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The Hidden Link between Personalization and Dark Marketing

The Hidden Link between Personalization and Dark Marketing

June 21, 2018

Personalization is more than just cool sneakers and bespoke suits; highly personalized social media content is a key ingredient for successful dark marketing.

Apple’s much anticipated launch on Sept. 12 included various new iPhone models, but the star of the show by far was the Apple Watch, with its new, built-in, FDA-approved ECG monitor. This is the brand’s largest step forward into the healthcare/medical equipment field and can mark a huge shift in their marketing strategy.

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We've recently discussed two other elements in Dark Marketing: fragmentation and segmentation.

Today, we will talk about how all that comes together with personalization.

What is Personalized Content Delivery?

Providing online visitors with personalized content basically means that marketers optimize content to meet the personal preferences and areas of interest of each potential client. This is achieved by gathering data and statistics from users' online behavior (for example if they register on your site), location, social graph information, as well as other identifiers and attributes. With all this data at their disposal, they segment their target market precisely and provide each user with the exact content that will engage him or her.

Personalization Boosts Sales

Personalization strategies have been identified as improving sales by an average of 19%. By personalizing content, "salesy" generic texts are avoided; companies address the customer by name and raise topics of genuine interest to him or her.

Using data analysis and personalized interaction, each customer journey is tailored to the user. Fewer and more accurate decision stages translates into more sales and fewer abandoned purchases. Even marketers who do not have the ability to gather user metrics can address users by name and provide a more personalized experience.

When implemented effectively, personalization is often embraced by users. According to Cap Gemini, over 60% of users appreciate the ease of interaction with online stores that remember their personal information. Similarly, because information is delivered based on interest, users receive only pinpointed and relevant content (which they like) - and are not inundated with generic content as in the past (which they love).

That's why marketers do it. And will keep doing it.

How is personalized content used in practice?

1. Automated Personalization: While in pre-Internet times, marketers analyzed data and used this information to manually select the content to provide based on segments or groups of users, these processes are becoming automated because of improved technology and machine learning. The increased automated makes it easier to group in smaller and smaller segments, eventually reaching segments of individuals, i.e. completely personalized, fully targeted content to each and every person. If each creative is tailored to an
individual person, how can marketers possibly hope to analyze their competitors’ campaigns?

2. Use of A/B testing: (discussed in greater detail here) is on the rise, due to automation technology and AI that empowers companies to test all aspects of their content - so they can laser focus their approach and gauge what works. This means that marketers trying to reverse engineer their competitors’ strategy have even more creatives to sort through to get a full picture of their campaigns.

3. Targeting and retargeting: Using HTTP cookies, companies gather precise data about users’ online activity, shopping carts and more. With this information, they can invite
users back to their abandoned purchases and retarget them for similar items. By understanding how companies retarget their visitors, it is possible to gain insights into their marketing strategies.

4. In store personalization: 85% of buyers reveal that they would be influenced to make a purchase by a personalized digital display or beacon advertising. However, it is important to use these tools without crossing lines of a buyer's feeling of privacy.

Personalization on the Rise

Currently, many marketers have not yet fully implemented a personalization strategy.  Their data may not be in order, or they simply may not have the expertise to implement this advanced strategy. According to Evergage, 52% believe that the maturity level of their organization’s personalization strategy is “limited” while only 8% rate it as “advanced.” Overwhelmingly, they indicate that as the technology and strategy becomes mainstream, its use will increase exponentially. Programmatic marketing which can drive personalization is similarly on the rise, confirming that we are only at the beginning of the personalized marketing revolution.

Challenges for Marketers Trying to Understand Competition

If marketers were previously able to gauge competitor strategy by looking on their website, keeping abreast of marketing materials, or simply watching for their posts in their social media feeds, now this information is not always readily available since each user will see something different. Users will be targeted differently than in the past - and privately, so it becomes increasingly difficult to act and react in accordance to the wider market picture. This new landscape that is developing necessitates new tools to keep abreast of market developments. 

How do customers react to Personalization: Cool or

While ostensibly a lovely service that can delight users by enabling quick access to the content they seek - it has the potential of coming off a bit... creepy, especially in an age when privacy issues are a dominant concern for users. Consider the story of a father who discovered his daughter was pregnant when Target offered her coupons for baby equipment. Indeed, a recent Harvard Review Study revealed that 78% of users do not want to develop a relationship with a brand. For this reason, in Europe, stringent regulations (aka GDPR) have been implemented in the past few weeks to protect user privacy. Under GDPR, companies must get explicit permission from consumers for every type of use they intend for their personal information. While GDPR has thrown marketers into a bit of a tizzy, the control and privacy that this affords to the consumer is a welcome change, and simply forces marketers to do personalization the way, rather than collecting information without permission and using it, which could alienate customers. When done right, personalization is viewed as adding considerable value to the customer's experience with the brand. And this, obviously, is the holy grail.  

Marketers are currently learning how to use personalization tools effectively - how to get it right without appearing to be a stalker. One of the benefits of the BrandTotal marketing intelligence platform is that marketers can use it to discover not only what personalized content their competitors are promoting, but how the viewers are reacting to it.

Photo credit: Joshua McKnight from Pexels

About the author

Alon Leibovich

Alon is the CEO and co-founder of BrandTotal.

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