus for consumer marketers across industries. It may seem obvious, but consumers increasingly expect a personalized experience from brands. Approximately 90% of customers expect organizations to know their interests and anticipate their needs, according to the Harvard Business Review. Consumers also notice poor personalization.
Approximately 41% of consumers leave a brand due to poor personalization, based on a study by Accenture.
It may also seem obvious that marketers would want to deliver a personalized experience. An estimated $800 BN will shift to companies that get personalization right, and those organizations will outsell their competitors by an average of 30%, according to a Boston Consulting Group study. It just makes sense for marketers to prioritize and invest in personalization initiatives and capabilities. And yet, consumer marketers struggle to master personalization. McKinsey points out that less than 20% of marketers are able to deliver effective personalization. Furthermore, a BCG-Google study ranked exactly zero companies in their top tier of personalization maturity.
So, to restate the question: Why do marketers struggle?
The most often cited causes include inadequate data quality and infrastructure, ineffective technology, and organizational challenges such as silos or lack of expertise. These are typical and valid explanations.
Bridgetree believes that these challenges can be solved and that the primary challenge preventing marketers from delivering effective personalization is an ambiguous understanding of what personalization means. Furthermore, any notional definition of personalization is not consistently agreed upon across organizations. This ambiguity causes organizational paralysis as marketers chase a general concept instead of a specific tactic or measurable outcome.
To prescribe a cure for personalization paralysis,
we must first define what personalization means.
What exactly is personalization? Ask any consumer marketer this question and their response will sound something like “delivering a relevant message or offer to the right person at the right time via the right channel.” This would actually be a pretty good definition of personalization. However, this definition sounds confusingly similar to the overall objective of consumer marketing. So, is personalization actually the goal of consumer marketing? Not exactly.
Bridgetree defines the goal of consumer marketing here: to profitably grow sales through the acquisition, development, and retention of customers by delivering relevant messages at the right time across appropriate channels, producing an engaging brand experience that exceeds expectations. The goal, in our definition, is to produce profitable sales growth. Logically, the more relevant and more timely the marketing, the more likely the marketer will be to realize this goal. Does this mean that consumer marketing must be personalized? The answer depends on the definition of personalization.
Boston Consulting Group defines personalization as “continually tailoring the shopping experience to individual customers by using a combination of first-party customer data and third-party customer data.” In BCG’s definition, personalization is actually a process. They also state that the customization should be data driven. We agree that personalization is both a process and should be data driven. The BCG definition, however, stops short of defining the purpose of personalization. Without defining the purpose of personalization, it becomes difficult to measure the efficacy of personalization.
- Bridgetree defines personalization as the process of procuring and delivering customized content that drives improved engagement and action.
In our definition, we establish that personalization is a tactic for more effective consumer marketing and that its purpose is to drive either improved engagement or a specific action. By including a desired outcome, we can easily measure the efficacy of personalization efforts.
Establishing a proper definition of personalization will help marketers establish where personalization fits within their overall marketing strategy. Some marketers, despite a proper definition, may still feel paralyzed due to the seemingly overwhelming amount of options and decisions to make. To help marketers frame effective personalization, Bridgetree developed the CURE for personalization.
BRIDGETREE’S CURE FRAMEWORK
We illustrate this framework as a diamond, deconstructed into four critical success factors (“CSF”). Marketers should CONNECT + UTILIZE each CSF as a core element of their personalized engagement. The diamond shape REINFORCES how narrow or wide the range of options are within each CSF. The top of the diamond EXTENDS the initial connection that the consumer has with the brand, and the bottom of the diamond represents the marketer’s desired outcome.
CONNECT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AS THEY IDENTIFY THEMSELVES WITH YOUR BRAND
The top of the CURE diamond represents the 1st CSF: connecting with your customers as they identify themselves with your brand. The objective is to acknowledge + communicate to the individual using the same words that they would use to introduce themselves to the brand. For many companies, this will simply be the customer’s preferred name, such as Joe or Sally. For other companies, this could mean username, social media handle, an image, or an audio prompt.
This connection should be the easiest CSF for a marketer to define, but it can also be the aspect of personalization that carries the most risk. Using an incorrect name, a vulgar name, or an email address as a salutation is a guaranteed way to lose that person’s attention, and possibly their loyalty.
Many publications will dismiss this CSF because it is relatively easy to implement and carries little measurable lift during A/B testing. We agree that this element is both easy to implement and has minimal impact on conversion alone. However, we firmly believe that it is a critical building block for personalization. An individualized greeting is the first psychological connection that a recipient has during communication. Consider, for example, a time when you walked into a restaurant and someone greeted you by your first name. That connection alone probably did not cause you to knowingly spend more on dinner, but it may have put you in a better mood which led to a more enjoyable dinner and ultimately led to a dessert, more generous tip, or a quick return trip.
Connecting with the customer in the same terms that they identify themselves with your brand begins the customer journey. The other elements of personalization help improve conversion rates.
- How to Test: Determine the most common identifier for your customer base. For most companies this will be the consumer’s first name. Ensure that your data is usable and include this element in all personalized communication.
UTILIZE A REFERENCE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS TO CONTINUE A PAST CONNECTION WITH YOUR BRAND
For a retailer, a reference may mean displaying an image of a recently searched or purchased product. For a financial services company, this may mean displaying their most recent financial transaction or YTD portfolio performance when the customer logs onto their account. The purpose of this CSF is to deepen the psychological connection between brand and consumer by reminding them of something recent or relevant.
When deciding on the proper references, marketers may feel overwhelmed by the possibilities. For a retailer, should they present an image of the last purchased item? What if the customer’s last order had multiple items? What if the item was returned? What about products that the customer frequently purchases? These questions can stagnate decision making and create paralysis.
To avoid this potential paralytic pitfall, consider your business and make decisions that are easy to implement.
For example, if your business drives high traffic rates, such as a grocer, then it makes sense to reference an item most frequently purchased. If your business is more of a trip destination, then it makes sense to reference the customer’s most recent interaction.
The goal here is not to be overly surgical with defining exactly what to reference. The reference point serves to further engage the consumer. With the first CSF, the marketer establishes a personal connection with the consumer. Here, the marketer deepens the psychological connection with the brand through a simple reference. At this point, the consumer should be engaged. The next CSF will further prime this engagement.
- How to Test: Establish simple business rules to determine the reference based on the behavior of your overall customer base. This will most often result in a recent, frequent or valuable interaction (or traditional RFM scoring). Over time, analyze permutations for any subtle incremental gains and introduce machine learning algorithms once the operational deployment of personalization is proficient.
REINFORCE VALUE TO PRIME THE CONSUMER FOR ACTION
Before detailing how to properly reinforce value, we must first define what we mean by “value”. Bridgetree defines value as an intrinsically calculated equation of perceived benefits divided by known costs (we will avoid a deep analysis of proper value proposition construction in this publication). For personalization, the simple takeaway is that benefits and costs are the levers that marketers have to dial up or down value.
There are two key tactics of value reinforcement. The first tactic focuses on reinforcing the value that the consumer has already realized. For a retailer, this may be as simple as restating the customer’s realized savings from a previous purchase. For a hotel chain, this could mean restating the reward points earned or dollars saved by booking online by a certain date. For a non-profit, this could mean sharing the impact of their donor’s contribution. The options may seem endless. The point, however, is to focus on identifying perceived benefits that the consumer has realized and to reinforce them by re-presenting them to the consumer.
The second tactic focuses on presenting attainable value that the consumer has yet to realize. This tactic can be challenging without the right approach. Bridgetree recommends two best practices. The first approach presents the attainable value that others are realizing (at the point of engagement). For example, an airline might promote how many customers are taking advantage of a special web rate for a flight from Charlotte to Phoenix. Psychologically, the crowd effect helps amplify the perceived benefits available to the consumer. The second approach stresses exclusivity or scarcity of attainable value. For the aforementioned airline, the promotion may indicate how many seats are remaining or how much time is remaining on the special offer.
How to Test: Document your brand’s value levers. Determine which of these levers can be easily communicated to reinforce a consumer’s previously realized value. Then, layer examples of value that the consumer has yet to realize. Since options are numerous, start simple & focus on operationalizing each tactic. Over time, more creative & complex examples of value reinforcement.
EXTEND A FRICTIONLESS CALL-TO-ACTION
If the first three CSFs are implemented well, then the consumer should be primed and ready for action. The only remaining step is to complete the intent: to drive a desired action. In practice, this should be relatively easy to execute, after all, most marketing is designed to drive a desired action.
Bridgetree recommends a few best practices for this CSF. First, ensure that the CTA is clear and concise. Packing too much into the CTA can confuse the consumer and lead to suboptimal results. Second, ensure that the CTA is simple. If, for example, the CTA is to buy a specific product, then the consumer should be able to easily click on a hyperlink that redirects her to the advertised product page on the ecommerce site. Third, ensure that the desired action is measurable.
How to Test: Design the user experience to be clear, simple, and measurable. Creative, content, and other aspects can be versioned to test the impact of various decisions. Be sure to conduct voice of customer feedback to improve the overall experience. Over time, analyze permutations for any subtle incremental gains.
CURING PERSONALIZATION PARALYSIS AT YOUR ORGANIZATION
Effective personalization can deliver incredible brand relevance and sales incrementality. Whether your marketing organization is just beginning to invest in personalization or struggling to generate a profitable return from prior investments, Bridgetree can help. The journey towards effective personalization at scale starts by defining what personalization means to your organization and more importantly what measurable outcome you want to achieve.
Applying Bridgetree’s CURE framework will quickly provide structure to test plans, influence customer experience roadmaps, and increase customer value.
Bridgetree enables impactful and profitable consumer marketing at scale through proven data, insights, technology and campaign solutions. We help our clients establish robust data infrastructures, harness analytics to identify new opportunities, and engage with new and existing customers across any channel. We are outcome-oriented, we emphasize speed and value, we test before we scale, we measure everything, and we take pride in working on our clients’ terms. Most importantly, we deliver results.
LIFT is Bridgetree’s revolutionary consumer marketing platform. Powered by Bridgetree expertise and enabled by technology, LIFT helps clients achieve profitable sales growth by delivering personalized marketing in real-time. To speak with an expert, please email LIFT@bridgetree.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Wesley is the Director of Sales and Partnerships at Bridgetree. He works with top global companies to design, implement, and deliver effective, end-to-end consumer marketing programs. His sector expertise includes retail, consumer packaged goods, financial services, technology, and services. To contact Jordan, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.