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Delivering digital personalization at scale is still a challenge for the enterprise

Marketing can be summed up in a simple phrase – meet your customers where they are. 

Is that an oversimplification of what marketing is and what marketers do? Absolutely. But it’s also a huge driving factor for every marketer, no matter your industry or job title. 

It’s no secret that today’s customers are on the go. And while we’ll leave the debate on who has a longer attention span – humans or goldfish – up to others, the brands that grab their audience’s attention and turn that attention into sales don’t just meet their buyers where they are. They meet them with personalized messages. 

The proof is in the pudding. Rakuten Rewards personalized their order recommendations and saw a 120% lift in conversions and a 25% reduction in their marketing spend. We see tons of stories like this… But how are they accomplishing such great results?

40% of marketers still say reaching audiences at the right time, on the right channel, is their top challenge. In our recent survey, more than 75% of consumers said they’ll simply unsubscribe or unfollow brands that send irrelevant messages. 

The bottom line? Digital personalization at scale is vital to keep customers coming back, but it’s hard. 

A Marketer’s Guide to Personalization

Lean into what you know, and use it for personalized product recommendations

Since the need for personalization is not breaking news to marketers – or customers – it’s important to start small where you can make the biggest impact. Lean on some of your most attainable uses of dynamic content based on data you can easily gather on your customers’ interests and behaviors. 

One of the most common ways to provide a genuinely personalized experience is through relevant product recommendations. For example, highlight the brands a customer often purchases, and feature various products in the colors or price ranges they tend to browse. 

Deliver your suggestions cohesively across channels whenever possible, too. By leveraging a good customer marketing platform, you can easily implement unified product recommendations and messaging for every customer across your website, in your mobile app, in emails, and beyond. Perhaps more importantly, you can also avoid committing the faux pas of recommending products they’ve already bought. (Nothing breaks a customer’s faith in your personalization game like sending a suggested product mere hours after they’ve purchased that exact item. 👀)

This type of cohesive, personalized experience helps you nurture the bond with individual customers – and can ultimately help to increase their total order value. 

You can also use browse abandonment and cart abandonment tactics in your cross-channel product recommendations. Email and SMS work especially well together for abandonment campaigns like this.

SMS is quick and has a massive open rate, with 97% of text messages read within 15 minutes of delivery. That gives you the best chance of getting back in front of an abandoned browser session or abandoned cart while your brand is still fresh on the customer’s mind. You might send a simple message emphasizing urgency: “We only have a few of X item left. Make it yours before they’re gone!” You can include an image of the product to entice them to click through and complete the purchase. Keep it straightforward and tight here – no extra recommendations. Look to strike quickly, and see if you can get them back immediately.

With email, you can bring in more personalization elements. You get a subject line, a hero image, body text, and multiple CTA points, along with images driving them to purchase. Track what works and refine over time, using what performs best for your brand. (Does including the price get better results?) Similarly, it’s easy to phase out what doesn’t perform when you’re testing personalization points. (A fourth recommendation got terrible click-throughs, but two did well.)

As it is, with all things personalization, but especially with product recommendations, timing is everything. Consumers are purchasing with you or browsing your site, so you’re top of mind for them right now. The sooner you can make a relevant recommendation, the better your chance of piquing their interest enough to convert. 

After all, two-thirds of consumers say brands that create a genuinely personalized experience are likely to get their business.  

Leveling up digital personalization at scale requires better segmentation

When improving cross-channel personalization, start by digging into your targeting – a deep understanding of the varying segments within your buyer personas is key. Look across your customer touch points to see if there are any clear successes, failures, or trends that you can identify. 

Once you find what a big group of your customers have in common – like a minimum number of interactions before converting, or an average amount of time spent interacting with your marketing messages before purchasing, or specific campaigns that have high engagement rates – you’ll be able to determine the channels to prioritize, the types of content or marketing messages that perform best for your business across each channel, and the segments that respond to them. 

But how does this look when you apply it to campaigns in the wild?

Let’s dig into a digital advertising example. Half the battle of running ads – be it on Facebook, Google Ads, your DSP, or elsewhere – lies in budgeting and bidding. Specifically, how do you optimize your budget and bids based on the ROI you’re likely to see? It’s something marketers grapple with daily, but the right data and segmentation can help.  

Let’s say you break up your customers based on predicted customer lifetime value (CLV). You can shift some of your budget to (and maximize your bid on) your group of highest-value customers, which will likely deliver a higher ROI. In platforms where you target keywords, like Google Ads, you can again approach your bidding based on CLV. For instance, you could target a more expensive keyword or a competitor’s keyword for your highest-value customers.

Next, you can boost your engagement and revenue by targeting based on category preference. Instead of targeting people who previously viewed a specific product with an abandoned cart campaign, you can identify customers with a high affinity toward a product based on behavioral data like co-view, co-purchase, and co-cart information. This algorithm type allows you to make strategic product recommendations – even if it’s an item they’ve never browsed before. Targeting customers based on their category preference can make a big difference when it comes to engagement and attributed revenue and has been known to increase performance in email, social, and display advertising.

Finally, use your data to target your audience in the right place at the right time. You can target each customer based on the channel(s) the individual engages with the most. Or you can flip it and exclude targeting them on channels they’re not likely to be receptive to your messaging. Let’s say your data shows a segment of your audience is more likely to unsubscribe from your SMS or email list. With this data, you can suppress them from channels they’re likely to unsubscribe from and target that group on other channels – like via mobile push. This simultaneously gives your customers a more personalized experience and improves opt-out rates. 

Chick-fil-A is a great real-world example of expert targeting tactics and digital personalization at scale in action. They needed to redesign their newsletter to a data-driven, modular template to deliver relevant, personalized messages to millions. They also wanted to better support their ever-growing Chick-fil-A One mobile app. Thanks to the ability to securely access all of their customer data, Chick-fil-A was able to power modular dynamic content that displays favorite items, reward balances, and local store promotions in real-time. These personalization efforts helped Chick-fil-A see a 5x increase in subscriptions for their app and a 20% lift in conversions.

Increased data security = more personalized marketing campaigns

With the right tech in your corner, the segmentation (and, therefore, personalization) possibilities are endless. For example, you can start leveraging data that’s too sensitive to store in a third-party platform. Say what?! The traditional SaaS marketing tools that make digital personalization at scale and data segmentation possible often elicit security concerns about uploading and storing sensitive customer data in a third-party marketing platform. It’s a common roadblock for marketers, but security and personalization don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Because of MessageGears’ unique architecture, you can create highly personalized messages based on sensitive customer data without uploading that data to an ESP or other martech tool. The dynamics of how you segment data change when the segmentation takes place behind your company’s secure firewall in the centralized database where it’s already housed.

You would probably never dream of sending data with your customer’s credit scores, purchase history, or medical records to an ESP or other martech platform. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t segment customers based on sensitive categories that already exist within your database. Then you can send only the necessary information (sans the sensitive data) to your SaaS platform for processing and delivery.

Sticking with our Chick-fil-A inspiration, this ability to personalize while protecting sensitive customer information was crucial for their team. They wanted to keep customer data secure from any third party – MessageGears included. Using MessageGears’ solution, Chick-fil-A can confidently collect and leverage data for an endless number of personalization points – all while assuring customers that they have one of the most secure data solutions in the industry. All data is encrypted, even from their marketing admins. But they’re still able to leverage those private data points for better targeting and an enhanced customer experience – all while greatly reducing the chances of a costly data breach.

Digital personalization at scale starts with good data

Customer data is the lifeblood of personalization. No marketer wants to be limited by a finite number of data points or be slowed down by syncing delays. It should never take days to craft an audience. By that time, the data – and your chance to reach your audience at the exact moment they’re thinking about you – are likely stale. 

Everything discussed in this article so far hinges on your customer data and the ability to access it easily and quickly. An essential step toward cross-channel personalization is creating a 360-degree overview of customers – a consolidated customer dataset. 

However, data silos between different tools often get in the way of achieving real-time cross-channel digital personalization at scale. From your ESP to your website analytics tool, each platform stores data in different formats and doesn’t communicate with others seamlessly. On top of that, having a unified datas et isn’t even enough in today’s market. You need both unified data and speed. If you can’t access your data as readily as you need it, you won’t be able to create true personalization at scale. And you’ll likely be relying on outdated customer information. 

Ultimately, a strategy will only take a personalization campaign so far. This is where software comes in. Enterprises need a customer engagement platform that delivers a holistic understanding of the customer’s behavior by assimilating data from various touch points. MessageGears, for example, empowers you to move quickly by connecting directly to your data source so you don’t have syncing delays or other operational issues. 

Shameless plug: MessageGears is designed for advanced personalization!

Imagine no longer having to request lists from IT and waiting hours – or days – for it to sync into your MAP or ESP. MessageGears can help you and your team unify your data, and provide easy and instant access to every personalization point you want to leverage in your campaigns. MessagGears empowers marketers with no-code access to real-time data so they can segment and personalize campaigns quickly without relying on other teams or technical resources.

We offer personalization testing capabilities where you can see thousands of live messaging samples and make sure they look the way you want across dynamic segments. You can see live views of the underlying data to confirm it’s structured correctly and that you’ve got appropriate default values in place. TLDR: personalized dynamic content is insanely easy and insanely accurate with MessageGears.  

Simply put, MessageGears gives marketers options that other martech tools don’t. With more empowerment and access to every customer insight your brand has collected, you’ll have more opportunities to personalize campaigns and drive ROI. 

Let us help you put all of these personalization tactics to work. Schedule a quick call with a customer engagement expert to dig into your brand’s personalization and customer experience needs.

About the Author

Koertni Adams

Koertni is a product-loving content marketer with extensive experience using and selling martech SaaS solutions. She’s built her career on creating compelling stories that convert, with a special knack for making complex things sound simple and fun. As the senior content leader at MessageGears, she loves everything related to data-driven, cross-channel marketing – and she’s a true email geek at heart.