The Axes of Personalisation

Personalisation is lucrative but complex. A recent article by Gartner’s L2 states:

It’s true that 92% of brands know the importance of meeting consumer expectations, identifying personalisation as a top priority in Gartner L2’s report on data and targeting. However, they continue to struggle with execution — in 2018, only 23% of brands in the study personalized their websites with recommendations based on user data inputs.

Considering that web development and digital marketing are decades old, it certainly is interesting to be in a state of affairs that have a majority of brands still struggling to utilise basic personalisation in their sites. In my experience, even those that are engaged in personalisation are not doing it at scale. Whilst interesting to be in such a state, it is not surprising. By nature, personalisation is complex. At the heart of it is the mapping of data with experiences. This sounds simple. And it is. That is when businesses merely want to dabble with it. However, as soon as they want to operate proper BAU programs around it, they encounter its complexity. It is hard to wrangle the large amount of data that businesses have about their customers, the amount of channels that they engage with them, and the collateral of experiences that needs to be developed to service them.

Horizontal – In channel

To begin with, organisations should begin approaching personalisation through a single channel. This lowers the barriers of entry. As soon as organisations start they will immediately discover the effectiveness of personalised communications. However, it will not take them long to realise that there is a volume issue with its practice. Personalisation implies that organisation segment their customers into valuable groupings of audiences. These groupings allow the ability to provide relevant and highly effective conversations with various types of customers. The more specific the groupings the more relevant the conversation can be. However, this specificity has a drawback, each grouping will need its own stream of conversations. From a marketing perspective, this means that more activities are required as reach per activity has been reduced. It will require more conversations to reach all customers.

Imagine an organisation divides their customers into 5 audiences and they plan to build personalised messages in their website. If they restrict the communication only to their home page, then it would mean 5 creative variants. (see Fig 1). Since customers visit pages beyond the homepage, personalisation even for those 5 audiences can become a very large task.

To help us understand the complexity better, please allow me to use the horizontal and vertical axes of personalisation as an aid. Basically, the horizontal axis speaks about the personalisation in individual channels and vertical across multiple channels.

Fig 1. The horizontal axis of personalisation

Vertical – multi-channel

In addition, there are many channels of communications within the marketing toolkit. Personalisation is more effective when these channels are integrated. (See Fig 2). When these channels provide coordinated and relevant messaging then customer communications is improve and hence higher conversion rates. Unfortunately, the task of bringing the technologies and business functions together to fulfill this goal can be very complicated. This provides another hurdle to the execution of personalisation campaigns.

Fig 2. The vertical axis of personalisation

Remember that there needs to be a large amount of activities in each channel, so, large-scale coordination becomes extremely complex. (See Fig 3)

Fig 3. The axes of personalisation

With the large amount of activities required and the complexity of integration, it is no wonder many struggle to execute in peronalisation, let alone doing it at scale. Hopefully, I can share some thoughts, approaches and solutions that has help others.