The path to personalization

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel moderated by Liz Kiehner of IBM at the Westchester Digital Summit, together with Stacy Eisner from NBC and Jeff Kabat from Adobe. The discussion was lively and energetic as we explored providing personalized, omnichannel messages and experiences. Highlights from the conversation included:

1.The full extent of available first, second and third party data should be brought to bear whenever possible to create better customer experiences.

To borrow an analogy, imagine you’ve got a hankering for a hamburger. You can rely on your own knowledge (first-party data), or you can visit Google or Yelp (third-party data) for a recommendation. But, perhaps the best option is to call a friend whose hamburger-based knowledge you trust and value. That friend is a source of second-party data, not your own information per se, but the contribution of a known and trusted partner. Ask your clients: are you availing yourselves of the full complement of first, second and third-party data? If not, why?

2.The line between operational and marketing communications is (and should be) increasingly blurred.

About a month ago, I was in Chicago for a meeting—April 9th, to be exact. (As you might recall, that was a bad day to be flying out of Chicago.) A few hours before my scheduled departure from O’Hare, I received the following email from the airline, which read, in its entirety:

“Flight 711 on April 9 is delayed due to air traffic control conditions impacting our flight operations. Information is subject to change. For up-to-the-minute flight status information, go to our website, use the mobile app or check flight information screens at the airport.”

At this point it bears mentioning that: (a) Flight 711 is the last fight out until the following day and (b) at the time, there was an extremely high probability of that flight being cancelled altogether.

Now, imagine that the airline had availed itself of the full complement of first and third party data—and had consequently known about my likes and dislikes—and that email could have read:

“Flight 711 on April 9 is delayed due to air traffic control conditions impacting our flight operations. Given the high probability of cancellation, we will waive applicable change fees should you choose to reschedule. We’d also like to give you the opportunity to click here for a special, one-time only rate at The Palmer House, and to remind you that Chicago’s best steakhouse is right down the street at Gene & Georgetti. Also, keep in mind that the Cubs take on the Cardinals at Wrigley Field tonight at 7:05.  Click here for available tickets. We hope you arrive at your final destination in a timely manner, but should you elect to re-book your flight, we hope you make the most of all Chicago has to offer!”

Which notification is more useful and engaging to you, the first or the second? I thought so.

3.Marketers feel unprepared for the explosion in available first, second and third party data, and the resulting privacy considerations.

IBM’s recent Global CMO Study revealed this startling statistic; when asked whether they feel unequipped to manage the impact of 13 different market factors, the #1 concern was “Data Explosion” with 71% of CEOs listing it as a concern. (#10 was “Privacy Considerations” at 55%.) Even more remarkable, 81% plan to invest in advanced analytics and CRM capabilities, ranking them above mobile, tablet and SEO investments by a wide margin. As a trusted partner, it is incumbent on us to guide our clients through what can be a very convoluted series of data management and privacy challenges and to act genuinely and forthrightly with their best interest at heart. Only then will we achieve the customer engagement and brand loyalty that properly applied data and information can achieve.

True, one-on-one customer engagement is the goal of every marketer. A goal that, until now, has been elusive. At long last, a customized and unique customer experience is now within reach. What challenges are you experiencing on your own path to personalization? Leave your thoughts in the comments.