Is it Personalization or Contextualization?​

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How Important is Personalization?

As an industry, we have overused the term “personalization” to a point where it has lost its meaning and purpose. Now, changes in our industry and law have made personalization something that is more difficult to do, but maybe that is a good thing. These changes have forced us to rethink how we communicate with our (potential) customers. Over the last 10 years or so, we have used the term to describe how we could retarget a shopper. If they leave your shopping experience after looking at a pair of shoes, we would chase them around with those or similar shoes, even long after they were no longer in market for those shoes. At the time, this made sense because this is what the technology allowed us to do. But that doesn’t mean it was the best use of the technology. I think most brands did this because their competitors did, so they felt like they had to.

Personalization is still very much important, but where we do it, how we do it, and when we do it are 3 very important questions we need to ask ourselves when developing our strategies.

Should We Continue to Attempt to Personalize Advertising?

Laws and privacy policies are making 1:1 messaging within advertising very challenging, but not impossible. Where you are able to message in a 1:1 manner, the audiences will be very small. However, some brands may find it beneficial to speak directly to the ones they can. For most though, developing contextually relevant campaigns might actually perform better. This isn’t a new concept by any means. I recall as a teenager seeing a TV ad for a movie on ESPN that focused on the sports story and action within the movie. But then, I saw an ad for the same movie during one of my sisters soap operas that focused on the romantic relationship in the movie. This blew my mind and made me question everything about advertising. Perhaps this is where I got my first nudge into this industry and career.

There is certainly a place for 1:1 personalized messaging. If I am shopping for something that is a considered purchase (regardless of price), sending me a piece of direct mail that highlights the benefits of that product can be extremely impactful. This has worked on me several times and it’s why we are partners with PebblePost. But if you want to capture my attention for something that I haven’t thought about or want to get me to a website that I haven’t visited, a contextually relevant ad will be the way to go. Much like the TV ad I described earlier, brands today need to make their ads align with the content. The most simple way to do this is to have the content of the ad align with the programming or editorial content around the ad. For example, On ESPN, Expedia should run Ewan McGregor ads about remembering where you visited, that focus on viewers traveling with their favorite team. On the Food Network, the ads should focus on culinary experiences around the world. Expedia doesn’t do this to my knowledge so I always seem to get the same ad. This is a missed opportunity.

Prioritize the Personalization of Your Website Experience

Consumers will be more apt to give you their personal data if you use it to make their experience better. Too much personalization in your ads can creep people out, but too little personalization on your website will reduce loyalty and repeat purchases.

As with any relationship, it takes time to learn details about the person. In personal relationships, you remember and use data such as, birthdays, anniversaries, favorite colors, foods, places, things, etc… so as a brand/Marketer, why wouldn’t you do the same within your relationship with a consumer? Don’t use data for the sake of using data but use it wisely to create a better experience.

Here are some ways to personalize a shoppers website experience:

  • Offer Engagement Opportunities: 1:1 Video Shopping Experience can make shoppers feel special. All the attention is on the shopper and you are able to learn about their preferences so you can recommend the right products, grow the cart, LTV, and loyalty all at the same time. Due to the pandemic, eCommerce adoption accelerated but as things get back to normal, eCommerce will continue to grow for the brands that offer the right experiences. Check out FEEL if you want to learn more about these types of offerings.
  • Make Communication Easy: Pretty much every eCommerce website has some sort of chat experience but more often than not, these experiences fail to do what they were intended to do. Some simply offer a web form and then take up to 24 hours to respond. Unless you offer something I can’t get somewhere else, you will lost my business. Most other chatbots aren’t taking advantage of all the innovation in this space. Your chatbot needs to know all the possible questions and variations of those questions that shoppers ask or it will fail. There are advanced analytic tools like Dashbot that can help you understands what questions are failing so you can be improving your bots in real-time. A good chatbot experience will minimize the escalation rates to a real person and reduce failure rates where people just leave. Both will lead to higher conversion rates and more repeat purchases.
  • Help Shoppers Find What They Need: One of the biggest challenges for shoppers and brands is matching products together to make everything work better. If I am shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods for workout clothes, the last thing Adidas wants me to see is a pair of Adidas pants with a Nike shirt, and New Balance shoes. Having me wear these together is even worse. And quite frankly, as a consumer, it will be a big turnoff to me if you show me these brands together. Companies like FindMine help brands and Merchandisers pair together the right products from across your entire catalog so I have a better experience, the brand has a better experience, and the retailer sells more and provides a better shopping experience. Most people aren’t fashion designers and don’t know how to match products the way professionals and technology do. The same is true for home decor and cosmetics.
  • Speak to Shoppers, When They Need to be Spoke Too! Brands today start popping up ads the minute you land on their website. This is a huge turnoff for me. Why would I give a brand my email and phone number before I even know if you have what I want. Then they follow up with pop-ups throughout my shopping experience because they are worried that I am going to abandon their website. This is a fair concern because the data supports it but unnecessary pop-ups will drive me away even more quickly. In a physical store, Associates can see when someone is in need or about to exit so they can engage with them at the right time. Within eCommerce, brands need to leverage data to predict when some is about to leave so they can react accordingly. Companies like Metrical focus on these types of predictions and methods for engaging with users with the messaging they need to convert and build Loyalty: 
  • Incentivize with Loyalty: Having a loyalty program is one thing, having a loyalty program that generates ROI is another. It’s not enough to simply give points away with each purchase that convert to dollars off in the future. Modern day loyalty programs should be a way for you to build a relationship with each shopper, over time.Your customers should be your biggest advocates, but you need to make them feel special and incentivize them to do take different actions that benefit everyone involved. Companies like Zinrelo do this far better than those keychain cards Petco used to give out…
  • Use Your Data but Be Smart: Brands today have data all over the place, including but not limited to their CDP, CRM, ESP, in-store DB, loyalty, etc… Brands need to leverage someone like Zembula to pull data from all their sources and organize it in email and SMS messaging to make every email personalized. Their Smart Banner tech helps brands do this within their email or SMS without having to change the content for every single user. You and I may receive the same promotions but the smart banner will show us our individual loyalty points, product preferences, and previous purchases to consider. There are so many use cases that I will stop there and let you use your imagination.

Personalize with Intention