Personalization Redux

Gartner’s Polk queries conference attendees.

Customers expect personalization—as long as it doesn’t cross their individual creepy line. Even so, how much personalization is “right” varies based on a combination of customers’ expectations and a company’s goals.

That was the overarching message from Jennifer Polk, a research director at Gartner, during her session on personalization at the inaugural Gartner Digital Marketing Conference.

Polk emphasized that althought the right amount of personalization varies, the need to personalize is clear. “What drives the demand for personalization?” she said. “The experiences we all have every day.” Think about online interactions that are personalized based on customers’ activity and past visits, for example. What happens when customers have that relevant experience and then go to a site or get an email that’s not personalized at all? Surprise, perhaps, or disappointment.

In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2018 organizations that have fully invested in personalization will outsell those that haven’t by 20%.

Polk suggested that marketers use their company’s super-consumers as a starting point for personalization. They spend and engage more with their preferred brands, and advocate to prospective customers, so they’re more valuable. “Start by understanding what level of personalization is important to them,” she said. “Don’t assume. Ask customers for their preferences.”

Why is asking important? Consumers are, well, conflicted. Consider: According to Gartner, 60% of consumers want real-time promotions and offers, but only 20% want retailers to know their current location.

Polk shared some of the basics of personalization, a good reminder for marketers at any level:

Define the objective for personalization. As important as it is, the reason for doing it should be clear.

Create segments based on key characteristics. Segments could be based on behaviors, demographics, personas, psychographics, value, or could get as specific as one-to-one.

Determine right level of personalization. Not every customer wants deep personalization. Understand customers’ expectations and preferences and consider your business goals to decide how much personalization is ideal.

Engage your analytics team. Use analytics to gain deeper insight into your customers that you can then use for personalization.

Assess your technology needs and evaluate providers. Just because you want to personalize, doesn’t mean you have all the tools needed to do so.

And, finally, remember that personalization is about quality of your analytics, not the quantity of your data. “Data-driven personalization is not about how much data you have,” Polk said. “It’s about how you use it.”

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