Is personalisation the answer to enhanced customer experiences in the evolving digital landscape?


Digital marketing is becoming more challenging day-by-day. Advertisers are struggling to deliver effective marketing communications within digital environments. Some claim this is due to the increased attention deficit of the consumer, but this isn’t true. There is no research suggesting consumer attention has changed.

If you’re familiar with the concept of attention economy, it’s based on the fact that consumer attention has always been limited, but nonetheless people still pay attention – under the right conditions. One thing that has changed is consumer behaviour. Consumer use of social media has evolved dramatically; people are getting faster and usage is increasing. Consumers are now scrolling the height of the Burj Khalifa with their thumbs every single month, and it takes 0.25 seconds of exposure to recall mobile feed content at a statistically significant rate (Fors Marsh).

The demand for consumer attention is dramatically increasing due to increased competition. Consumers decide very quickly – in a matter of seconds – whether they accept or reject your message. There is a demand for instant impact? Meet the demand and sit above the clutter, but, if you fail, the opportunity has passed, and ad dollars are wasted.

The answer to how to evolve hasn’t been clear. The landscape is complex, dynamic and difficult to navigate. The moment advertisers begin to develop a solution, consumer behaviour and advertising environments change. There is a constant need for evolution and development.

‘Personalisation @ Scale’ is the buzzword on every agenda and is positioned as the solution to deliver greater effectiveness and match the evolution of consumer behaviour and complexity of digital advertising. McKinsey (2016) justifies placing personalisation in the spotlight, suggesting it can reduce acquisition costs by 30-50 per cent, increase revenue by 5-15 per cent and increase efficiency by 10-30 per cent.

The meaning of ‘personalisation’ appears to be self-explanatory, a relatively simple concept to understand for marketing professionals. But the harsh reality of its complexity and meaning quickly
come to the fore. Accenture (2018) defined ‘personalisation’ as delivering personalised ad experiences through the tailoring of messages or offers specific to consumer behaviours. Again, simple, right? But, don’t get ahead of yourself – there are key elements needed to successfully achieve Personalisation @ Scale.

Deep understanding of the consumer journey should be at the centre of all marketing decisions. Personalisation is no different. To understand and leverage consumer behaviours across the customer
journey is most important. Identifying key insights through journey understanding is the foundation of digital personalisation. If we take the smartphone category, understanding the average device tenure, consumer journey duration and the device type a consumer owns, advertisers can generate insights to power audience and messaging.

Turning insight into targetable audiences can be challenging. The use of data is vital. There are multiple types and sources of data available, but carefully selecting data sources based on the specific requirements is paramount. Using the smartphone example, advertisers often rely on third-party data.

Partners that are able to target by brand, model and age are best placed to deliver personalised communications. More sophisticated advertisers will primarily use first-party and add second- (eg partnerships) and third- (eg platform) party if necessary. They will collect the data via analytics, CRM
and DMP systems as well as offline sources (shops). This data is then organised using a bespoke system and de-duplicated to generate a consolidated, single customer view.

A smartphone advertiser would identify which customers are in-market for which device, as well as understanding the value of that customer. The data can be used directly within media or as a seed audience to model lookalike audiences, finding new users that are similar to the seed audience. This process enables true personalised marketing at scale. Aligning marketing teams, creative and media agencies is a key enabler for personalisation. These teams often work in silos, leading to a loss in effectiveness, such as irrelevant messaging and creative not suiting the ad environment. Collaboration at the briefing and ideation stages can inspire thoughts, bring personalisation ideas to life and ultimately lead to better outcomes such as increased ROI or reduced cost.

Personalisation is most effective when using a dynamic creative optimisation (DCO)partner. DCO is the automatic creation of ads using data inputs and creative templates. The DCO partner will ingest data points such as smartphone owned, device age, geolocation and language, and then generate hundreds of creative variants using a predefined creative template, delivering relevant variations to each audience (Criteo, 2018). DCO technology then optimises the creative based on data variables
and performance using artificial intelligence.

Personalisation @ Scale can help tackle evolving consumer behaviour and the changing ad environment. It is a savvy way of providing customer-centric solutions and as a result improves overall campaign performance. However, brands need to understand consumers’ behaviour, collect, organise and utilise data effectively, align internal teams and agencies, and carefully select a DCO partner
to automate the workflow. Jaguar Land Rover and Property Finder are recent examples of Personalisation @ Scale done well within social through their use of Smartly.io, but a lot of brands are still struggling to master the concept. Personalisation will be a big focus in 2020 for both brands and agencies, so watch this space.