Personalisation: Why are we waiting…?

For years there has been talk of big data, personalisation and the big revolution we would see both in the world of advertising and in the way businesses connect to individual consumers. We were promised a shift away from the traditional form of mass marketing into the lines a more personal digital experience

Information for us, connecting on a personal level as opposed to noise. While some have been relatively quick to adopt the idea of personification, carving their customer groups into personas, digital leaders believe that there is more firms could be doing in the personalisation space. They define true personalisation as a meaningful one-on-one engagement, which delivers a unique, real-time experience for each and every customer. At Moorhouse, we believe that remains an aspiration that firms are failing to live up to.

The adoption of personalisation

In Financial Services, the personalisation trend first emerged out of the consumer banking space. Santander and Lloyds paved the way in the UK, teaming up with retailers to offer personalised discounts derived from consumer spending patterns. Banks then began to examine the possibilities across the rest of their client offering, such as their wealth management and corporate banking divisions. In particular, many banks are focussed in on their small business customers, using real-time data to see what is happening to their clients’ businesses and where banks can step in to help.

The personalisation bandwagon

Fast-forward to today and the world appears to have jumped aboard the personalisation bandwagon. Banks and other businesses alike can barely move for all the tips on how they could deliver a more targeted, personalised experience for each and every customer. But look a little closer at these digital marketing campaigns through the lens of a consumer… Do you really feel as though you are receiving a true one-to-one experience from the brands that you interact with each day?

Personalisation today

“Personalised” marketing campaigns tend to operate by exploiting big data to fragment the market into demographics. While these fragments may be getting smaller, users are nonetheless being grouped together. They therefore fundamentally receive the same content as everyone else that might have browsed the same site or looked up a particular product. But, in our eyes, this just does not go far enough. Comparing this to the real world example of a financial advisor, you would expect to receive recommendations that have been tailored to your personal financial position, preferences and objectives – not those of a dozen others who once opened the same current account. In a similar vein, consumers’ circumstances and preferences change over time. I regularly find myself bombarded by “personalised” adverts for mortgage offers or other products that no longer seem relevant to my personal or financial position. Most personalised campaigns still tend to lag behind, readily consuming data that has quickly become outdated.

True personalisation

Recall that we defined true personalisation as a meaningful one-on-one engagement, which delivers a unique, real-time experience for each and every customer. However, what we largely see today is a data-driven, automated fragmentation of the market. Of course we have seen developments in the personalisation space in recent years, but most firms still reside on the use of behavioural and demographic data to “best guess” a group’s situation and preferences. With the volumes of data so readily available to businesses in today’s digital world, I propose that this approach fails to live up to this gold standard of true personalisation.

Personalisation or personification?

Firms are beginning to understand that it is their customers who define their own identity and further that these humans are just too complex to be artificially carved out into groups. Occupying the void between the today’s version of personalisation and “true personalisation” rests the concept of personification – this is the delivery of relevant digital experiences to individuals based on their inferred membership in a defined customer segment, rather than their personal identity.

Leaders in the personalisation space argue that the approach of digital personification still fails to measure up to a truly personalised one-to-one experience and, as such, should not be misbranded as personalisation. However, I believe that it demonstrates that the industry is beginning to understand that, beyond the reams of big data, a human component is very much required if they aspire to deliver a unique, real-time experience for each and every customer.

Moorhouse Perspective

With customers becoming more informed, more intelligent and more empowered, firms across all industries are having to look at their channels and the way that they interact with their customers. At a recent Moorhouse event on using customer service to get ahead of the curve, the group discussed how digital is not only driving a rise in consumer expectations but also offers a capability for firms to drive rapid customer service improvement. Brands are already making increased use of personalised services such as Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels – there has been a 70% increase in the use of Twitter for customer service between 2013 and 2014 (link). Customer service remains a key business differentiator; while the channel choice increases, firms need to ensure they are delivering a personal, yet consistent customer experience across all of their channels.