Personalization: Expectations vs. Reality

5 min. Read

As a consumer, I love that I get recommended shows to watch on Netflix the moment I open my account. And 9 times out of 10, I would choose one of the first few options in the selection. Great. So Netflix sort of knows me, and can gather what I would like to watch next based on what I’ve watched before.

I’ve been given the Paradox of Choice. Less options making it easier for me to decide on what I’d like to watch. And the fact that I’ve chosen one of the shows in the first selection list means that they know me well enough to know what I’d like to watch. Similar to when a friend recommends a new TV series to you. If Netflix can do this, surely every other company can too? But when I put my Marketing hat on, I hate that companies like Netflix have set a precedent for this. They’ve set new standards for CX, and it’s surely made me rethink my career choices sometimes.

Personalization is not easy. Especially if you’re dealing with many, many, many customers. How do I make sure that you’re engaging all of them at an individual level, just like how Netflix does with me? 

Expectation #1: Personalization is a given. All companies should be able to know what I like, and what I don’t like so they can offer relevant products and services to me.

Customers expect companies to recognize and engage with them in real-time. That’s the level of Personalization that we expect as consumers in today’s world. 

Unfortunately, few marketers are able to act this quickly. In a study by CMO Council, only 1 out 10 Marketers say they can always deliver real-time, data-driven experiences across physical and digital touchpoints. And 5 out of 10 can deliver some of these experiences, but can only do so via marketing-owned channels (28%) or mainly digital channels (24%). 

The reality of it is not all Marketers can get their hands on that type of granular data of their customers. As a Marketer myself, I often find myself searching for answers to questions like 

‘What publications do my customers read?’ 

‘Things my (insert industry) customers might like’ 

But, if I already have that information accessible to me via an Insights dashboard for example, I can easily explore the data we have to find these answers within our own database. That way it’s representative of my actual customers and provides more accurate insights to help with my Marketing campaigns. Okay, so data is the answer

Expectation #2. The data in my CRM is accurate enough and I can use it to infer things about my customers

Science was my favourite subject in school. I enjoyed the whole process of collecting data, doing the analyses and writing up reports based on the evidence seen. But I wasn’t particularly good at it. 

For some reason my conclusions were always different to the rest of the class, because my evidence would show an opposite effect. And while I was busy arguing with my classmates that they were wrong and I was right, my biology teacher would stop us and ask us to compare our data and see if there were discrepancies. Yes, always. And why is that? Because my teacher would split us into different groups and ask us to collect different types of data. 

Aha, your conclusions are only as good as your data. 

Which means even if I have lots of information about my customers, there’s no good in it if it’s the wrong information to start with, or if it’s not enough to make the results conclusive. Okay, so second solve. Just make sure I’ve got all the information to see the full picture. Not so fast. The ability to gain a holistic view of your customer depends on the integration of data you have from different sources. According to a survey by Adobe, the top 3 ways marketers are adding value to their Personalization game is to include the use of CRM data, real-time data from analytics and integrating the analytics across different channels. Which means you’ll need to find a way to pull data out of different places, make sense of what it is, and then form a representation of it for people like me to be able to use it in our daily tasks. 

Expectation #3. As long as I have all my customer information in one place, I’ll be able to see the full picture and can plan my next campaign from there.

At the beginning of this blog, I wrote about how as a consumer I love that I get a narrowed down selection of shows to watch because that makes it easier for me to choose from. That same thought process still applies as a Marketer. 

Great that I have all this information in one place, but where do I start?!

It can be so overwhelming, that although you start of optimistic and all riled up to create the next innovative campaign; being a creature of habit, you end up sticking to what you know and your ‘Personalized’ campaign looks like this:

“Hi, (insert first name).
Check out our latest (insert new product or service) designed just for you.” 

That’s personalization right? Your name’s on the email! 

But getting all the information in one place is only one part of the solution, getting it into a more understandable and contextual manner, so that your Marketing teams with varied data literacy knowledge can act on it is the next one. I’d love to be able to first see a snapshot of my customers and then be able to explore that even further to find the nitty gritty details to plan my next Marketing campaign.

And there you have it, from one Marketer to another, my Expectations vs. Reality of Personalization.