Long proclaimed as a harbinger of a new era of hyper-personalized, targeted and effective marketing, digital continues to struggle to realize its potential. In exchange for offering up data, consumers deserve relevant and personalized content both in site experiences and ads viewed across the web. However, digital media is increasingly riddled with irrelevant and abrasive promotional content, such that consumers have turned to tools like ad blockers that streamline browsing.
More than 75 million U.S. internet users will use ad blockers in 2017—slightly more than one-quarter of the total U.S. internet population. To be clear, consumers are not rejecting advertising per se, just irrelevant ads: 83 percent of people agree with the statement, “Not all ads are bad, but I want to filter out the really obnoxious ones,” while 77 percent agree with, “I wish there were a way to ad-filter instead of ad-block completely.” Spray-and-pray tactics have become a liability for brands, as consumers tune out irrelevant offers.
Brands’ only option to be heard in this increasingly cluttered landscape is to focus on providing consistent, targeted and relevant content and messaging. 52 percent of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if a brand does not make an effort to personalize communications, and 65 percent say that personalization influences their loyalty to a brand.
The rewards for leader brands are self-evident: 63 percent of millennial consumers agree that they are willing to share data with companies that send personalized offers and discounts. Building personal experiences for consumers fuels a positive feedback loop that benefits brand product innovation and marketing and, therefore, further benefits consumers themselves.
If consumers are frustrated with the dearth of personalized digital marketing, so are brands. L2 analyzed 90 brands year over year and found a largely unchanged landscape.
When asked to grade the impact of their current personalization efforts, 45 percent of chief marketing officers gave themselves unsatisfactory grades in 2017, with only around one in 10 giving themselves an A. On the execution level, deployment of basic data capture features like wish lists, diagnostic tools (e.g., fit finders and color match), preferred locations and product recommendation generators trends upward, while support for more costly implementations like live chat has dropped slightly.
Low adoption of personalized content engines is indicative of the difficulty of collecting and deploying consumer data. From 2016 to 2017, L2 saw virtually no change in the number of data points (both mandatory and optional) being collected by analyzed brands, illustrating the delicate balance between a brand’s data needs and consumer expectations.
Federated account logins, where consumers can swiftly provide data to brands by signing up with a social media profile, is one example of a disconnect between the two parties. Consumers like federated logins because they expedite the account creation process, yet only 25 percent of analyzed brands offer this option.
Brands are often inclined to bypass federated account logins because they add additional silos to already disparate customer-relationship-management systems and force brands to hand over data to digital partners like Facebook that have e-commerce ambitions. Despite this risk, CMOs must always work to lower barriers to entry for consumers to connect with brands digitally.
The promise of unified data and one to one marketing always seems just out of reach for brands. There is always one more site relaunch, one more CRM system, one more vendor to finally fulfill that promise, paralyzing brands in the pursuit of perfect. Rather than throwing money at bloated data and targeting operations, brands should focus on incrementally improving data collection and deployment mechanisms.
Very few brands effectively deploy data on a consistent basis. Even brands that are considered relative leaders in data and targeting, like Nike, acknowledge the difficulty of leveraging cross-channel data to bolster new campaigns.
The truth is brands may never achieve the perfect system for storing and using consumer data, but they cannot let perfect be the enemy of good. Incremental data improvements pay major dividends in terms of personalized marketing and meeting the rising tide of consumer expectations.