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.
Cover Image — © kasto — Fotolia.com