Just because you can doesn't mean you should


As we hurtle through the festive period the amount of emails and Direct Mail you receive will no doubt be sky rocketing. Although it may feel like a reduction since Black Friday passed! With customer communication hitting a high we wanted to talk a bit about personalisation. Specifically, what constitutes successful personalisation and where companies can go just that little bit overboard. 


A step too far

Personalisation can be a fine line between engaging and intrusive. Here are two examples from our office that sparked a conversation about how personalisation can go too far. 


Recently one of our colleagues went on to a popular DIY merchant website and searched for ‘Boss White’, within 10 minutes he got an SMS offering 10% off paint. Now, he had not added to basket, there was no product page look up, it isn’t even a paint product. It’s entirely possible that this was a coincidence, however, if intentional, not only was this jumping the gun a little on the time scale but SMS is a far more personal channel than desktop website views. It can come across as creepy and could be off putting. 


In need of a bigger car to accommodate a growing family I was out wandering around dealerships to get an idea of what’s available and what the costs are. I had no plans to make a commitment at the time. Outside one dealership I was approached by a sales person, he was friendly and not too pushy so I felt comfortable having a more in depth conversation. He took my details but I made it clear I had no desire to purchase at this time. Three days later I received a personalised WhatsApp video promoting the upcoming 0% finance sale. I found this incredibly intrusive. I view WhatsApp as a very personal channel and to receive a selfie style video from the sales person where he addressed me directly felt incredibly creepy to me. This feeling was not helped by it being a video of him in the car park to show the available cars. Not only was I not interested in receiving this it has put me off the brand entirely (and I do currently own one of their cars). In this case receiving an email or even an SMS about the upcoming sale would have been acceptable, a personalised WhatsApp video was definitely a step too far. 


I’ve purposefully avoided naming the brands as I wouldn’t want to put anyone off them, both are respectable brands in their own right, they’ve just managed to get their personalisation very wrong on these occasions. It shows how carefully you need to think about the impact your personalisation may have on your intended customer. Just because you can (i.e. you have the data and the technology) doesn’t mean you should. 


So how do you avoid the pitfalls and do personalisation right? 

1. Know your audience – This can all be done through your data, the more data you use the more tailored your marketing can be. My car dealership had the right content, they just went too far with attempted engagement.


2. Relevant content – This seems like a given but you’d be surprised how easy this is to get wrong. Use your data to personalise the customer experience based on their interests and browsing history. Our DIY merchant could easily have avoided being creepy if they had made better use of customer data and understood more about this customers purchasing journey.


3. Continually develop – Be creative with your data and evolve your approach. If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got. 


4. Know your channels – When it comes to marketing communication people are sensitive about channels they deem to be personal. Be sure that your customer is happy to receive messages through mediums such as SMS and Whatsapp before you consider sending them. This isn’t a question of legalities but about the content you send and how it will be perceived. 


5. Personalisation isn’t just about using a name - Successful personalisation is about more than that. The accompanying message needs to address the customer’s needs. It is becoming more and more common for brands to provide distinct web and mobile experiences for each of their customers, which means they expect nothing less from their communications. For example, emails with personalised subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than generic ones.

Context is everything when it comes to personalisation. When a customer reaches out to engage with a brand it is always with a specific intent, something that they need or want at that particular moment. Personalisation is about analysing past behaviours to understand interests and habits. For example, you may need business cards in your day to day role. You purchase a set amount and on average purchase these every 3-4 months as you run out. A savvy form of personalisation would be to send a communication just before the 3 months mark with an offer on business cards. This is a successful personalisation as it shows an understanding of the customers’ needs and targets them directly. If you sent a monthly campaign this focuses more on your needs as a business than on their needs as a customer. Not only would this not get you the result you want it would also be a waste of money. 


Hopefully this gives you an idea of how to use personalisation, as well as how not to! Maybe you can put it into practice in the new year, but for now we at Silver Jet would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Enjoy the festive season and we’ll see you in 2020. 

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