Study: Where is Personalization Missing the Mark?

marketers personalizing digital content

Marketers talk about prioritizing personalization—and rightfully so. But a new study finds that many marketers are still missing the mark when it comes to delivering personalized brand experiences that customers find beneficial.

The study, conducted by Adobe in February of this year (before the COVID-19 pandemic), surveyed 1,000 consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom. The key finding: While nearly half of the respondents said personalized experiences on the websites they engage with are important, less than a third thought they had a positive effect on their brand perception.

A parallel February survey by Adobe of more than 400 marketers in the U.S. and U.K. found that a third of organizations were already spending more than half of their budgets on personalization of digital content, with most planning to increase that share this year.

So where’s the disconnect? (Hint: It’s in the data.)

“The survey found that consumers don’t feel like they see themselves truly reflected in the brands that they’re visiting online,” said Sarah Kennedy, vice president of global marketing for Adobe Experience Cloud at Adobe. “This is a good indication that companies still don’t fully understand or have a complete view of their customers and that’s why their personalization strategies may be missing the mark.”

The marketer survey further cements this notion. Only one in four organizations said they had single customer-data profiles, though 60% said they planned to achieve this within the next 18 months.

Importantly, the organizations that did have a more complete and real-time view of customers were doing more extensive personalization, the study found. Additionally, these companies said they were seeing ROI through a broad range of metrics, including loyalty, revenue, and efficiency.

“However, without that single view, and without extensive personalization, these gains are not realized,” Kennedy said.

The marketer survey also found 60% of organizations were already looking to personalize emerging channels, including the Internet of Things, augmented reality, and virtual reality, but only one in four considered it top priority.

Consumers want control

The February consumer survey also showed that people are willing to share their location information with companies—but they want to be in control. Just 25% of respondents said they had their location services turned on for all of their apps, but two-thirds would be willing to share where they are, to be informed about events or deals.

In addition, over half of the respondents said they opted in to receive email or text notifications. At the same time, about two-thirds said they had turned on ad blocking on at least one of their Internet-connected devices.

But, overall, the study found a willingness among consumers to receive communications from brands via email, text, and in-app notification. Their issue: they were getting way too much. Millennials were the only age group that said they want more messages from brands.

Consumers also expressed annoyance about certain online experiences, namely pop-up ads, alerts, cookies, spam email and slow-loading pages.

Chart that looks at what annoys consumers most about online content and experiences.

“The survey has made it clear that many consumers are turned off by some of the more intrusive experiences—and that’s especially true when they are getting content that isn’t resonating with them,” Kennedy said. “Marketers need to have that single, real-time view to ensure that their personalization efforts are actually relevant to the individuals they are trying to reach – based on where those customers are and what they want. Marketers must also instill a quality vs. quantity mindset in terms of the number of ways and how often they communicate with individuals.”

See the full study findings below: