Personalisation is yet to truly take off, but 2014 will be the year of social data

By Chris Lee

Many experts predicted 2013 to be the year that personalisation of marketing to improve returns really took off. Now, some industry experts say that this did not really happen in 2013, and that 2014 will be the year that companies really make best use of customer data to increase personalisation across the board.

According to Jonathan Lakin, CEO of real time audience intelligence company Intent HQ, many brands did make a push in this area particularly when it came to online media and retail during 2013.

“It made sense, publishers wanted more people to read and interact with their content while retailers looked at ways to get more customers and to encourage repeat purchases,” he told NMK. “But many approaches to personalisation were off the mark, with businesses using the wrong kind of data, which is why we never really saw it take off in the way we expected [during 2013].”

Loren McDonald, vice president of Industry Relations at digital marketing technology provider Silverpop, added that we should consider the customer revolution under way.

“With buyers privy to more information, access and choice than ever, lower prices and better products have become little more than minimum requirements. Given that landscape, how can businesses distinguish themselves from the pack?” she argued.

Where is personalisation going in 2014?

Intent HQ’s Lakin believes that 2014 will be the year of social data. As people are becoming more selective in the information they share, only following brands and people they have a genuine interest in, companies are waking up to the fact that social is the best source of data for personalisation, he says.

“Social data is much more than a stream of status tweets and updates; it can be used to understand a person’s preferences and interests, unlike any other form of data. Personalisation has been based on the wrong kind of data being processed in the wrong way so far,” Lakin added. “Think about when you’ve browsed for a gift, and then been constantly retargeted based on something not relevant to your own interests. By using social data to understand topics and the affinity between them in a human-like way, we can create great web experiences that are always relevant.”

The battle for the customer

Silverpop’s McDonald believes that in 2014, as more brands strive to engage customers, the smart ones are increasingly replacing bland, un-personalised emails and communication with targeted and timely behaviour-driven content.

“Consumers now expect a good experience in addition to discounts and promotions when they are ‘marketed’ to, so it will be crucial to reach them at precisely the right moment with relevant news or promotions to pique their interest,” she told NMK.

McDonald believes that another theme of 2014 will be location marketing. Knowing your customers’ position is an immensely powerful part of delivering the right message at the right time, she says.

“In recent years, forward-thinking marketers have communicated with customers based on whether they crossed a geofence or checked in via Foursquare or Facebook. Powerful stuff, but it’s about to get even cooler now that Apple’s announced the iBeacon functionality as part of its iOS7 technology and is a game-changer for how businesses will conduct location-based marketing in the future,” she added.

Furthermore, McDonald believes that while “big data” continues to be a much-discussed topic, most marketing organisations will focus on “smaller data” programmes by making the data they are capturing more actionable and in real time. A key element of this approach will be exploiting customer behaviour and applying business rules and marketing automation programmes that deliver a true one-to-one message in real-time to the recipient.

For more information, read our recent post on using data to drive engagement and create personalised experiences.

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