Back to all articles

A roadmap for marketers to improve personalisation

Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
VP of Marketing, EMEA
7 min read
25 November 2018

Personalisation is a major part of digital that has evolved rapidly with the rise of marketing technology. It’s more than a trend or a buzzword; it’s a pivotal way to reach and engage consumers. Personalisation is spoken about extensively by CMOs, practitioners and technology vendors alike and will continue to be a top priority for Marketers. With brands increasingly implementing personalisation strategies, it’s time to start measuring the impact of these initiatives. How effective is personalisation with today’s consumers?

To find out if this data is being applied in a smart way, DEPT® launched the study ‘What Do Consumers Really Think of Personalisation’ (published on 30 August 2019). The aim of the research was to assess how consumers feel about brands changing and tailoring the online shopping experience, based on individual needs, preferences, and data. And ultimately determine if data is being applied in a smart way, that’s meeting objectives for personalisation strategies.

Key takeaways from the study

  • Most popular techniques are product recommendations or personalised vouchers over email
  • Consumers seem to view personalisation as a double-edged sword; there are very strong likes & also dislikes reported in response to personalisation tactics
  • Consumers like the functional aspects of personalisation, such as saving time (73%) and improving the overall customer experience (64%).
  • Dislikes seem more on the emotive spectrum, they range from personalisation is at time irrelevant (74%) to it can be an annoyance (58%)
  • Data is still a very strong point of contention. On one hand, consumers would like to see more personalisation but still feel very conservative about sharing data.
  • Consumers expect more from brands than what they are delivering today.

Which brands are excelling at personalisation?

From a brand perspective, research participants referred to positive examples from new entrants who disrupt industries by introducing a direct to consumer business model and are heavily reliant on data. Netflix and Spotify were often referenced for their groundbreaking approach to personalisation, and rightfully;. no two user interfaces are the same on either of their platforms.

Starbucks has also done a great job with its loyalty app alongside plenty of others; Dollar Shave Club (acquired by Unilever), Tide, Transferwise and Bloom & Wild or Spoke. These businesses represent different scale and services, yet take the same direct approach to personalisation with tailored customer experience at the heart of their ventures. Although these are aspiring examples to many marketers and brands, we feel there is so much untapped opportunity with personalisation for brands to develop their strategies.

Insight for brands

When the consumer panel was asked what they would like to see from brands, answers were twofold with respondents wanting more customised offers and in the same breath mentioning this approach is too salesy. Additionally, a common theme was people wanting the ability to control personalisation themselves with a feature similar to an ‘on / off switch’ to control when their data is available to retailers, especially when browsing through an online shop. Consumers also want more insight and transparency for what their data is used for. And overall, people felt personalisation wasn’t seamless and wish it could be more intuitive and helpful.

Applying feedback into practice

Most consumers that we interviewed also indicated, they feel personalisation does not make them more loyal to a brand. That is a big disconnect since brands aim for their personalisation strategies to deliver greater customer loyalty. This is likely as a result of:
Personalisation being executed as a solo project.

Tactics seem out of place. It is confusing for consumers to encounter a chatbot when it does not relate to their main objective for visiting the website or add value.
Customers are sceptical. When the value of any marketing initiative is unclear to customers, it makes them not want to interact with it and discourages them from buying the product or service.
Data is being collected but it is not clear what brands are doing with it.

Practical steps towards personalisation

At DEPT® we take a pragmatic approach towards the challenge of personalisation and have created a simplified outline that brands to use as a starting point when re-thinking their personalisation strategy. It’s designed for businesses to address opportunities, friction points and build a roadmap towards improving their personalisation. The actions below act as a valuable exercise to carry out on a regular basis:

  • Mapping out all customer journeys and identify pain points from a customer perspective. Group these into points of frustration from minor to bigger concerns. Aim to identify the root cause is for each of these.
  • Define the best outcome for these frustrations to evolve into. Create a ‘Happy Path’ for each user-journey.
  • Map out which data sources you can use and then determine which data you would be needed in order to create better experiences.
  • How can you bring all these data sources together? Start thinking about the right type of marketing automation platform or customer data platform for your use cases.
  • Value exchange is a helpful driver behind personalisation and ultimately create the most value for everyone. When consumers feel brands only benefit from data-gathering initiatives, it creates skepticism and negative feedback.
  • Identify and implement the right marketing technologies. Look at this both on the merits of the particular capability but also how it will integrate with your existing technology stack and which capabilities you require in your teams.
  • Selecting the right marketing technology platform is a good start but, equally,  the mindset behind achieving personalisation should be altered and viewed as a transformative programme rather than a project that gets ‘installed’ and results are generated. MarTech requires continuous trial, definition and execution.

Personalisation will continue to evolve and should be treated as a core element in a brand strategy to differentiate from competitors and succeed in an evolving digital landscape. Otherwise, if brands just continue to replicate recommendations in the check out processes, they may continue to trade on par with the competition but not seize the opportunity to assert themselves by improving their customer experiences. Technology has evolved so rapidly that there is no longer an excuse to deliver personalisation that is only short term focused or solely the interest of increasing sales. Customers expect more and brands have the ability to deliver, it’s a shame to fall short in the execution.

The use of customer data platforms, for example, can help any established brand to aggregate various types of structured and unstructured data. The time is gone to claim legacy systems are holding you back. It is more a change program that has to be initiated requiring executive support that will make initiatives successful.

Personalisation has great power to enhance customer experiences. It has already altered the way brands and consumers digitally interact on a daily basis and have been instrumental in eliminating common frustrations. It’s also introduced a pathway for more established brands to compete with emergent Direct to Consumer businesses.

Let’s rethink personalisation!

More Insights?

View all Insights


VP of Marketing, EMEA

Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke