We are living in an age of ubiquitous personalization. Whether we’re dealing with our bank or a clothing brand we’ve bought from, we expect companies to recognize us. Just as we expect clerks and store owners we know to greet us personally, we have come to expect emails and other forms of digital communication to address our personal interests and preferences, even when they’re coming from people we’ve never met or even heard of before. While these expectations hardly existed (and were much more difficult to satisfy) in the digital world several years ago, personalization has now become such a common element of life on the Internet that we expect it everywhere – and become surprised when we’re not recognized.
However, even as personalization has become almost universal across the Web, people’s attitude towards different personalization techniques is hardly uniform. While we expect brands to recognize us, our ideas about what they should remember, and how they should use that information to engage with us, cover a broad spectrum. To get a better understanding of this new landscape, my company recently commissioned a survey that examines how people feel about different personalized experiences and what they expect brands to remember about them.
While certain types of personalization were broadly popular, what stood out to us most was how much preferences varied from person to person. This underscores the need for brands to understand their specific customers even better. To get the most out of personalized marketing, brands need to leverage their specific customer data and understand the unique preferences of their customer base.
Most Consumers Expect Personalization
According to our survey, more than three quarters of American consumers expect some type of personalization in their buying experience. Some groups were more likely to assume this than others, with nearly 90 percent of shoppers between the ages of 18 and 24 expecting online companies to remember personal information, compared to about 67 percent of those aged 65 and older (High appreciation rates for personalization among the millennial generation shows this trend is likely to grow.).
Even with these differences, however, it was clear from our survey that a majority of people across all demographics expects some degree of personalization when interacting with a brand. The tricky part comes when we started to get into specific types of personalization, and which customized experiences shoppers appreciated most. Here it was difficult to find any one technique that all consumers embraced, again reinforcing the idea that knowing your individual buyers is paramount.
It’s Not Just the Data; It’s the Way You Use It
The survey highlighted many areas in which consumer preferences for the types of data brands collected about them varied widely. Some customer groups expected brands to remember their favorite products, but not what they have viewed on the website. Others wanted companies to recognize how long they’ve been a customer, but not how much money they’ve spent with the brand.
However, many customer groups’ personal preferences about personalization had less to do with the type of data that was collected, and more about how it was presented to them. For example, more than 60 percent of shoppers aged 35 to 44 appreciated an alert from a brand when a product they liked went on sale, compared to just 36 percent of 18- to 24-year-old shoppers. However, 62 percent of these younger shoppers liked it when companies emailed them a coupon for a product they looked at on the website. In both these cases, the brand had to remember which products the buyer was interested in and offer a discount, but by reaching out to younger customers with a special coupon rather than a sale alert, appreciation levels rose nearly 30 percentage points.
In an age when personalization has become increasingly common, brands will need to distinguish themselves by showing that they can truly engage the customer as an individual. Knowing what specific types of personalized experiences consumers like can make or break a marketing campaign, as shown by the nearly two-fold increase in millennial consumer’s appreciation of personalized coupons as opposed to personalized sales alerts in the last example. As brands move from a product-centric to a customer-centric marketing strategy, it is important to remember that even personalized campaigns should not be approached with a one-size-fits-all mentality. The better you know your individual customers, the better you’ll be able to deliver what they really want.