Boosting Brand Affinity with Personalization in the Digital Age
How many of us remember walking into a gift shop on holiday when we were younger (and well before a global pandemic put a stop to the H word) and eagerly searching for a fridge magnet, mug, or pencil inscribed with our name?
Personalization is a tactic brands and businesses have been using for years to hook us into their offerings. The idea is, as consumers, we forge stronger attachments to products that appear to have been created for or tailored to us. For businesses, encouraging these deep connections with customers results in loyalty and greater lifetime value.
In theory, the formula is simple. But in reality, success requires so much more than printing a name on an everyday household object. Instead, brands must allocate large amounts of resources to really understanding their customers and then developing offerings that suit them.
Fortunately, the internet provides a more efficient and effective way to personalize offerings on a mass level. And as a result, we’ve seen the rise of businesses, including Moonpig, Getting Personal, and Funky Pigeon, that offer customers a service to personalize common gift items, in order to create something with greater meaning and significance for a loved one.
However, in this day and age, customers have, what seems like, an unlimited choice of options when it comes to personalized products; think those mentioned above, as well as etsy, Not on the Highstreet, and the numerous photo printing and engraving services offered by the likes of Boots, Asda, H.Samuel, Next, and so many others. Therefore, for personalization to really be a differentiating factor for your brand, tailoring must go far beyond the surface level of a product.
Everything from the brand experience, content, and functionality of the final product or service needs to be designed and developed with each individual end user in mind.
But again, the internet offers its hand in this sense too. Essentially, businesses with digital offerings also have data and insight at their fingertips, which can help them to better understand who their customers are and what it is they want. With this information, brands can begin to personalize the way in which they communicate, interact with, and cater to their customers in order to evoke a greater feeling of connectivity.
For example, personalized digital marketing tactics, such as including first-name fields in email campaigns, have proven to generate greater click-through rates than those without. Clearly, tailoring this small part of an email by ensuring such information is collected and stored in your address database can have a significant impact on the success of your activity, soon outweighing any additional work or effort required to implement the change.
Similarly, pay-per-click advertising (PPC) can benefit from personalization, particularly if ads are targeted with users’ individual preferences and characteristics. While PPC management can be a time-consuming task alone, with personalization only adding to the load, there is a strong case for the use of a software solution that can help you collect and analyze data, and then automate activity accordingly. As well as saving time, this marketing tactic also becomes much more efficient by lessening the budget being wasted on ineffective leads. With ads more likely to be shown to users with a greater chance of clicking, as their data suggests a strong interest in your offering, there is opportunity to improve click-to-conversion rates, too.
Again, this all sounds good in theory, but a data-centric approach presents further challenges in terms of knowing what information to collect, and then interpreting it in a way that is accurate and useful to the business. For instance, businesses operating across various sales channels may face difficulty collecting data that is representative of its multiple customer segments. Its online customers are likely to be different from its in-store ones, and so an offering that is personalized to the latter is not guaranteed to feel equally as customized to the former. Or vice versa.
This is another area in which technology can help. Platforms such as VTEX offer businesses a way to collect and centralize data across all channels. With all this information in one place, it is possible to draw meaningful and accurate insights to inform personalization decisions.
However, personalization, in its fundamental form, is all about being human and emotive in your approach. It comes down to understanding the intrinsic values of your customers and placing these at the center of your offering to develop meaningful connections. Data and technology, therefore, can only help so much. Alongside this, there needs to be human input, which can come from your experience and expertise regarding your market and consumers.
For example, in more recent years, we’ve seen brands give more thought to mass marketing opportunities on special days and events, such as Father’s Day. While data and technology can help you create a personalized email to promote gift ideas for an event that the majority will be celebrating, a human approach will tell you that many of your customers may prefer not to see messages associated with the occasion. As a result, we see pre-campaign e-shots that give warning and opportunity to opt out of communications associated with the event.
By combining both technology and human instinct in this way, offerings become that much more personal and effective at boosting brand affinity. And that is where there is a real sweet spot when it comes to differentiating your personalized offer from the next, especially as the e-commerce market becomes ever more saturated with competitors.
Nate Burke is CEO of Diginius, which he founded in 2011. He is known as an early e-commerce pioneer and entrepreneur. He launched his first internet business in 1997 and is a two-time nominee for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He has a BA in computer science and an MBA from the University of Alabama.