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Guest post by Mike Austin, CEO, Fresh Relevance

It probably won’t come as huge surprise that many organisations whether B2C or B2B still don’t engage in even the most basic levels of personalisation in their engagement marketing activities. But as we move (some faster than others) from a multi-channel to an omni-channel ecommerce experience, personalisation triggered by the behaviour of the customer and not just their name has in many respects become the most important element in the optimisation of the customer journey.

How many emails do your receive claiming to be private and confidential but are addressed ‘Dear Occupier’ or ‘Dear Customer’. It does nothing to trigger the desire to act, other than to hit delete, as I know that the content is likely to be neither private confidential nor indeed relevant. Perhaps more troubling are communications that are all of these things, yet are not personalised. For example, mobiles.co.uk (part of the Carphone Warehouse) was recently the subject of a data breach. It burst in to action notifying its customers, explaining the situation and the necessary courses of action, but the email began with ‘Dear Customer’. The cynic in me thinks that a cybercriminal was able to gain access to personal and financial data, yet the organisation could not manage a personalised salutation!

The salutation is of course an important part of personalisation, after all you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, but it is just the tip of the iceberg, especially when the conversation is expanded from email to the web and beyond.

Personalisation done well and at its best is all about being able to identify a customer and demonstrate that you know them, not just by their name but by behaviour, the items they view and those they have purchased. It is understanding the demographic they fall into and suggesting to them ideas, information, products and services that others in the same group are showing interest in. It is also about knowing the journey your customers take with you (their preferred channels and devices), where they are on their particular journey and being able to proactively engage with them – ideally in real-time at the right time.

In essence we are talking about injecting fresh relevance in to your marketing communications and wider customer engagement, and relevance equals revenue. To put it bluntly – personalisation is profitable.

One of the reasons personalisation is still in many respects in its infancy for many organisations is the misguided perception that it is complex and costly to implement and manage. After all, integrating transaction information, web behaviour statistics and CRM data (the three vital elements for effective single, multi or omni-channel personalisation) implies an intricate drawn-out integration project with a large scope for error. But the truth that most vendors would prefer you not to know is that it is possible to deliver effective (and by effective I mean revenue generating) personalisation at relatively low cost.

Sam du Feu works in the IT and Marketing team at the online retailer, 7dayshop, an organisation that has grasped the power of personalisation and he recently commented that: “Whether it is a returning customer that is logged in or a new visitor, they are presented with constantly changing range of products that are most likely to suit them, based on their personal preferences, or the very latest crowd-sourced information.”

Such is the extent to which 7dayshop uses personalisation it is even applied through its website navigation, whereby each product range is accompanied by a drop down list of product types accompanied by ‘Recommended for you’ and ‘Best sellers’ options. Sam du Feu added: “We are making it easy for our customers to find what they want and giving them information and advice to help them make a more informed purchasing decision. It has been a really successful initiative.” In fact, the conversion rate from the 7dayshop homepage is reported as being more than double the overall website average.

So perhaps we can dispel some of the myths of complexity and cost of omni-channel personalisation.

Integration of transaction, web behaviour and CRM need not be a back-office nightmare. With the right knowhow it can be accomplished with ‘light’ front-end integration. Ease-of-use is also a concern but once you have defined and set-up the rules (according to how you would like to engage with you customers) then it is very much an automated process. One particular proof point of this is in area of automated personalised cart and browse abandonment emails, where earlier this year the travel company cottages4you recorded an astonishing 957% return on investment, meaning every £1 invested has returned £9.57.

As the success 7dayshop clearly demonstrates, creating a personalised browsing experience delivers compelling returns. Even greater rewards can be had when this level of intimacy is replicated in an omni-channel context, so whether it is a cart or browse abandonment email, or a scheduled e-newsletter the content is highly tailored to the recipient. A personalised marketing communication means little if the products you are recommending are not available at the time of opening. It is here that the daily deal website Manillo.dk is making waves in the retail world with its use of real-time content, as company Director, Frederik Boysen, explains: “Whenever the customer opens an email they will only ever presented with deals that are available at that moment. He adds: “We are able to ensure that our customers never receive a message from us regarding an expired deal.”  Manillo.dk can be sure that regarding of the engagement channel the customer only ever sees products that are available to them. With this approach they are achieving omni-channel pertinence as well as personalisation.

 Omni-channel personalisation is achievable and affordable. Light integration and automation results in low capital expenditure, small operating costs, less work and more impactful relevant customer engagement marketing. What is more, because of the quality of reporting it easy to measure success through sales and quantify the return-on-investment.