Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Insight, insight, insight: The three crucial rules for effective personalisation

By Patrick Johnson, CEO, Hybrid Theory

Support and insight are the levers marketers need to pursue their goals towards personalisation.  This has been difficult enough prior to COVID-19, and the landscape has just gotten more problematic, but it is still a noble and the right goal.  For years new technologies and innovations have vowed to master the art of one-to-one marketing, however the promise falls short, largely due to fragmentation getting in the way of execution. 

According to Gartner research, over a quarter (27%) of marketers see data as the main obstacle to personalisation because of the weaknesses associated with its collection, protection and integration. This problem goes so far as to reveal that 80% of marketers who have invested in personalisation say they will abandon their efforts by 2025. The result has been a focus on retargeting for relevance, although sometimes with questionable efficiency and even the potential erosion of brand integrity.

Even in this COVID-19 environment, there is an ability to adapt and succeed, provided the right three tools are in place.  These are the right audience with the right experience at the right time. This comprises a completely seamless audience targeting, media delivery and creative decisioning ecosystem. 

If we start with data, insights should come from a multi-dimensional data ocean, not an opaque data segment. 45% of marketers believe they lack sufficient data or insights for effective personalisation. This is significant considering the more data you have, whether it’s your own or third-party, the better equipped you are to inform the understanding of your target audience.

There are plenty of data constructs, many of which have suffered (transactional data comes to mind) in this environment.  We have always had a strategy of balancing between data scale and data depth.  If it is overly sector specific, it misses interesting opportunities for differentiation without a sector slant.  Data must be so granular that it can be viewed, modelled, adapted, and refreshed regardless of marketing goals. 

Hybrid Theory’s proprietary platform processes 25 billion data events a month, from five million publishers around the world, with relevant and actionable data from 90% of the global internet population.  An ocean of data this size dates every two hours allowing for the creation of custom audiences that best align with clients’ goals, whether these are audience profiling, optimising conversion or brand building.  There is an added benefit – this approach allows for flexibility to frequently test, learn, and optimise campaigns based on a myriad of data points while adapting to changes in audience behaviours.

This flexibility also allows for the utilisation of clients’ CRM efforts and the adaptation of them as audience behaviours shift.  In a COVID-19 environment, it’s possible that changes in personal circumstances – dramatic or minor – have caused a brand’s audience behaviour to change.  Partnering in a flexible way continues to be the best stance to continue to both brand build and generate results. 

With the efforts to obtain the right target audience with clear signalling of intent against marketing goals, the next step is a link with real time experiences.  Personalisation cannot work with creative approximation against a variable audience.  That is why retargeting is so effective.  It is based on specific searches on a client’s website.  This can be over-indexed while upper funnel personalisation strategies are ignored.  What is surprising is that in a large number of marketing strategies hoping to create hyper-personalised campaigns this element is entirely missing, often due to opaque segmentation.

Imagine you have recently purchased a brand new car yet are still being served ads for that same car several weeks later. This is no good for anyone – it is costly for brands and is seen as tone-deaf and irritating by the end consumer.

Our data refresh rate of every two hours ensures that the right time is always front and centre and adapts to changing audience signals. All of this needs to be supported by validation of the approach.  This is generated by transparency and consistency reporting outside of typical media delivery reporting, which only notifies you of the ‘when’ but not the ‘who’ or ‘why’. 

Brands need as much feedback as possible to drive their business objectives.  With any campaign, the takeaway should be the learnings that can be used to inform future campaigns as well as broader marketing goals. It is unfortunate to see just how many partnerships suffer from the lack of transparency across every step in the journey when communicating outcomes.

Our hope is that marketers stick to their personalisation goals.  This may be in a variety of structures, including in-house and outsourced, and with varying levels of data expertise but will require one ethos which is an openness to partnerships. 

We believe that the industry will be a medley of brands, agencies, technologists, and consultancies all working together on solutions.