Personalization is one of the biggest digital marketing trends brands are targeting today. According to a recent report from Litmus, a panel of 20 email marketing experts deemed increased personalization as one of the biggest trends to affect email between now and 2020.
Targeted messages aren’t going anywhere, and when considered in a vacuum, they make a lot of sense. No one wants to engage an email or a piece of content that speaks to them in general terms. Nowadays, an email that greets you as “Sir” or “Madam” is more likely to be treated as a Nigerian banking scam than a legitimate missive worth your time.
But as businesses of all sizes harness the ability to programmatically insert consumer names into emails, this little personal touch loses its impact. Now, almost every brand is sending personalized emails. It’s a common practice.
So how can it make any significant difference in standing out from the competition?
To be sure, personalization is still very important, if only to keep pace with the rest of the industry. But to truly champion personalization in your digital marketing strategy, brands must take extra steps to deliver a user experience that is genuinely tailored at the individual level.
That’s a challenge when it comes to email marketing practices. And it’s a whole different ballgame where content marketing is concerned.
Consumers aren’t stupid. They can quickly get a sense of how well a brand knows them according to the degree of personalization in any piece of content. That’s why companies should always be looking for the next step in creating a personal experience: That extra effort might be the difference between forging a valuable consumer connection versus the sense that you don’t know your audience as well as you pretend.
The foundation of this personalization is your customer data, which makes data acquisition an utmost priority. Brands will want to consider every channel where data can be gathered, and each opportunity should be carefully considered. It’s not about volume, either: The key is asking questions, and getting data-based answers that improve how well you can deliver a personalized experience.
For a sports equipment retailer, that means finding out what kind of activities customers are interested in, rather than simply sending content related to all sports categories. Certain content, including email, can place consumers into sub-categories where content is crafted individually for each channel. Customer personas can also help in building a profile of these groups.
Kissmetrics also advocates for behavior-based triggers that engage customers based on their interactions with a brand. Amazon frequently does this by sending out emails of recommended items that are related to recent shopping history for each customer. This personalization occurs automatically, but Kissmetrics notes that emails sent according to these triggers see a 152 percent higher open rate than other types of email marketing.
When it comes to targeting consumers, marketing efforts can never be too customized. That has major brands working hard to uncover new innovations.
Personalization is cutthroat among brands. There is enormous value in demonstrating to consumers that you know them and understand their needs better than anyone else.
Brands are beginning to look at emerging technologies as keys to new methods of customized experiences. Most agree that artificial intelligence will eventually blow the door open on personalization, becoming one of the leading digital marketing trends among major brands. As CMS Wire points out, AI solutions are acquiring the ability to respond to consumer emails in their entirety, largely replicating the work done by representatives working in the customer service department.
And this ability to communicate in a personalized way—and without slow response times—can even extend to the tone of the text. IBM’s Watson solution can reference personality profiles to match their communication style and tone with the type of person being addressed. It can differentiate, as an example, between a retiree and a Millennial, and provide the tone that each group would likely prefer.
Such a solution would be costly and complex to implement, but the value can’t be understated. While such solutions aren’t ready for mass distribution, they highlight the direction brands are going: Personalization knows no bounds.
Content doesn’t benefit from personalization in the same way as email, but a customized approach is still critical. In this case, personalization functions more as content specifically targeting consumer interests or needs, or very small groups of consumers. The content feels personal to consumers because it speaks so directly to a specific point of concern.
Content Marketing Institute highlights a handful of types of content that prove the effect of personalization, including answers to consumer questions, customer ratings, and product information, among others. All of these can be implemented to give consumers a strong sense that a brand understands what they want.
For B2B brands, content can also be hyperfocused on a small number of individuals. The payoff of just a few conversions or sales is incentive enough to create this content, even if its reach will be very limited.
Along with these personalized content strategies, marketers should also use marketing automation tools to keep a pulse on what is most interesting or relevant to consumers at the moment. Content should be built to respond to those interests, maximizing relevance and engagement. And don’t forget how the distribution of content, particularly through social media and paid search, affect the degree to which it is perceived as personalized. Ultimately, personalization for content is a matter of demonstrating how well you know your customers. When individuals continue to find your content and feel it speaks to their needs and interests, they’ll feel considered and appreciated.
When it comes to personalization, the only efforts that matter are the ones that go beyond what your competitors are offering to your consumer base. If you’re only matching your peers, custom content is just white noise.
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