How personalization is changing, according to three CMOs

The new year is a time of reflection and planning for the year ahead. With 2018 underway, staying at the forefront of the rapidly evolving digital marketing landscape is top of mind for marketers. One topic that continues to come up as a priority for our industry is personalization.

According to recent Epsilon research, 80 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience. As brands and consumers alike increasingly embrace personalization, one-to-one marketing that engages individual consumers based on their unique interests and preferences is on the rise.

I recently spoke with CMOs and senior marketers from Cracker Barrel, GIA and Walgreens about their approach to personalization and how they're ramping up those efforts in the next 12 months:

Don Hoffman, senior VP of marketing, Cracker Barrel: "Our goal at Cracker Barrel is to maintain the loyal followers of our brand and attract the next generation of our guest base. We serve over a quarter of a billion people a year and the needs and interests of our vast guest base vary. Accordingly, our messaging strategies need to be highly targeted and employ greater precision. This includes our creative messaging as well as the media platforms we employ.

"We have experienced growing success with this approach over the past couple of years. Last year we developed an online video, social and email campaign called 'The World's Worst Camper' in support of a summer promotional time period supporting our popular 'Campfire' meal program. We also developed a micro-targeted and highly personalized integrated marcom campaign called 'The Office Hero' supporting the launch of our business-to-business, meal-catering program.

"Both of these projects met our KPIs of impressions, audience engagement and our broader business goals. We attribute the success of these programs to the data insights that fueled the content creation and delivery of our message.

"Given the ever-shifting marketing landscape, it's extremely important to efficiently and effectively focus our marketing spend. Intimate audience personalization will continue to be a strategic pillar of our marketing efforts, and we will continue to analyze the data we have available to identify the best growth opportunities for the delivery of our business programs.

"As a restaurant company, location, demographic and transactional data will be key ingredients for our marketing programs, and I expect our approach to continuously evolve as new technologies and tools become available."

Kathryn Kimmel, CMO and senior VP, Gemological Institute of America (GIA): "GIA, the 87-year old nonprofit that created the famous 4Cs of diamond quality, works to protect consumers – in particular first-time buyers and young bridal couples.

"At GIA, we know that a diamond engagement ring purchase can cause a lot of anxiety. Everyone wants someone they can trust to help them and, even if they research and purchase online, almost everyone goes into a brick-and-mortar store at some point. Working with our agency, Epsilon, we applied those insights to craft a personalization approach that leverages data to further GIA's goal of being a trusted advisor.

"Leveraging Epsilon's storehouse of data and analytical skills, GIA reaches consumers who are most likely to be shopping for an engagement ring. We've used a combination of programmatic targeting, geo-location, machine learning, predictive modeling and re-targeting to deliver content to diamond shoppers during their purchase journey to help them make more informed and confident purchases.

"With a mobile-friendly website, a Retailer Lookup service and geo-location targeting, we can offer those same resources on-the-go and direct bridal buyers to retailers with GIA reports and GIA-trained staff who offer quality advice and products."

Mark Sciortino, VP of brand marketing strategy and planning, Walgreens: "Walgreens is moving to new branding that emphasizes our 116-year heritage of serving customers and today engaging them in the modern media context. As we make this shift, building one-to-one relationships with our customers continues to be a key enabler of our marketing strategy. Customers have more choice than ever before, so we have to ensure we're meeting their needs in real time, on-demand and personally relevant ways, both online and offline.

"Our approach entails leveraging real-time data to personalize the customer experience for individual shoppers based on their unique preferences, whether they're in the beauty aisle, seeking a cold remedy or browsing our website or mobile app. It's about understanding what our customers value and delivering meaningful content that reflects that across all channels, including in store, mobile and social.

"We're using a combination of data and technology to ensure content reaches the right customers with accuracy, optimizing in real time as their activity changes. With customer behavior constantly changing, personalization is key to making lasting connections with Walgreens shoppers and ultimately delivering on our mission to champion the health and well-being of our communities."

Personalization lessons
Delivering personalization to individuals at scale requires a combination of the right data and the right technology. To generate the highest performance and greatest benefit, marketers must focus on four key areas: Recognizing and reaching the right consumers across their devices; building individualized and anonymized profiles that are enriched with each brand interaction over time; making data-informed decisions about the best message to deliver and measuring the impact of those efforts across all channels. With this approach, marketers can tailor each brand interaction and speak to their consumers in the optimal way at exactly the right moment–which will ultimately move the needle on their business.

This post originally appeared in Ad Age.