Personalization is a bitch. But does it have to be?

Robin Emiliani  /  Feb 10, 2020

For more than a few years now, personalization has been touted as marketing’s next holy grail.

And with good reason.

86% of people say personalization impacts their buying choices. 49% of customers have made impulse purchases based on personalized recommendations from brands. And retail powerhouse Amazon says a whopping 35% of its sales come from personalized recommendations.

So personalization is a serious contender for “most valuable marketing investment.”

Of course, anything worth doing can also be a real bitch to get done. Which is why it may not surprise you to learn that the latest data from Gartner says 80% of us marketers are probably going to give up on personalization in the next five years.

So why exactly is personalization so hard that Gartner thinks it’s going to go the way of the dodo?

A big part of the reason is the utterly overwhelming tidal wave of data we’re all struggling to swim through. One survey found that the average company manages a whopping 163 terabytes of data and the average enterprise is approaching 348 terabytes. For reference, you could fit 500 hours of movies on a single terabyte.

No wonder 87% of marketers say data is their company’s most underutilized asset.

The good news is that being crushed under a terabyte of data doesn’t have to be our marketing future. These challenges aren’t inevitable.

The solution here is two-fold:

First, marketers need to collect less data (while prioritizing data that actually matters). If I’m selling products entirely online, do I really need your address? Does my shoe business need to know if you’re married or not? Does my online bookstore really need your gender? (Hint: probably not.)

Honestly, we’re not convinced that companies need much demographic data at all. Because studies show that past customer behavior is 20x more likely to predict future customer behavior.

Second, we need technology to wrangle all those terabytes. We need tech that brings all that data—which currently lives in a variety of disconnected systems like a CRM, an email marketing system, and that series of sticky notes Herb insists on keeping on his cubicle wall—into one centralized place. Tech that lets us sort that giant pile of data with a few clicks. Even better, tech with built-in machine learning and artificial intelligence that takes out the guesswork of personalization and lets us automate it.

Because, let’s be honest, none of us can personalize for hundreds of thousands of customers by hand. We can’t even get through the damn pile of data.

As one expert said over at Marketing Land, “the best marketers I have seen are embracing…machine learning and automation, firstly, to understand what their consumers are looking for in real-time [and to respond] with tailored, personalized content and messages that resonate.”

Here’s the bottom line: it may be true that companies are going to start throwing in the personalization towel. But that doesn’t negate very real numbers like Amazon’s 35% of sales that come from personalization efforts.

And the choice is coming: give up and let the competitors pass you by or be part of the 20% that refuses to give up, embraces new technology, and reaps the benefits of personalization.

If you’re the latter, we’d love to help you figure out the best strategy for your ongoing personalization efforts. Contact us anytime.


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