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Personalisation, Personalised Direct Marketing

What does personalisation really mean?

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
January 15 2015,
updated
July 3 2020

Who do you think you’re talking to? There’s a parental refrain from childhood (which usually followed an ill-judged cheeky comment) and that still sends chills! But it’s a good question and one we pose to customers when we’re helping them put together campaigns and craft their messaging.

The just-published “Conversion Rate Optimization Report” from Econsultancy maintains that “more than a third of companies do not implement any form of personalisation in their marketing activities”. Staggering. Particularly when all the evidence points to the vast majority of companies achieving an uplift in conversion when they do.

The “Scattergun” approach
Seems instead many still rely on what was fondly known as “the scattergun approach”. The process of taking a (probably out-of-date) list and bombarding it with one-size-fits-all messages, many of which were wholly irrelevant to the recipient. But because of our ability now to personalise, and the possibility of almost infinite segmentation, customers are conditioned (and entitled!) to expect more targeted offerings. They only want to hear of products and services that are of interest to them, offerings that reflect their needs, purchasing history and buying patterns.

Cutting through the noise
Prolific broadcasting of messages to a disinterested dataset is not only a waste of resource and production and distribution costs, it creates noise that drowns out the good stuff and disengagement because prospects and customers don’t feel valued.

The switched-on marketer takes time to understand the customer, walk in his shoes and spin the message to what exactly it is he needs and wants to hear. Thereby generating content and offers which strikes a chord and which generate traction and stimulate demand. Simple, eh? Well it might be if each and every customer looked EXACTLY the same. A recent Marketing Week article on this very subject had a quote that made me smile,

“Think about the vast differences between people who look to be the same on paper based on their demographic profile. One famously cited example of this would be Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne, who were both born in 1948, grew up in England, married twice, have two children, are both wealthy and both like dogs,”

Post-demographic consumerism
Which kind of blows “segmentation” out of the water too. It’s hard to believe that those two would even be interested in the same product or, if they were, be looking for it to provide the same benefits. So, what’s the answer?

Marketing Week calls it “Post-demographic consumerism” which basically means forgetting everything you ever thought you knew and banishing all demographic conventions and stereotypes. Like this one for example; IAB statistics show that in the UK women now account for the majority of video game players and there are more gamers over 44 than under 18. And, did you know, Twitter’s fastest growing demographic between 2012 and 2013 was the 55-64 year age bracket, growing 79%? Seems consumers just aren’t behaving as we expect them to!

Attitude is king
The key it seems is to appeal to “attitude” to ignore the old and dry demographic stats and to look instead at how consumers are behaving, interacting with us and what their preferences are. Using “Elsie’s” first name in an email might be a start, but assuming she’ll be more interested in knitting than playing Grand Theft Auto could mean we’re missing an opportunity!

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