The Perks & Perils Of Personalisation

Personalisation is “something that gives you a custom experience, rather than a one-size-fits-all experience”.

We’ll start with the technology that has enabled us to personalise marketing towards customers. From the digital side, this mainly comes from the evolution of different platforms, but for print there is now technology that allows you to fully personalise a mailing piece (whether it be images, name, slogan, etc.). This can massively enhance your offline marketing campaigns if the right data has been collected on the receiving customers. 

According to Luke, around 70% of retailers still do not use personalisation in marketing, which points to a huge missed opportunity for several brands. Businesses that do offer personalisation, through their marketing or otherwise, often stand out. We’ve cited the example of being able to get your name on a Marmite jar – this is not difficult for the brand to do but can have a lasting effect on a customer. This trend of being able to personalise your products has crossed into advertising now too, so when you go on Google, for instance, you expect the engine to know things about you and return relevant results. Marcus observes that “people are becoming more used to having an experience online which is about them”. This is shown by the fact that no two social media users have the same feeds, for example – people expect quick information which is relevant to them every time they log on. 

Netflix uses subtle personalisation on their menus which often goes under the radar. They do this by presenting users with different cover images for films and documentaries to make it more appealing to them. Their more obvious personalisation comes when recommending what to watch to their customers, so the whole Netflix experience is tailored towards the user, which seems to work well and has set the brand apart in quite a competitive field. Luke claims that the best kind of personalisation is the kind that you don’t necessarily notice, and Netflix seems to have nailed this aspect of their business.

A simple way to personalise is through ad copy or the imagery you see in ads. Dynamic remarketing (updating what products a user is seeing on digital platforms based on their previous engagement and activity) is an example of this. This can draw customers’ attention towards products which they have been tempted by before, and can aid your brand’s personalisation by tailoring your marketing towards users’ interests. Personal messages can also be incorporated into blanket campaigns. For example, a travel brand may link their packages to holidays that they know certain customers have enjoyed before, so they can deliver a personal message to each client whilst still adopting a mass campaign.

There’s so much exciting stuff you can do to personalise people’s experience. Of course, you can personalise your marketing experience (with ads, direct mail, email marketing, etc.) but it goes further than that, and shapes a large part of a customer’s experience with a brand.

However, personalisation does have its downsides. An example of this is with dynamic retargeting, where a product which you have already bought may be marketed to you through a method like Facebook ads. Although there is an effort to personalise, it is misguided and does not use customer data effectively. This issue has an easy fix, which is to have dynamic lists which allow customers to be excluded from certain ads once they’ve made a relevant purchase.

A large number of people have a negative perception of personalisation, believing that businesses are constantly listening to them and using their data maliciously. In spite of these assumptions, businesses are using data to give you a better experience, which, if done right, can only be a good thing. Don’t get so personalised that you ‘freak people out’ as Marcus puts it, and ensure that your personalisation isn’t overly invasive. Personalisation is more noticeable when it’s poorly done, so you should ideally only use data that customers would be happy for you to have on them when advertising.

Another potential peril of personalisation is that it is not easy to do well, and can be more expensive. Using Facebook as an example, the broader you go, the more you will have to spend, but engines like this may reward you with cheaper CPMs and CPCs for going ‘super broad’. You’re being rewarded for going broad here, as it will cost you cheaper per click. Targeting the audience (by age, gender, interests, etc.) that works for you based on previous data can be a good thing, although it may generate huge wastage and hence exploring other avenues may be worthwhile. Although considering all of the data from your campaigns across a range of channels from direct mail to digital will take more time and money, it is worth it.

An example of this is that our dad Mark, who also works for PK, got a piece of direct mail from Sky aimed at Manchester United or Liverpool fans (which invited him to join ‘his’ team on Sky). He was categorised as a member of this audience as a resident of southern England, but does not support either team. Although Sky had prospected here, their personalisation went wrong and at a larger scale, this can deter large numbers of customers from purchasing a product. Do not assume information about potential customers, instead analyse their data and exclude irrelevant customers.

Collecting the right data will allow you to understand your audience much better and will aid your personalisation. It is near impossible to personalise effectively without this data because there is no basis for your targeted campaign. Set up a functional customer data strategy and let it fuel any personalisation you do. For example, if Sky simply asked customers what team they support, their advertising to Mark could have been much better targeted towards him and may have caught his attention for the right reasons. 

Having as much information and insight on your audience as possible will allow you to nail your personalisation strategy and polish your marketing up to catch the customer’s eye.