It probably won’t come as huge surprise that many organizations—whether B2C or B2B—still don’t engage in even the most basic levels of personalization in their engagement marketing activities. It’s important to realize that the industry is moving (some faster than others) from a multi-channel to an omni-channel ecommerce experience. Personalization that’s triggered by the behavior of the customer and not just their name has, in many respects, become the most important element in the optimization of the customer journey.

The Value of Personalization

How many emails do you receive claiming to be private and confidential, but are addressed ‘Dear Occupier’ or ‘Dear Customer’? It does nothing to trigger the desire to act, other than to hit delete, as the content is not likely to be private, confidential or relevant.

Perhaps more troubling are communications that are in fact private, confidential and relevant, yet are not personalized. For example, (part of the Carphone Warehouse) was recently the subject of a data breach. The company burst in to action notifying its customers, explaining the situation and the necessary courses of action, but the email began with ‘Dear Customer’. The cynic in me makes note of the fact that a cyber criminal was able to gain access to personal and financial data, yet the organization itself could not manage a personalized salutation.

What’s In A Name?

The salutation is, of course, an important part of personalization (after all, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression), but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, especially when the conversation is expanded from email to the web and beyond.

Personalization done well is all about being able to identify a customer and demonstrate that you know them—not just by their name, but by their behavior, the types of products they browse and items they have purchased in the past. Personalization is understanding the demographics of an audience and suggesting to them ideas, information, products and services that others in the same group are showing interest in. Personalization is about understanding the journey your customers take with you (their preferred channels and devices) and where they are in their own personal journey. It’s being able to proactively engage with them, ideally in real-time and at the right time.

In essence we are talking about injecting fresh relevance in to your marketing communications and wider customer engagement, and relevance equals revenue. To put it bluntly – personalization is profitable.

How Personalization Works

Sam du Feu works on the IT and Marketing team at the online retailer 7dayshop, an organization that has grasped the power of personalization. He recently commented that “Whether it is a returning customer that is logged in to our site or a brand new visitor, they are presented with a constantly changing range of products that are most likely to suit them. [Those offerings are] based on their personal preferences or the very latest crowd-sourced information.”

7dayshop’s personalization it is even applied through its website navigation. Each drop down menu lists, in addition to product categories, accompanying ‘Recommended For You’ and ‘Best Sellers’ recommendations.

Sam du Feu added, “We are making it easy for our customers to find what they want and giving them information and advice to help them make a more informed purchasing decision. It has been a really successful initiative.” In fact, the conversion rate from the 7dayshop homepage is reported as being more than double the overall website average.

Resistance to Personalization

One of the reasons personalization is still, in many respects, in its infancy is the misguided perception that it is complex and costly to implement and manage. After all, integrating transactional information, web behavior statistics and CRM data (the three vital elements for effective single, multi or omni-channel personalization) implies an intricate drawn-out project with a large scope for error.

The truth that most vendors would prefer you not to know is that it is possible to deliver effective (and by effective, I mean revenue-generating) personalization at relatively low cost. Integration of transactional data, web behavior and CRM need not be a back-office nightmare. With the right know-how, it can be accomplished with ‘light’ front-end integration.

Ease-of-use is also a concern, but once you have defined and set-up the rules (according to how you would like to engage with your customers) then it is very much an automated process. After initiating automated, personalized cart abandonment emails earlier this year, the travel company cottages4you recorded an astonishing 957 percent return on investment, meaning every £1 they invested has returned £9.57.

Personalization in the Omni-Channel Context

As the success of 7dayshop clearly demonstrates, creating a personalized browsing experience delivers compelling returns. Even greater rewards can be had when this level of intimacy is replicated in an omni-channel context. So, whether it is a cart abandonment email or a scheduled e-newsletter, the content should be highly tailored to the recipient.

A personalized marketing communication holds little value if the products you are recommending are not available at the time of opening. It is here that the daily deal website is making waves in the retail world with its use of real-time content. As company Director Frederik Boysen explains:

“Whenever the customer opens an email, they will only ever be presented with deals that are available at that moment. We are able to ensure that our customers never receive a message from us regarding an expired deal.”

With this approach they are achieving both omni-channel pertinence and personalization.

Omni-channel personalization is achievable and affordable. Light integration and automation results in low capital expenditure, small operating costs, less work and more impactful, relevant customer engagement marketing. What’s more, because of the quality of reporting, it’s even easy to measure success through sales and quantify the return-on-investment. If you’re ready to take your relationship with your audience to the next level, it’s time to start planning for omni-channel personalization.