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Personalisation At scale: how digital data impacts relationship marketing

Over the past decade, many have invested heavily in a range of digital tools and products promising to deliver more customised experiences and valuable offers to customers – with the hope of yielding ‘one-to-one’ relationships with consumers at scale.

Yet every company in this sector is also facing a growing list of limitations when it comes to collecting the necessary data, from regulatory pressure to sweeping tech platform policy changes. This is all in the context of consumers pushing for more digital privacy.

The question is, how do brands make the most out of digital data to unlock the promise of personalisation, without alienating their customers? That was the focus of CM Group’s recent Signals22 virtual conference, which had the following takeaways. 

Brands are not as good at this as they think 

One of the more provocative sessions came from a keynote delivered by Brendan Witcher, VP, principal analyst at Forrester, who zeroed in on a glaring disconnect between consumers and marketers. The average marketing organisation is touting how far it’s come with using sophisticated software and data to deliver what people want, and those people find such efforts lacking. 

Witcher states, 92 per cent of brands claim to be investing in personalising the customer experience, yet just 31 per cent report that “information I get from brands is relevant to my taste and interests.”

Perhaps even more surprising is that number has declined in recent years. Clearly, companies are missing something. For starters, only the customer can really judge whether their experiences feel relevant or valuable. 

“That’s up to them. And so it looks like you’re winning, when in fact the data shows that you’re not,” Witcher said.

What’s driving this disconnect? One area where many brands slip up is focusing on loyalists, and projecting those shoppers’ behaviour and attitudes onto the rest of the customer base.

“These are the people that are committed to buying from you,” he said of a brand’s existing shoppers. “You’ve met their needs, you’ve met their conditions, and they’ve said, ‘You know what? I’m good.’ Then you have to ask what about the other 90 per cent? Do you really know what they were looking for?”

Email is everything but it’s how you use it

One way that brands have looked to ensure they can earn consumer trust while delivering as personal an experience as possible is through the collection of email addresses. But as various executives explained, email isn’t everything, and can become a blunt instrument if not used strategically.

Sharif Hussainali, who oversees CRM Marketing at Kamera Express said her company used to send emails to its entire database twice a week, pushing close to 50 different products. That approach was “total nonsense,” she said. The more you stuff into a generic email blast, “no one knows what to look at,” she said. So the retailer recently cut its product email listings in half, focusing on creating more inspirational content.

Those emails have a better chance at generating demand. Then there are emails that are employed to try to close the deal. Kamera Express has begun pushing emails to people who have visited their site and abandoned shopping carts. They use data to send options that are in line with the price points these customers are comfortable with. 

“If a customer has one camera in his basket, we can recommend different cameras that are on the same level,” Hussainali said.

That’s a very tactical way to use personal data. Ideally, the email channel becomes just as segmented as others, to make the most of different kinds of experiences and customer segments. 

You can watch our Signals22 sessions on-demand now.

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