Opinion

You’re still failing at personalisation

Personalisation is considered by many to be the marketing gold standard, so why are so many still failing to get it right? As Venntifact’s Damon Etherington explains, there are still too many chefs in the martech kitchen.

I’ve long been a champion of personalisation, helping brands harness the power of data to build relevant experiences and connections at scale. But the ugly truth is that most brands, even self-proclaimed leaders in digital, are failing.

And look, I get it – achieving true personalisation at scale has become increasingly difficult.

Brands are failing at personalisation

Gone are the days when a brand can claim success by personalising a single website or app. The reality is that the modern customer experience spans a huge number of touchpoints underpinned by many platforms, vendors and datasets. The customer expects the experience to be seamless, compelling and relevant, while, under the surface, the business must juggle complex, siloed systems and data.

In many ways, the martech industry must shoulder part of the blame for this problem. As the customer experience became more fragmented, expanding across new digital channels, each vendor responded by making their platform more powerful and sophisticated.

Each platform was soon able to collect data, measure engagement and optimise experiences, many reportedly powered by machine learning. On paper, this seemed like a great idea, but we’re now left with too many chefs in the martech kitchen – an overcomplicated pile of platforms with varying methodologies, overlapping capability and no clear accountability to the end experience.

The thing is, we don’t need eight genius platforms in the martech ecosystem competing to deliver the next best experience. We need one.

The real secret to mastering omni-channel personalisation is to have one intelligent brain within your marketing technology stack, and then simple, reliable, dutiful execution endpoints for the last mile. It requires the brand to centralise tasks such as identity resolution, campaign triggers, data taxonomy, analytics measurement – admittedly no easy feat.

Understanding the user

Identity resolution is one of the essential supporting backbones of personalisation. It involves understanding who a user is across their devices, and across your various digital properties, including websites, apps, email and social media. Without this foundational understanding of identity, your personalisation efforts will ultimately fail to gain scale.

Tackling identity resolution in un-authenticated environments is challenging, especially as Safari, Firefox and Chrome have all announced tough new cookie privacy policies in 2019.

This will have a serious effect on personalisation programs, as even first-party cookies are becoming an increasingly unreliable method of identification. The net effect? It’s harder to identify a returning user to your site, visitor-based conversion rates will suffer, and journey-based experiences are tougher to deliver.

Fortunately, innovative martech vendors are responding, and there are a number of device and audience graph solutions available in Australia.

The single customer view

The mastery of user identity is also known as the elusive single customer view (SCV), which marketers have been pursuing for a long time. Effective, purpose-built marketing technology to leverage an SCV and use this to orchestrate journeys has been emergent for some time and even now is relatively new.

The technology, known as a customer data platform (CDP), exists and is gaining traction fast. If you’re new to the CDP concept, you can get a crash course by checking out Gartner’s excellent recent paper or the CDP Institute.

The existence of a dedicated platform to manage data across multiple channels makes a lot of sense. For a unified customer experience to be successfully delivered, channel silos need to be broken down, with cross-functional, agile product teams involved in making this change.

I’ve worked with many brands attempting to create a single customer view in platforms not designed for the task. Common challenges include having an incomplete individual customer profile, difficulty combining data sources, challenges with data latency or batch reliant data synching, and, most commonly, difficulty activating the data when/where it’s needed to deliver the experience in the moment matters. Sound familiar?

A CDP is distinctively different from other data platforms, in that it is purpose-built to manage your first-party customer – including personally identifiable information – supporting real-time use cases at scale.

It does three things exceptionally well.

Firstly, it provides the data plumbing to and from all CX touchpoints in your ecosystem, including all customer-facing platforms and back-end systems.

Secondly, it aggregates, normalises and processes data with a consistent set of attributes. This means data is always collected in a well-defined, relevant and usable structure.

Finally, CDPs allow data to be applied in real-time, meaning personalisation can be achieved almost immediately. This is very much based on a brand’s individual requirements, which may require historical data for website personalisation as soon as a user lands on your homepage.

So, if you’re ready to move beyond the defective siloed approach to personalisation, perhaps it’s time to start taking CDP seriously.

Damon Etherington is the co-founder and executive director of digital strategy at Venntifact, a leading martech consultancy based in Sydney

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