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Consumers still waiting for Godot on personalized marketing?

Personalized messaging can be an invaluable tool for marketers. Unfortunately, these marketing campaigns aren't living up to their potential, according to consumers.

For customers, there's little doubt that personalized marketing can be more of a quagmire than a new way of doing business.

Companies now strive to show customers that they know them, that they understand who they are in terms of their preferences and needs. They try to demonstrate this personalization knowledge through tailored marketing messages on websites, in email, via text messaging and other means. But the problem remains that, even with greater volumes of messaging, customers still find personalization efforts to be flat, impersonal and often irrelevant to their needs.

There is a wide gulf between marketers' perception of how they're doing and consumers' perceptions. Consider data from "The Contextual Marketing Imperative" by Forrester Research -- of 1,200 consumers and 200 advertising and marketing employees surveyed, 66% of marketing departments reported that they are doing a good job of personalized marketing; only 31% of consumers believe they are.

Voice of Customer (VoC) Relationship research confirms some of this picture. We have identified the convergence of three factors that present marketers with new challenges that can't be met with more personalized marketing:

  1. Mobile devices. The power of technology, especially mobile, is an unprecedented enabler of better-informed and faster consumer actions and purchases. To keep up, marketers need to develop strategies for speed -- but even more importantly, high-relevance engagement. A recent report by Deloitte LLP noted that 69% of Britons are unsubscribing, closing accounts, opting out of emails and deleting apps due to poorly targeted communications.
  2. Sense of entitlement. Consumers, in general, and Millennials, in particular, feel entitled in terms of what they expect from brands. In the Deloitte LLP report, the authors stated that, "There is an increasing expectation gap as businesses struggle to keep pace with more informed, more connected and more demanding consumers. ... Consumers have come to expect more, making it harder for businesses to keep up. ... Empowered consumers are actively sharing their views, and as a result are becoming more involved."
  3. Value of consumer data. As illustrated by the ongoing Apple controversy with the FBI, consumers understand the value of their personal information, yet they desire higher levels of personalization. And, per our VoC research findings, reciprocity of value is a fundamental requirement for earning the right to in-depth customer information in exchange for significantly improved preference-driven personalization.

How can marketers better listen to their customers? Here are a trio of action items:

  1. Actions need to meet consumer personalization expectations. Capture individual preferences, use preferences to drive "smart" personalization and establish guidelines for safeguarding data privacy.
  2. Don't ruin the hard fought gains by sending "spray and pray" blasts that disregard preferences in hopes of generating extra sales.
  3. Find the right mix between implicit and explicit data. Using only implicit data is not enough to power true personalization.

Marketers are dealing with the most demanding consumers in history. Leveraging new listening and responding capabilities is now essential in order to acquire and retain this empowered consumer. By acting on these three listening factors, marketers will be able to provide the highest levels of customer experience, value, and personalization.

For more check out ERDM Voice of the Customer research.

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