Why personalisation is still the key to effective cross-channel digital marketing

Why personalisation is still the key to effective cross-channel digital marketing
Kym Reynolds is a senior marketing advisor for SmartFocus. SmartFocus is an innovator in messaging and communications, enabling the world’s largest brands – including Nestlé, Mercedes-Benz and House of Fraser – to understand and connect more closely with today’s connected consumers; whether that be via web, mobile, email or social channels. Through The Message Cloud solution, SmartFocus genuinely listens to and learns from customers using patented algorithms and unique location-based marketing tools. Using The Message Cloud, SmartFocus customers have the rich data, intelligence and the tools for contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel.

We know personalisation is the buzzword of the moment. The term is everywhere, discussed by everyone as the saviour of our modern email marketing times.

It is also in danger of becoming ubiquitous – the industrialisation of what should simply be a personal and unique real-time connection with a consumer. But when it is done properly, personalisation is a truly beautiful thing. Personalization is the canvas, where email and web preferences paint a consumer’s unique picture.

The current average open rate for commercial emails is 19-20%, with click-through rates of around 3-4%. Personalization offers a way to drastically improve these figures by offering hyper-relevant content – rising above the ever-growing number of emails received by consumers.

To make any kind of mark in an inbox, emails need to be personalized to stand out from the deluge of batch and blast emails.

This standard send emails are now redundant – instantly forgettable, instantly lost when they are in competition with more powerful and relevant contextual emails.

Emails need to feel as alive as websites, and must interact with customer live data as well as live streams from third parties such as weather, currency and traffic.

First things first: Building a personalised email campaign

It’s all very well and good to send better, more powerful and totally up to the second contextually relevant emails, but how do you personalize these messages to a user’s context, time of open or availability of offer?

To enable contextual personalised emails, you need a marketing platform with a highly-intuitive editor for personalized content.

An advanced marketing cloud allows for personalisation designs – including picture and text overlays, interactive content such as scratch cards and countdown timers, and algorithmic-driven content such as product offers and next-best actions.

These personalisations can be deployed in a single and consistent policy across any number of digital channels, as well as to a mobile device for in-store use cases.

This means that email can be triggered by an in-store activity – and equally an email action (click or open) can change what a customer sees on their next web visit.

The importance of A/B and multivariate testing

Understanding the effectiveness of variants, and using the results in real-time to create new variants or reduce to just one, is vital for effective email campaigns.

A/B/n and multivariate testing capabilities must be easily configured and tested in a marketing platform. Test results and subsequent actions can be determined automatically by setting rules – such as rolling out a winning segment based on a specific criterion.

Offer content, the algorithms and weighting configurations can then be modified in real-time, creating new variants to maintain effectiveness measurements.

All results can then be stored and measured against the single customer view, allowing effectiveness to be measured at the engagement level or at the individual customer level. Machine learning means every individual customer interaction is fed back into the system for ongoing optimization.

SKU level product recommendation integration in emails

Providing next-best offer and next-best action guarantees revenue increases. We see time and time again this algorithm massively improves rates across all benchmarks. Emails now need to be able to swop out featured products even after the email has sent. It’s vital that emails change content down to SKU level product recommendations in real-time.

For example, if a product runs out of stock, a promotion ends, or the weather changes (a summer promotion campaign is sent but the weather turns cold). A toy retailer can react to stock levels the second an email is opened.

Sales are maximized because their emails always show products that are in stock. Within the toy industry, the most popular toys go in and out of stock very quickly, so live personalization is essential to swop products in real-time. It is frustrating for a potential customer who clicks on an email product link to find it is out of stock. Customers who know your products are always in stock become more loyal – their time and interest hasn’t been wasted.

Triggered messaging

It’s critical to have a wide range of email triggered messaging. Using ecommerce platform connectors enables all types of transactional and service related messaging. Behavioral triggers such as browse, cart, and site abandoned are integral to a marketing platform solution using native tracking capabilities and RTD.

Triggers depend on the real-time nature of the data, which is as close to ‘in the moment’ as a brand can provide.

For example, email clicks and web interactions can be harvested and acted on in real-time, whereas if a brand can only deliver POS data overnight (which is quite common), the RTD must use the last best information it has.

Marketing platforms that are still reliant on relational databases can’t process this amount of data in the moment, let alone decide on what to do with it. Within email this can deliver up to 4x increase on standard marketing KPIs like open and click-through.

In this way, all email becomes like transactional email, delivered at the appropriate moment without stale, static content and no longer driven by the marketer’s best guess.

Integrating email strategy with mobile marketing Proximity = Personalization

The integration of mobile and email is one of the key foundations of a contextual marketing program.

Where some vendors stop at simply facilitating emails that render on mobile, more advanced platforms go further into cross-channel messages based on email behaviors and emails triggered by mobile location data.

For example, triggering a post-store visit email based on how long that person spent in-store and in which departments.

Mobile in this case makes email more advanced. Location data gleaned from a loyalty app personalizes for the ‘segment of one’ customer.

A leading UK shoe retailer had an open rate of 73% for emails of this kind, which is the usual level of engagement expected from transactional emails. Personalized push notifications also amplify this messaging.

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