Is personalisation now mission critical to modern marketing comms?

17th Dec 2015

The last few years have seen a steady fragmentation of the different types of marketing communication that brands send out. So much so that it is turning customers and potential customers off, even if the messages are beneficial to them.

Customers are seeing more and more irrelevant content from brands and this is one of the reasons why we are noticing the rise of ad-blocking software and advertising blindness.

One way of combatting this is to personalise as much of your marketing messages as possible. If messages are personalised to the recipient, taking into account past purchases and preferences, customers are more likely to open them and interact with the company.

According to an Oracle study conducted last year, 49% of UK consumers said they think personalisation is important. This shows that the average customer expects some level of personalisation in the communication they receive. The days are gone when companies could mass market to everyone and expect a good response.


Customers now expect deeper levels of personalisation and content relevancy in the new ‘mobile first’ world of marketing. This expectation extends to being treated as a unique individual and not part of a homogeneous collective with similar interests or demographics.

“I am not a typical 35+ male, from London, who has opened a promotional email in the last week and purchase shoes in the last year - I am me, and I spend my money with the company who appreciates that.”

Many experts regard this expectation as hyper-personalisation and believe it must be the basis of any interaction between brands and their consumers. While many people believe that the juxtaposition of this hyper-personalised experience and the inevitable customer expectations, and regulatory evolution of privacy and anonymity, present a challenge.

A select few marketers see this differently. Privacy is not an obstacle or barrier to personalisation: privacy and anonymity must be seen as the guiding principles of personalisation.

In the new digital world of mobile consumers, personal information is a commodity, sometimes available and sometimes not. While personal data may be unavailable, there is a vast amount of data that can be used as the basis of a personalised experience. Personalised marketing messages are a very powerful tool to keep customers engaged and increase loyalty.

Direct engagement

To ensure customers are receptive to their marketing messages, small businesses should personalise their direct engagement with customers on social media: reach out to them on platforms they use and make your interactions targeted, using data mined from various sources.

Customers will be more receptive to social media messages from companies if those messages resonate with them. Companies should create unique hashtags, use humour, exploit trending topics and explore what is being said about them to create messages that matter.

I am not a typical 35+ male, from London, who has opened a promotional email in the last week and purchase shoes in the last year - I am me, and I spend my money with the company who appreciates that

The personal touch and context is hugely important in social media messaging. Companies should be looking deeply into the sorts of things people are saying about them, what they themselves are posting, what their most socially active customers are posting and see if they all align together. They should also be looking at trending topics and see if there can be some alignment in with the sorts of things they are posting.

Small businesses should provide training to whoever is going to be looking after their social accounts to make sure they are interacting with their followers properly. Companies can find themselves in trouble when their messages are taken in the wrong context and this can lead to social media fails. Retailers should be looking at the meaning of their words and pick the right time to make statements and send out posts to have the most impact with their followers.

Be relevant 

Gaining attention from customers and potential customers is a great way for a business to make an impact and get its message heard. But more important than that is being relevant and authentic to a few number of dedicated followers, who will see these attempts on social media as genuine and not as simply a desire to be the next viral sensation. A lot of companies try to find ways to be famous online and reach the biggest audience they can. But it is more sustainable to be genuine, even if that means reaching a small number of people, really connecting and gaining those people’s attention.

Gathering data about customers and potential customers is critical to all of this: use the social media platform the target audience wants be communicated through.  It’s no good talking to someone on Facebook if they only use Twitter; look at what people are saying, try jumping on trending topics that customers are talking about and respond to customers who reach out to you on social media. It doesn’t take a whole bunch of effort and people will appreciate it.

Az Ahmed is a digital marketing expert for SmartFocus  

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