Personalisation in 2015: What does it mean to you?

On the 31st March, I had the plea­sure of co-chair­ing a break­fast round­table dis­cus­sion on per­son­al­i­sa­tion, host­ed by Adobe and our part­ner DBi at the Char­lotte Street Hotel in Lon­don. Atten­dees includ­ed senior mar­keters from a great cross-sec­tion of major UK and inter­na­tion­al brands, all eager to dis­cuss their own expe­ri­ences in adopt­ing and imple­ment­ing per­son­al­i­sa­tion strate­gies at their respec­tive companies.

Rob Jack­son, Founder of DBi and Sam Hill, Senior Ecom­merce Man­ag­er at BSkyB, kicked off the morn­ing by dis­cussing how they have worked togeth­er to deliv­er per­son­alised expe­ri­ences to 2.7 mil­lion cus­tomers of Sky on the Sky Shop. Sky’s brief to DBi was to enable them to have a more rel­e­vant con­ver­sa­tion with prospects and cus­tomers across mul­ti­ple dig­i­tal touch points. An impor­tant part of this work was to make an assess­ment of where Sky were on the DBi matu­ri­ty mod­el, and begin to change the way Sky viewed opti­mi­sa­tion and personalisation.

As Rob put it: “We took infor­ma­tion that was being cap­tured but not used in Adobe Ana­lyt­ics, and passed it to Adobe Tar­get. Here we could store this in the Tar­get pro­file and then use it to remem­ber prod­uct hold­ing and do some obvi­ous but valu­able things like sup­press­ing the dis­play of prod­uct pro­mos to peo­ple who already had those products.”

Sky and DBi are now using Adobe Tar­get Pre­mi­um to auto­mate per­son­al­i­sa­tion where appro­pri­ate to cus­tomers and prospects on the Sky Shop. The automa­tion capa­bil­i­ties and report­ing have enabled Sky to take insights derived from online behav­iour and use them in oth­er chan­nels – Sky have been able to observe and learn about affini­ties between prod­ucts types that have been dis­cov­ered by the Adobe Tar­get Pre­mi­um mod­el­ling engine. Sky have seen sig­nif­i­cant incre­men­tal uplift from these per­son­al­i­sa­tion initiatives.

After this intro­duc­tion, an open dis­cus­sion, led by myself and Rob from DBi, began with some thoughts on an impor­tant point to clar­i­fy before you begin try­ing to per­son­alise the expe­ri­ence for your cus­tomers – what do you mean by per­son­al­i­sa­tion and how do you define it? One attendee offered the fol­low­ing: “Per­son­al­i­sa­tion is all about cre­at­ing loyalty/retention and the blend­ing of sales and earn­ings. Iden­ti­fy­ing intent is key to the per­son­alised expe­ri­ence, but con­text is incred­i­bly impor­tant – you have to think very care­ful­ly about when and where to intro­duce the personalisation.”

Many of the atten­dees thought that the DBi matu­ri­ty scale was very valu­able for mak­ing an assess­ment of their own per­son­al­i­sa­tion efforts. As one stat­ed, “we are in stage 1–2, using onsite observed behav­iour. Watch­ing what vis­i­tors are doing on site and bas­ing per­son­al­i­sa­tion on same or pre­vi­ous ses­sions. We were too scared to plug their data into the back end so we start­ed sim­ple, to see what worked… and we made mon­ey but we’re not sure where or how.” Anoth­er was fac­ing the issue that “lev­el one [of the matu­ri­ty scale] did well so they didn’t want to move the nee­dle. But the busi­ness is launch­ing a new web­site. So why would they invest in [opti­mis­ing] an old plat­form when they’ve got a brand new shiny one?”.

Con­ver­sa­tion then turned to data, and more specif­i­cal­ly what data can you use for per­son­al­i­sa­tion and what role does seg­men­ta­tion play? Rob framed the issue accu­rate­ly for the table: “Seg­men­ta­tion and pro­files often exist based on three sep­a­rate silos – mar­ket­ing, ana­lysts, cus­tomer intel­li­gence. The chal­lenge is bring­ing those worlds togeth­er.” One attendee high­light­ed that it’s not always obvi­ous how to do that and that there cus­tomer pro­file and seg­men­ta­tion can come from exter­nal sources as well: “What’s a good data col­lec­tion strat­e­gy? We con­cen­trat­ed on gath­er­ing Face­book likes a few years back and we have a very under-used social log-in. Has any­one used social log in effec­tive­ly?” anoth­er was able to point to a spe­cif­ic use case: “We pro­vide wifi to cus­tomers and log­ging onto wifi has helped us to iden­ti­fy cus­tomers – an anonymised ID for the cus­tomer goes in to our analytics.”

We could have spent a great deal longer dis­cussing the ques­tion of data – there are so many aspects to the intel­li­gent col­lec­tion and use of data it might have filled an entire round­table ses­sion. My per­spec­tive here is that we can some­times get too caught-up in need­ing to con­trol the data, as I said at the event: “Let the machines do it for you. Peo­ple are scared of algo­rith­mic tar­get­ing but actu­al­ly it should be flipped on its head. Maybe the machines could do the auto­mat­ed per­son­al­i­sa­tion to start off with? Test using the solu­tions – work out what’s most appro­pri­ate. The same thing can work for get­ting peo­ple to reg­is­ter. It’s often over­looked but eas­i­er to let the solu­tions do the hard work and then look at the ana­lyt­ics and insights and see what worked” — this is real­ly where Adobe Tar­get Pre­mi­um comes in to its own.

Under­stand­ing what works for your audi­ences but it’s also impor­tant to make sure that you share the results inter­nal­ly and that every­one is bought-in to your per­son­al­i­sa­tion strat­e­gy. The table also dis­cussed how to approach inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion of results and get­ting inter­nal approval for per­son­al­i­sa­tion. One attendee’s view neat­ly encap­su­lat­ed this: “Peo­ple with­in the busi­ness don’t always under­stand that the web­site they’re look­ing at isn’t the same as what the cus­tomers are look­ing at. An inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion piece is key – let­ting peo­ple in the busi­ness under­stand what the data is doing and how per­son­al­i­sa­tion works (not just the num­bers).” Some atten­dees offered tac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions: “We use a vir­tu­al chalk board, where any­one can sub­mit a test version/idea to use,” and “Google docs is quick, easy, and acces­si­ble. Ever­note is a good way of shared ideas.”

An ecom­merce man­ag­er at the event summed up the chal­lenges of get­ting inter­nal stake­hold­ers in the mar­ket­ing and IT teams to work togeth­er: “Some­times you have to restruc­ture. We brought the pro­duc­tion team in with the mar­ket­ing team, which meant they were less siloed — every­one was on board and under­stood the val­ue to the busi­ness. Every­one knew per­son­al­i­sa­tion was the way to go, but there was a dis­con­nect. It was also about hav­ing an edu­ca­tion piece around how the process­es will ben­e­fit each group.” Rob from DBi added: “It’s impor­tant to com­mu­ni­cate and get key stake­hold­ers engaged – your per­son­al­i­sa­tion strat­e­gy won’t take off with­out this.”

Over­all, peo­ple real­ly engaged in the con­ver­sa­tion and a lot of great ideas and use cas­es were shared. For a chance to talk to your peers about sim­i­lar issues that they are fac­ing in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and per­son­al­i­sa­tion, the Adobe Sum­mit EMEA 2015 in Lon­don on 29th and 30th of April, is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet mar­keters and hear about the lat­est thought lead­er­ship and best prac­tice, as well as net­work and be enter­tained by top performers.

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