How Well Does Personalization Work? Ask Those Who Are Doing It

Relaxed young executives having a meeting indoors. Multiracial group of people sitting in office lobby discussing business.

The benefits of personalization are becoming better-known all the time. More than 56% of the senior marketers polled in a June 2015 study from the CMO Council found that personalization brought higher response and engagement rates. Some 44% said personalization resulted in greater customer affinity and word-of-mouth; 43% said it brought more customer conversions.

So why, then, are a significant number of marketers still not pursuing true one-to-one personalization?

A study cited by eMarketer, and conducted by Demand Metric and Seismic, hints at some of the answers.

Three barriers – or so it seems – to personalization

The marketers in the study who did not personalize gave a variety of rationale for holding back. The most popular reasons were somewhat predictable:

  • 59% said that lack of technology was an impediment
  • An equal number said they didn’t have the time or resources to embark upon a personalization initiative
  • The next most-common explanation, at 53%, was that marketers lacked the data to personalize

“There’s no question that these reasons are real,” says the report. “They are also a fairly standard set of reasons cited for many things marketing is unable to do.”

And therein lies the key. When marketers are not sufficiently excited, informed or sold on the potential of a strategy, technology, time, and data become the impediments. After all, no marketing executive can do absolutely everything he or she would like, so it’s the priority items that get the technology, the time, and the access to data – and those priorities are often what moves the needle in the short-term rather than what builds long-term, profitable growth.

Moreover, the availability of two of these three factors — technology and data — has changed dramatically in just the past few years. Technology integrations used to routinely take months, and sometimes even years. But newer technologies make it much easier not just to collect, manage, and leverage data, but to integrate it across an organization’s ecosystem. These modern technologies make it much less challenging for a marketing exec to add expand his or her priority list — and to act on that new priority.

So while the stated reasons for not personalizing are technology, time, and data, what we really have is a lack of understanding about technology and data, and sometimes, a lack of understanding about what personalization can accomplish. Most marketers understand that personalization can result in higher customer engagement; what’s less understood is that engagement drives retention, which in turn brings more predictable revenues and better profitability.

The experts cast their votes

Obviously, it’s not enough for marketers to see stats showing that personalization has worked for other people. They’ve got to be bought into what it can do for their brands both in the near-term and over the long haul; They have to know that they can get other people on board, reap the benefits, and in the end, be really, really happy that they gave it a shot.

Part of the problem most likely has to do with the conflated definitions of personalization so often lobbed at marketers. In the same study, marketers were asked if they personalized based on segments of customers, customer personae, the stage a buyer appeared to be in, or by individual leads. Those who used the more granular types of personalization – by individual lead, in particular – were more likely to be pleased with their personalization efforts. Those who “personalized” based only on segment weren’t really personalizing – at least not on an individual level – at all, and not surprisingly, were not nearly as pleased with the results.

You can’t blame marketers for being lukewarm about personalization when, for so long, it’s been unclear exactly what the strategy is. And when a fair number believe they are personalizing their content, but aren’t doing so at anything approaching an individual level.

But this too, is changing. And it’s the people currently using personalization who understand it the best. In that, the study is unequivocal: Those who are personalizing are finding it worthwhile. Our opinion is that these are the marketers who are starting to recognize what possible with true, modern personalization techniques. As a result, they’re hungry for more.

Of those in the study who have been personalizing content, only 2% plan to decrease their use of personalization. 22% said they’ll hold steady; everyone else is going to dive in deeper.  Here’s how the report sums that up: “When over three-fourths of those firms that currently personalize content plan to increase their usage of it, it’s a strong validation of the efficacy of the approach.”

Ready to get started or improve your own personalization? Find out how brands like Country Outfitter and Business Insider  are increasing revenue and engagement with Sailthru-powered personalization and get in touch with us for a free personalization consultation.

Jason Grunberg, Director of Content Marketing and PR at Sailthru