Personalization is The ANA’s Word of The Year. Should It Be Word of The Century?

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Personalization done right delivers big benefits for consumers and email senders alike.

The word (and the trend it represents) is getting plenty of attention in the press as the second decade of the millenium winds down. And it zoomed to the top of the newsfeeds recently when it beat out “equality and inclusion,” “data,” and “in-house” as the 2019 Marketing Word of the Year in the Association of National Advertisers’ annual membership survey.

More star turns for personalization in 2019

Below are five quick takes on personalization – in general or specifically on email personalization, which is our particular wheelhouse – this year:

1. Marketers are finally getting behind advanced personalization. 

A Merkle study turned up these findings:

  • • 86% of marketers have a defined budget to deploy personalized messaging. 
  • • 89% also claim to have the organizational structure to support a personalized multi-channel plan. 
  • • Email had the second-largest investment in personalization behind digital media.
2. Advanced personalization pays off. 

Real-time, clickstream and live inventory data, rules-based personalization and dynamic offers based on open times can drive an additional $20 of revenue for every $1 invested in these methods of advanced personalization, according to a study by The Relevancy Group, commissioned by Liveclicker.

3. Email is the most commonly personalized marketing channel. 

A study by CMS platform developer Acquia found about 75% of marketers send personalized emails, while 53% personalize website visits.

4. Marketing personalization skills = jobs. 

About 1,250 jobs on LinkedIn alone are waiting for marketers with personalization knowledge and skills. It’s encouraging to see companies recognize the need to dedicate at least one marketing position to personalization – and we anticipate even more specialized personalization roles finding their ways into marketing departments and agencies in the coming years.

5.  Email personalization is trending. 

Our friends at Campaign Monitor dug into the personalization trend and came up with 10 surprising statistics on email personalization, including this one, via Instapage: “Segmented, personalized and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue.”

Scrutiny, skepticism on the rise

Not everybody has the same view of personalization, current or future. In particular, Gartner has recently published some contentious research:

Others also turned a skeptical eye on marketing personalization: 

Consumers pull back on personal data. Consumers are more willing to reveal gender, race/ethnicity and marital or job status and even political or religious affiliations than their personal email addresses to get personalized ads, an Advertising Research Foundation survey found. 

In that survey, 90% of consumers would reveal gender in exchange for personalization, but only 51% would share their personal email addresses.

Personalization isn’t always appreciated. An eMarketer analysis of personalization studies by McKinsey and others concluded consumers balk at the kinds of personalized messages marketers believe they really want. 

“Marketers, especially digital marketers, love data and the promise of optimization it holds,” eMarketer’s Nicole Perrin said. “But … it doesn’t necessarily mean consumers are perceiving those messages as personalized and highly relevant.”

Advanced personalization has a bright future

Despite these cooling views on personalization, there’s other evidence that supports our optimistic view.

Not the same old personalization. Half of the respondents in the McKinsey study said messages about products that relate to their interests were the most appealing personalized content. First-name personalization was among the least appealing.  

This last point dovetails with a finding from The Relevancy Group’s study: Email personalization is least effective when it relies on only first-name or subject-line personalization. 

Personalization based on purchase data was more effective at driving additional revenue, but only the most advanced forms of personalization produced the highest ROIs. (See The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers and download your own free copy.) 

Technology is easier to implement. Gartner’s dim view of personalization rests in part on this finding:

“While personalization comprises 14% of the marketing budget, more than one in four marketing leaders cite technology as a major hurdle to personalization.”

The Relevancy Group addresses that problem in its report: 

“Most Advanced Personalization Solutions are rather easy to implement and often do not require significant IT support.”

Don’t forget the gatekeepers

B2B marketers have a compelling reason to get personalization right. Chatbots and automated services will replace human assistants to B2B customers, says Lynda Partner, VP Marketing and Analytics as a Service for Pythian.

“I don’t think we’re going to be talking to all that many people by 2025,” she says. “We’ll instead be talking to their personal assistants, who are bots. These bots will be the new gatekeepers. They’ll decide whether your prospect should read this email from you, or that message from someone else instead. 

This decision may be based on how personalized the message is, or how relevant it is to what they were searching for on the web in the last three weeks, or what they told their bot they were interested in researching. Either way, marketers are going to have to figure out how to market to bots and not just to people.”

Wrapping up

Personalization is enjoying a well-deserved moment in the spotlight, but it’s more than just the word of the year or the trend of the decade. Personalization that carries out business strategies using meaningful data drives revenue and interactions that more than repay the cost of the technology that drives it. 

In 2020 and beyond we look forward to showing marketers the value that advanced personalization produces both for their customers and their marketing programs.

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Brittany is a digital marketer with experience building an online presence for both B2B and B2C brands. As the S. Content Marketing Manager for Liveclicker, Brittany plans and produces effective communication across channels, creating valuable content that helps clients and prospects harness the power of moment-of-open personalization.

Brittany King
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