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Personalisation: Finding the right data sets and knowing your boundaries

Personalisation seems to be the next big leap in the success of the customer experience. But to what extent should personalisation be done so it doesn’t creep consumers out?

Marketing speaks to Oracle’s David Bochsler, director, OMC, ASEAN, on the insights of doing personalisation right.

Marketing: Personalisation, if done right, will increase the efficiency of marketing. What are some of the challenges when it comes to personalisation  for marketers?

Bochsler: Customers are increasingly digitally native. Consider that if you’re now in your early twenties (beginning to have some purchasing power), Google and Amazon were launched before you were born and Twitter, Facebook and the iPhone launched before you were 10! Customers have shorter attention spans and are used to getting information at their fingertips, at their convenience, in the format of their choice. There’s no longer a linear path from customer acquisition to sales. The customer journey is more likely to be frenetic and constantly changing.

Marketing: In this age where data is everywhere, how can marketers use the right data sets that can help personalise the customer’s experience?

Bochsler: It’s true that it can be very overwhelming for marketers today – feelings of a data overload are common.  The first thing to do is take stock of the data you do have. This comes in the form of your CRM data, ERP data and any data you’re currently collecting on your web properties.

This is data you own and it’s called first party data. There are great tools that can help you collect first party data and segment it in a useful way such as Oracle’s Blue Kai Data management platform. Your first party data is extremely valuable because it teaches you about your customers or those that are interested in your product. We all make assumptions about who our potential customers are, but I like to say “the data doesn’t lie”.

There are always additional insights to be gleaned when you analyse your first party data and it should impact your marketing messaging moving forward.

While you are analysing your first party data, you should also leverage third party data. This is data from other sources such as social networks, Google and the Oracle Data Marketplace (the world’s largest third-party marketplace). You can leverage the segmentation you’ve done with your first party data to find “lookalike audiences” via third party data. These will be people that are most likely to interact with your brand because they are similar to existing customers.

One business that is reaping the benefits of big data and AI is Carousell, one of the world’s largest mobile classifieds marketplaces. By integrating Oracle’s Responsys with its AI tools, Carousell was able to roll out dynamic landing pages with personalised content based on users’ past behaviour or projected behaviour. Additionally, Carousell was also able to leverage Responsys’ link tracking feature, which tracks where clicks on links come from, to achieve in-depth insights into the effectiveness of its social media marketing efforts.

These valuable insights enable Carousell to create more relevant and personalised editorials for its users.

Marketing: Is there such a thing as too much personalisation that it could be scary or deter further customer engagement?

Bochsler: We’ve all had that creepy “big brother” feeling when we’ve been targeted in a way that makes us feel we’re being overly watched. My advice to marketers is simple – stop doing that.

To quote a famous philosopher (Uncle Ben from the first Spider-Man movie), “With great power comes great responsibility”. Technology can be very powerful, but don’t forget that marketing is about creativity and pulling at the heartstrings of your customers.

You need to strike a balance so you don’t freak out your potential audience. This can be done by limiting the frequency of re-targeting (for example, “Here are the athletic runners you were just looking at”) and also targeting them with contextual ads and EDMs (for example, “Have a look at this fashionable running apparel”).

Marketing: How should marketers provide an omni-channel experience if they have physical stores and are marketing via both traditional and digital media?

Bochsler: I would never recommend abandoning traditional advertising channels for brands with physical stores, rather I’d recommend bridging the digital and traditional advertising divide by having in-store means of acquisition – this can be as simple as collecting user data in-store or setting up loyalty apps that can be used in-store.

By collecting this data, you are able to re-target lookalikes online, but even more important and oft overlooked is you will be adding to your EDM list. Email is still by far the most cost-effective means of marketing, generating significantly higher numbers of conversions per dollar spent as compared to the next best channel.

When properly automated and orchestrated along with push and SMS, using a technology such as Responsys can realise a quantifiable increase in conversions.

With email marketing, to really get it right, you need to do a lot of A/B testing. This is needed for both online and offline forms of marketing, but remember that changes made in the traditional world result in slower and harder to measure results than digital.

For example, you can take down signage in stores and not notice the change in results until months later – and still not definitively be able to attribute those measured changes to the signage unless it was the only change you made.

The great thing about digital is that everything is measurable and those measurements can happen so much quicker. We can pivot multiple times during a campaign to fine-tune our approach to get the best results. By using tools, like those mentioned above, even A/B testing can be automated allowing us to test images/copy/offers in real-time with a small percentage of our target audience first and then automatically using the best result for the remainder.

Marketing: Where do you think the region stands in integrating personalisation into marketing? What will the future bring us on the customer experience?

Bochsler: Southeast Asia is a very diverse region which has kept me engaged and learning for the past 15 years. Every country is at a different level of maturity with personalisation as compared to its neighbour. I’d say the more advanced markets are Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

In those countries, I find my team spends less time educating customers on the need for personalisation and more time engaging them on best practices and solutions. In other countries, broadly speaking, there are a few leaders taking advantage of the capabilities of personalisation to grab market share before the others catch up. Across the region the companies that are pushing the boundaries of personalisation are the big online retailers that deal with millions of transactions.

This is out of necessity as every incremental uptick can have a large impact. What’s great for ASEAN is that we can observe and learn from what more advanced markets have done and “leap frog” several steps in our own learning curve.

As for the future, we’re driving towards more personalisation and we talk a lot about segmenting customers into appropriate audiences to improve their experience. However, the nirvana would be a segmentation and an audience of one – real one-to-one customised experiences.

In summary, marketers are more challenged than ever before, but thankfully there are tools and processes to come to your rescue. To succeed as a CMO today, you need to know a lot about marketing, some digital, some in sales and a dash of technology. The most successful CMOs will be those with a passion to learn and a commitment to enable their teams with the right education and tools to succeed.

Oracle was the gold sponsor of the recent Digital Marketing Malaysia held on 30-31 May 2018.