Personalization: Plotting, Analyzing and Optimizing the Customer Journey
Traditionally marketers were taught to respect and use the hallowed “marketing funnel,” and the idea was a brand would cast a wide net using broad messaging and then entice consumers through a “path-to-purchase.” This funnel approach worked well in the days of traditional media because the only way (outside of word of mouth) consumers would hear about a brand was on TV or newspapers/magazines. This meant that marketers could build brands using broad messaging (usually TV) and then use special offers like flyers or coupons to “convert” consumers to a sale—usually at a brick-and-mortar store.
In today’s world of digital marketing, the rapid proliferation of media channels, and purchase options via social, mobile, email, eCommerce and the like, has meant that this process—which was somewhat sequential—has completely been turned on its head, becoming next to impossible to manage. While marketing budgets have not increased that much for most brands (in fact, many have been forced to spend less), marketers are now having to decipher consumer behavior and ensure that they can follow and ideally lead consumers down a path to purchase, which is changing constantly and dynamically.
As marketers shift their budgets more to digital marketing, Precision Marketing is being adopted by marketers globally. It enables the right message to be delivered to the right person at the right time using digital technology.
The idea of Precision Marketing using personalization calls for an entirely different approach to marketing. In this new paradigm, we move from a static marketing funnel to a dynamic one—from a one-size-fits-all message to messages relevant for and tailored to an individual consumer; from TV and print to digital media across the many channels where the consumer is present and purchases from.
Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) was the earliest creative advertising technological solution marketers started to try–using data to tailor messaging precisely to consumers. Initially, this meant simple A/B or multi-variate testing of messages against broad audiences. But, it has since evolved into personalization, which is about relevance: using data to identify and precisely message micro-segments of consumers with similar purchase interests and patterns as well as taking it down to individual 1:1 messaging using consumers’ interests and context.
This approach has been extraordinarily successful, evolving from simple re-targeting of users (with ads showing products they have expressed interest) to much more sophisticated personalization using AI and machine learning. The latter processes vast amounts of data and use trigger conditions—like time of day, sports, and weather—to dynamically assemble and deliver a precisely tailored piece of content or message. Benchmark studies conducted both by digital marketing platforms and brands show a 300-400% lift in engagement simply by making messaging much more relevant to a consumer.
In addition, recently published The Forrester Wave™: Creative Advertising Technologies, 4Q 2018 highlights how brands benefit from creative advertising technologies with efficiency: “creative adtech vendors ‘take the human element out of menial tasks’ and reduce the time it takes to tailor creative to customers’ and prospects’ context and experience, according to one marketer. This can eliminate days, or even weeks, from the process, allowing for more relevant and timely ad content. This report also evaluated 10 different platforms for marketers to use.
While creative optimization and personalization platforms have given brands a lot of power to stay engaged and relevant in a digital/omnichannel world, they still have not been able to truly grasp how consumers are engaging with the brand and how to optimize their paths to purchase.
Several marketing cloud platforms have come up with Journey Mapping and analytical tools that allow marketers to “program” and “analyze” communications to consumers via mostly owned media channels. Unfortunately, these tools are limited in nature because they miss out on the biggest area of marketing spend on consumer engagement: advertising. They also fall short in that these tools rely heavily on a marketer’s “experience and gut instinct” to map out customer engagement campaigns, rather than basing it on what is happening in the real world.
Enter Customer Journey Optimization (CJO). CJO technology enables brands to take a lot of the guesswork out of planning and executing media, creative strategies, and marketing campaigns by using the precision of data from campaigns. Since paid media campaigns (digital advertising) that employ personalization generate significantly more data on consumer engagements, their responsiveness to specific messages and their paths to purchase, CJO provides significantly better precision than traditional Journey Mapping and Analytics in understanding and optimizing these journeys.