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Latest Issue: Nov/Dec 17

What is true personalisation?

Despite the growing uptake of targeted and personalised marketing, half of UK consumers believe the marketing they receive is irrelevant to them. This not only pushes potential customers away, it is a waste of marketing budgets and can ultimately negatively impact brand image.

Personalisation is the latest buzz word thrown around by many retailers – it’s hailed as a silver bullet for the problems facing digital media today. It can deliver measurable rather than attributed performance and overcome issues with attribution models that preference high volume, low-quality media buying - an issue that’s also driving adblocking.

However, few businesses can deliver true one-to-one personalisation at scale. This is why retailers often make the mistake of calling anything even remotely targeted or customised ‘personalisation.’

With all this in mind, what is true personalisation?

If you and I visited the same product page on a website and received non-personalised media from the same brand we would both see the same creative ads in the same order and at the same frequency. Truly personalised media, on the other hand, would show us a completely different set of creatives, in a completely different order and frequency. The media may not even reference the product, depending on our individual media habits, engagement and interactions with the brand (both off and online).

True one-to-one marketing is impossible without the alignment of the following three key tactics, but once these are present, it is possible to deliver measurable incremental growth to the top-line of retail businesses.

1. Understand and speak to consumers as individuals, not as cookies, devices or segments.

Recognition is the all-important first step in being able to deliver person-first media. This is the ability to identify an individual and all the devices assigned to that individual. It requires multiple inputs that may leverage, but are not limited to cookies.

Accurate person-first media requires a vendor to have access to deterministic data. In order of relevance, deterministic joins include: second-party email, publisher login data, consumer login and data on commerce such as credit cards.

The closer to a real person, the better the join. An email address generated by a competition is not as accurate as a join matched from a customer’s credit card, where, for example, a user may have many low-use email addresses but only one credit card.

2. Have real ongoing conversations with consumers – the dialogue should be proactive and persistent over time.

Data persistence is rarely raised by vendors of personalised marketing opportunities in discussions about the market, but it is absolutely vital to have an ongoing dialogue with a customer. Personalisation can’t occur if a brand can remember only the past 30 days of a conversation, or if a brand can recognise only the consumer on one of their devices. The alternative is a peculiar stop-start. Imagine you keep greeting old friends during the day and forget them completely 30 days later.

This is why retailers need to leverage their own customer data to have a chance of creating personalised experiences, but few have enough data to make personalisation worthwhile. Vendors must show what a customer is doing when they are not engaged with a retailer’s website or can enrich their customer-based insights with deterministic data of their own.

3. Measure the success of a personalised media campaign against incremental return over time.

Up until now, digital media’s dependence on the cookie has led to prioritising direct response (DR) retargeted messaging, focusing on the last click or linear attribution models. But this results in high volumes of low quality, product-led DR creative being pushed out, delivered in short windows to maximise attributed return when a customer makes a purchase. There is widespread discussion as to whether this leads to a negative brand effect for the advertiser and the growth of adblocking.

In this instance, attribution is not equal to understanding the value being created, as that can be built up over many months - I am unaware of any attribution model that is capable of also deduping existing brand value. Attributed conversions within a window are irrelevant to the lifetime brand engagement of a customer or prospect.

Truly personalised media needs to be tracked through AB testing and incremental measurement over time – which can only happen if profiles are persistent over time to keep control groups clean.

This model of measurement will give an exact figure for incremental return on investment over time. Once measurement is focused on incremental return; frequency of advertising can be controlled at the level of the individual, and a creative mix, including brand, loyalty and DR can be delivered. This will improve the customer experience of engaging with a brand.

The net result of proper personalisation is better brand engagement, happier consumers and a greater return for retailers over time. True personalisation has the potential to put an end to the days of irrelevant marketing.

By Elliott Clayton, VP of Media UK, Conversant