Early Personalisation in Action

A good example of early usage comes from an old Xerox/Ford Motor Company case study. The car manufacturer was using basic personalisation, such as customers’ first names and the vehicles that they owned. While using name and vehicle data produced a 2.5 percent increase in response, it plateaued at that level.
The mailer was reworked pulling in customer data from various departments, including vehicle type, length of owner- ship, address, age, income and gender. This meant the company could send different messages to each individual in the list, as each would have different reasons for buying a car.

Despite incredible market pressure at the time — these mail drops were being delivered at a time when car manufacturers were struggling to stay afloat — the fully personalised self-mailer achieved a 5.7 percent increase in response rates and a 35.7 percent increase in sales penetration as compared to the original mailer. It was so successful at the time that campaign production ramped up to two million pieces of personalised mail annually.

Has Personalisation Plateaued?

But truth be told, we’re not much further along from those heady days of the earliest forays into personalisation, and we’re certainly nowhere near replicating – in a digital sense – the closeness of relationship held by our storekeeping predecessors. But we have moved on.

Instead of storing just name, age, gender and other basic personally identifiable information, we’re moving toward storing brand affinities, product relationships, interest, hobbies, and behavioural data.
Yet, according to our research, 96 percent of marketers say building a single, comprehensive view of customers is a challenge, let alone being able to send them truly hyper-personalised marketing. Even the most basic of personalisations — using a name in a communication — is a struggle for many.

Do Consumers Even Want Personalisation?

It is clear that many marketers are not in any position to personalise their communications in the first place. But that’s okay because customers aren’t ready for that yet, right?


A lack of website personalisation, as a prime example, is an issue if you sell to “digital natives” — aka late Gen Y and Gen Z types who’ve grown up using computers, smartphones and other digital devices. It turns out, according to my own research, that 77.5 percent of respondents in this age group want you to give them a truly personalised experience, both on your website and within messages.
This is no surprise to me. As I discovered in my report on how people complain to brands using social media (“Digital pitchforks: Turning social media complaints into brand wins”), these digital and social media natives are a new breed.
They were born and raised on social media. They’re young, and social media is their native environment, making them skilled in its use. For them, collaborative creation is practically the reason the internet exists. Digital natives expect your social presence to be as immediate and engaging as they enjoy with their friends and connections.

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