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Michael BrondelloWe are excited to feature this guest post by Michael Brondello, from the Partnerships team at Lytics. Based in Portland, Oregon, Lytics is a data hub that allows marketers to create and share segments across all marketing tools.

Making a personal connection with the consumer is what marketing is all about. We dream about campaigns that land the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

The key to truly personalized campaigns — the thing that makes this kind of one-to-one marketing possible — is data. These days, marketers are in good shape. They’re learning more about visitors and collecting vastly more data on visitor behavior than ever before. But if you ask the visitors who are presumably receiving the personalized campaigns, they say brands are falling short of this ideal.

According to a survey that Lytics conducted of over 400 consumers, 80% said brands are not familiar, or at best, are only somewhat familiar with their needs.

Clearly there’s an issue with the way brands are executing (or not executing) personalization campaigns and a lot of room for improvement. Let’s take a look at:

  • how businesses are currently using visitor data to deliver tailored experiences,
  • why this current approach does not suffice for real 1:1 personalization,
  • what a better alternative looks like,
  • and why that alternative might be easier than you think.

The problem with how personalization is done today

The dream of personalization is nothing new to the marketer. Over these past few years, marketing automation tools have been making it easier for marketers to try to get the right message to the right person at the right time via trigger-based marketing.

In a trigger campaign, a user’s action (such as a click, email open, pageview, etc) triggers the marketing automation software to perform an action – such as send a specific email or show a specific piece of content. This type of marketing requires a marketing automation tool, like Marketo or Hubspot for instance, that uses this basic set of user information to personalize content.

These practices have become the standard for personalization and consumers say that they don’t feel like brands are meeting their needs.

A reason that trigger-driven personalization can be ineffective is that the content triggered to the visitor is predefined based a persona they may fit, rather than the actual indications of their wants or needs.

Here’s an example: if someone buys a pair of shoes, the marketer would have set a trigger to also show them socks; if someone is looking to vacation in Miami then the automation tool might surface a recommended article about the best cruises that leave from there.

Example of trigger-based personalization

Example of a trigger-based campaign where viewing shoes recommends buying socks.

There may be a correlation between shoes and socks, or between visiting Miami and taking a cruise, but do those recommendations actually make sense for that specific consumer?  Many brands are designing content workflows around general personas, but marketers are realizing that the general approach is just not enough to make an experience personalized.

We know that the challenge comes from focusing on optimizing the content for the page, rather than that person. By using trigger-based marketing, we focus on optimizing campaigns for different segments of the general masses and aim to achieve the best conversion rate possible on the site. Whether you’re surfacing the best performing white paper, or pushing the hottest sales item, sometimes the general approach is just not right for that person.

And when your competitors are using the same tactics, general efforts often are just more market noise.

Connecting a stack of technologies for 1:1 personalization  

The strategy to deliver 1:1 personalized marketing relies on a shift away from the all-in-one setup and towards a stack of technologies that all integrate and trade data in real-time. Marketers can glean insights and create user segments with first-party data from all their tools.

This is a big shift from just a few years ago when a marketer might have their customer data locked into one system, where one core feature (email) is complemented by a host of other solutions (web tracking, push, retargeting), and usually includes a generic audience management scheme. Now that we’re in an open, data-liberated age, a lot of marketers are adopting tools that specialize in personalizing experiences.

A current marketing trend is to build a marketing stack. This means choosing a number of the different tools that do a specific thing really well and connecting them to each other with APIs. Depending on the marketer, this could be choosing tools to improve the reliability in email delivery, analytics of a push provider, ease of use of an optimization platform or the intelligence of a data hub. According to our recent survey, 67% of marketers said they prefer to go with a best-of-breed technology rather than choosing from a single provider.

This is a powerful shift and could change a lot about how we personalize websites and mobile apps for different people. Although the trend is still new, a few things have emerged to be clear:

1. Connecting more data together results in better personalization:

Marketers need to take advantage of their user data  from all touch points. We shouldn’t collect and store data  in just one tool; we should use it across all of our tools to inform how we reach our customers.

For instance, if a person visited your site in the last week and looks at jeans, but is unsubscribed from email, the best course of action could be targeting this group with ads for jeans on social media ad networks, like Facebook and Twitter to drive them back to your site.

Or marketers could combine web and email to know whether someone has visited the site recently. If they haven’t, the marketer could stop sending them emails about new product announcements, and instead try to win them back with something like, “We miss you” or “10% off next time you shop with us.”

2. There’s more to a person than their last trigger:

When we look at our data as a whole, we’re able to see the relationship we have with our visitor By targeting users based on the larger data picture, our personalization becomes much more targeted  and moves beyond the simple trigger-based workflows.

We should personalize the experience for our dormant  users by acknowledging they haven’t visited us in a while and greet them with a nice welcome. Also, the long-time visitor, high value customer, who should be get a more personalized and tailored experience.

Optimizely Lytics Audience

Example of how The Clymb is using Optimizely and Lytics to create special messaging for dormant shoppers.

3. It’s easier to get started than you think:

These types of innovative marketing tactics are changing the ways marketers are personalizing their engagements with consumers. Today, 47% of marketers still report that they are not delivering coordinated and personalized messages across all marketing channels, but this all beginning to change.

More and more marketing tools are offering data integrations that enable you to turn your consumer’s behaviors into actions you can take across your toolset. Whether using email behaviors on the site, or mobile behaviors to inform ad campaigns, these types of data integrations will help marketers use the data necessary to deliver personal experiences.

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