Consumers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages a day thanks to digital media. So companies are turning to personalised marketing, to try and cut through the clutter, maintain relevancy and deliver exceptional customer experience.

More to the point, consumers are coming to expect a more personalised service than ever before. Whether you're targeting a new or existing customer, you need to deliver a website experience that is relevant to their needs. But how far should brands go when it comes to personalisation? When does great customer service appear to be overly familiar?

Whilst consumers demand a tailored approach from companies, they also want privacy, so how does a brand get the balance right and ensure that the approach taken to personalisation is not considered too intrusive?

Create Buyer Personas

Firstly, you need to start by understanding who you're targeting by creating 3-5 buyer personas. This will make it clear who the team is addressing and how. If the company in question has a large customer base that covers several demographics, then of course several buyer personas should be carried out in order to gain insight into how to correctly address each group.

Buyer personas cover:

  • Age groups – the way that you address a teenage audience will be different to that of an audience made up of retirees, for example. Both groups have wildly different experiences and so view the world and how/what they buy differently.
  • Gender – whilst some buyer personas are not gender specific, others are, so it’s useful to know which category customers fall into.
  • Level of education – this is useful for determining the kind of content that the customer wants and understands.
  • Financial circumstances (average wage for someone in a certain job, for example) – does the customer make instant buying decisions or are they having a good look around for similar products at lower prices? Understanding your customer’s financial circumstances (up to a point) can really help you to outdo the competition and tailor special offers.
  • Profession – when it comes to B2B marketing this is especially important as you want to offer things that can help the person to do their job. It’s useful for B2C too but not as much.
  • Hobbies – what do they like to eat and watch on TV? Knowing these things about your typical buyer can help you to really tailor the personalised message.
  • Shopping habits – what do they buy when they come to your online store? How do they shop online? By finding out everything that you can about these habits you can create special offers and perform remarketing.
  • Buying decision – it is of course highly useful to know how customers make the decision to buy – is it price that drives them or do they pay more for better quality?
    If you can build up personas that detail as much about the buyer as possible, then you’re halfway to understanding what they want and how they want to be spoken to online. Insight is what gets results when it comes to personalisation, if you know nothing about the customer and address them in the wrong way, you’ve lost a lead and potentially, a sale.

Keep it Relevant

In order for personalisation to work, it also needs to be relevant, according to Sandra McDill, a managing partner at iProspect.

“Personalisation can be creepy when it isn’t relevant,” she says. “I don’t mind my supermarket knowing my name, knowing where I live and my favourite brand of beans but it would be creepy if they knew I had just been to the dentist, or I was currently in the bath. First party data means that brands can access a wealth of information about an individual that will help them to position the best products and services to them, but avoiding the creepy factor is about being reasonable with the information you choose to act upon.”

So in order to keep things healthy, only offer your customers personalised offers and emails based on their previous behaviour on your site. Of course, you can also offer your customers the option to give you further data in order to improve their shopping experience, but do be careful what you ask for. Many consumers are happy to hand over information about their shopping habits for example, and their lifestyle, but few want to disclose details about their bank balance or income and will take exception that you’ve asked.

Keep Tabs on Customer Engagement

It largely depends on what kind of business you’re in as to how successful personalisation will be, as many consumers want to engage with some brands but not others. For example, the trend for fitness bands at the moment gives companies that produce them an ideal opportunity to fully connect with consumers through health tracking. This is something that benefits the consumer so they’re quite happy to give out details about their lifestyle and diet that they otherwise may not want to.

With this in mind, understand where your company’s limits may lie and stick to them. Trying to get over personal in a sector where there isn’t a great deal you need to know may damage trust and backfire. Before you go all out on a personalised campaign, it’s a good idea to test the waters first.

This is confirmed by Kelly Kowal, a digital marketing director at Farfetch, who says: “You can never know what your customers really want unless you test.” She discovered that testing how customers engaged with the site highlighted which were more likely to buy – they were the people who engaged with the ‘About Us and/or ‘FAQ’ section of the website. “There was a 17 per cent uplift in this group. Small, simple tests can have big results,” she says.

If you want your personalisation to work for you then, it’s vital above all else to know your buyer and to study patterns of website user behaviour in order to properly address your audience across all channels and send personalised marketing messages and offers to suit.

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