Am I alone in thinking that, when I receive a “personalised” email from a brand – i.e. it greets me by name, it actually feels pretty impersonal?

To me, “Hi Joe” just means I handed over my personal details to someone and now my name is sitting on their database waiting to be used in marketing communications. But do they really know me? And will they be using my data for something that will be of benefit to me? I’m pretty sure the answer to both of those questions is no.

Personalisation in 2015 means more than calling your customer by their first name. I don’t know whether it’s laziness, or a lack of the right skills, but companies today know so much about their customers – so why aren’t they using the information they have to really tailor their messages and make them really useful to the individuals they’re talking to?

Personalisation has to be a key priority for marketers in 2015.

Why is it important?

When executed well, personalisation, has clear benefits for brands. For example, Barilliance recently did some research around personalised product recommendations. They not only found that up to 31% of website revenue could be attributed to personalised product recommendations, but also that the conversion rate among visitors who click on product recommendations is 5.5 times higher than the conversion rate of those who don’t.

Similarly, click-through rates on personalised “top sellers” recommendations are twice the CTR of equivalent, non-personalised recommendations.

But it’s not always easy to do it well. Personalisation is a tricky beast…

For customers, it can be a sensitive – and sometimes contradictory – issue. People are very aware that organisations collect data about them and, as a result, have come to expect brands to know their preferences and market to them accordingly. They want brands to be open and honest about what they know and to be helpful in return. They also want confidence that their data is secure.

Get the balance wrong between what you know about your customers and how you use what you know, and customers can be left feeling very suspicious. You can lose their trust, jeopardise business and even appear creepy if you start to use information inappropriately or that customers didn’t know you had.

Start by being crystal clear about why you are collecting an individual’s data and about what you intend to use it for. Amazon’s “why recommended” lets customers know the rules that are in place as well as what triggered the recommendation.

In Deloitte’s recent Data Nation report, 81% of customers surveyed believed organisations should give them more information up front about how their data will be used; and 85% said companies should notify them which other organisations their data has been shared with. The report also highlights the security issue, with 76% of customers saying they would leave a brand if they thought their data wasn’t secure.

Get the balance right and rewards are there to be reaped.

Research from Teradata and Celebrus found that 57% of customers are happy to share personal information with brands they trust. And almost two thirds (63%) are happy to receive personalised offers. Furthermore, 57% of customers are willing to share very specific information (dress size, holiday location etc) if they feel it will be used to enhance their experience of the brand.

True personalisation is about really knowing your customers and using what you know to mutual advantage. As marketers we know that a customer’s purchase history, behaviours and preferences can steer us towards offering more, similar products and services – and that’s absolutely what we should do. But…

Imagine the power of being able to offer a host of tailored benefits as well – from discounts and offers, to useful information right when they need it. We’re able to collect more data about our customers now than ever before – but we’ve got to make them want to give it to us and once we’ve got it, we need to use it for their benefit, not just our own. When you know people’s motivations, tendencies and pain points you can really start to personalise what you offer them. And when you start to offer them something relevant that makes their lives easier or better, that’s when the rewards come back to your business.

Joe’s personal personalisation tips

  • make sure your data is fit for purpose – that it’s up to date, secure and compliant with best practice and legislation
  • be open and honest with customers about how their data will be used
  • be clear and confident about the benefits they’ll get in return
  • think carefully about how you can truly add value through personalisation. Reward your customers, or make their lives easier. There’s far more to personalisation than being on first name terms
  • Don’t get creepy. Aim for personalised – not too personal

A footnote on using your customer’s name

Speaking of first names, I was interested to read some analysis by MailChimp of over 24 billion emails (yes – billion). They found that, while using first names in email subject lines had some success, there was an even bigger impact when both first and last names were used. Worth a thought…

Source: MOI