New social and mobile technologies present marketers with unprecedented opportunities to personalize communications and foster better customer relationships. But to capitalize on these opportunities, marketers must overcome significant tactical and strategic challenges, and leverage an exploding amount of customer data.
Today, one size definitely does not fit all. Consumers live in a highly personalized environment with customized home screens and individualized newsfeeds catering to their unique interests. They expect personalized messaging; in fact, 78 percent of consumers recently surveyed by Yahoo said they want personalization from advertisers.
Marketers need to shift strategies to succeed in an increasingly fragmented media ecosystem, but they're finding it difficult to make that vision a reality. A Forrester report revealed that while 87 percent of CMOs anticipate the need to integrate customer data into their digital strategy over the next four years, only 16 percent currently do so.
So what makes personalization difficult? Data silos pose the biggest obstacle. The fact that customer activity takes place across so many different platforms — social, web, mobile, email, e-commerce and CRM — makes it extraordinarily challenging for marketers to get a single, coherent view of the customer and understand the context of the interaction with the company.
To complicate matters further, operational silos exist within many companies, isolating CRM groups from marketing teams, further bifurcating data and delivery. The good news is that marketers can solve this dilemma. Here are three ways to overcome marketing personalization challenges:
- Unify Customer Data: To achieve the level of personalization customers expect, marketers can link up customer identities within their own system, or, if that's not possible, tap the vast "matching databases" available on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. These platforms have more aggregate, anonymous data than the typical marketer can ever hope to collect.
- Map the Customer Journey: It's important to not only know who customers are but also to understand where they are in the customer lifecycle. Did they "like" the company's Facebook page and then make a purchase? Download an app, receive an email and then buy? Marketers must track individual activities so they can segment active, at-risk, dormant and prospective customers and deliver messages appropriate to specific groups.
- Operationalize the Customer Journey: CRM teams are working hard to unify customer data and map the customer journey, and marketers must leverage the resulting insights. It's not easy to make the transition from speaking to one audience to addressing many. The sheer volume of data can seem overwhelming. But, by focusing on the customer context and identifying the behaviors the company needs to influence to make a sale, marketers can operationalize the customer journey.
Marketing is increasingly complex. There are more platforms and devices than ever today, and in a highly fragmented media environment where marketers must contend not only with multiple platforms but also huge datasets and shifting consumer expectations, achieving personalization isn't as simple as designing a "one-size-fits-all" campaign. But for marketers who embrace the challenges of personalization, the potential rewards are enormous.
Delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time has always been the ultimate marketing objective. By unifying customer data, mapping the customer journey and infusing that knowledge into the company's marketing strategy, marketers will find that the ultimate objective is finally within their reach.