Our latest report, Experiences Customers Want, makes for insightful reading when it comes to personalisation. When done well, the resulting engagement and return on investment is significant. But when it misses the mark, it can do real damage to brands.

We spoke to 1,000 consumers and 500 marketers and customer experience decision-makers across the UK, in a survey that aims to explore what customers really want and expose where brands are struggling to deliver. When it comes to personalisation customers are clear about what adds value and what doesn’t. Here’s a sneak peak at what they had to say but for the full story, download the report now

Turning data into insight

If not handled properly, efforts to personalise can alienate customers. The word ‘creepy’ is often used to describe the feeling of a business ‘following’ a customer around the web. And the fact that 33% of consumers said targeted ads are among their biggest frustrations confirms this is an active concern.

However, consumers do see the value of targeted ads – when they don’t jar with their experience. When relevant and contextualised, 42% see targeted ads as a valuable use of their personal data and 37% say they are more likely to buy a product if they have seen a relevant ad. There is obviously a fine balance to strike and using 3rd party data as a blunt instrument clearly grates, but relevant advertising, served up at the right moment can blend in and add to the experience.

The truth is that when personalisation really works, consumers shouldn’t realise it’s happening. This plays out in the data with 48% of consumers saying they want to feel valued as a customer - the true outcome of great personalisation – but only 16% believing that personal connections with brands are important. Clearly not all experiences that consumers perceive as personalised are delivering value.

Curated content

Our research has thrown up a clear mismatch between the aspiration of decision-makers to personalise experiences (76%) against their commitment to creating the content required to support successful personalisation. Just 14% of decision-makers surveyed said they are prioritising the creation of personalised content.

Personalised experiences are only possible with the right approach to content. And personalisation transforms the traditional approach to the content lifecycle. For many organisations, this represents a significant transformation to their operating model. You need to have teams dedicated to defining and evolving new journeys, supported by a battery of content that can be dynamically assembled and tested for effectiveness. Optimising these journeys is a continuous, end-to-end and iterative process that needs people dedicated to developing the content, supported by tooling and machine learning to test and apply the results at scale. And it’s these changes to ways of working that often present the biggest barriers for brands when it comes to serving up experiences that really resonate.

AI and machine-learning

Our report highlights the importance of well analysed 1st party data in the orchestration of personalised experiences. But the truth is that curation of personalised content happens more and more in real time. And to achieve this at scale, marketers and experience makers are turning to AI and machine-learning based decisioning as part of the process.

When asked about the priority elements in their digital experience strategy, 36% of decision-makers cited dynamic content, 32% included real time decisioning and 31% cited AI as part of the decision-making process. Investments in these elements will become more and more common place in the future but at what impact on those basic hygiene factors such as performance, particularly slow websites, that 37% of consumers highlighted as a top frustration.

Performance and architecture

The truth is that hyper-personalisation, which leverages AI and real-time data, has a significant impact on performance, if the underlying architecture is not set up to cope. With hyper-personalisation, the number of variants is potentially limitless and with the correct data layout, content architecture and a component inventory that is set up for machine learning, automated decisioning can assemble these in real time. All you need to do is define the rules.

However, without skilled engineering and architecture, every variant will need to be authored. Imagine the implications for page load speed when executing at scale. This is a real issue with over a fifth (21%) of consumers telling us that slow websites stop them interacting with a brand altogether.

Key learnings

Brands need to walk before they can run. Getting the fundamentals right at the outset is key to success with tailoring and personalising the customer experience later. The message is simple. Know why you want to create a personalised experience, ask what value it will deliver to the customer but also to the business. Know what data you need to collect to achieve this and don’t be tempted to measure everything just because you can. Set your operating model up for data curation. Making customers feel valued is all about relevance and context; the right content, in the right place, at the right time.

Download the report now for more on personalisation, performance, omnichannel, social media and, yes, apologies, the impact of COVID.

Photo by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash

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