Living on a tightrope: Personalisation in advertising

As the digitally savvy online consumer becomes ever more discerning, it is becoming more important for digital marketers to personalise their offering.

The reason for brands to pursue personalisation is clear – consumers love something that’s personal and unique to them. But today’s digital marketers face a complex mix of challenges when looking for new customers in the online world. Consumers shop in different ways, on different devices, and are faced with a barrage of marketing messages every second they are online.

The problem for brands trying to cut through the noise online is that consumers have the option to disengage so easily, at the tap of a button. In this context, the challenge for digital marketers is to ensure that advertising is relevant, but there’s a fine line between being ‘targeted’, and being ‘invasive’. Without persistence, adverts may go unnoticed, but advertise too aggressively and consumers will be put off entirely.

A balancing act

New research from Tradedoubler demonstrates the importance of being personal, without over stepping the mark. Exploring the online shopping behaviour and perceptions of adult consumers in nine European countries, our Digital Connections survey found that almost half (43 per cent) of UK consumers say that being approached with relevant offers makes them like a brand.

Half of the consumers surveyed said that they like to receive advertising that is relevant to them, and almost a third (29 per cent) are more likely to buy from a business that sends them tailored messages.

However, it’s clear that consumers have a limit when it comes to being exposed to too much advertising. Many are turning away from what they see as invasive or disruptive advertising and are becoming increasingly intolerant of poorly targeted ads. A majority of respondents (55 per cent) said they reject brands that bombard them with too much or irrelevant advertising.

Brands need intelligence to navigate their way through this complex landscape, so that they engage with the right customers in the right way. For example, capping the number of times a consumer sees the same advert can be a useful tool for brands that want to get it right. This helps advertisers create a positive brand impression without becoming an annoyance.

Using data responsibly

Data insights are rapidly replacing ‘gut feel’ as a means to get this balancing act right and approach new customers effectively. Data is no longer just about names and addresses on a spreadsheet, it can be used to create valuable insights into how customers behave and shop.

Digital marketers now have access to data from a variety of different sources – transactions, social media activity, customer service interactions and web searches are just a few sources. This complex web of data can be leveraged to deliver insight into complex consumer behaviour, enabling targeted decision making and driving successful performance marketing campaigns.

The more a business knows about its customers the more it can shape their experience through the delivery of targeted and relevant content. As our survey shows, there is growing awareness amongst consumers that in order to receive offers of genuine interest they need to provide some information about themselves in return.

But amid concerns over consumer privacy online, digital marketers need to be aware of the value this data really holds and how it can be used without infringing customer privacy. The Digital Connections study found that a large majority of consumers (69 per cent) feel their privacy is being compromised when information is collected about them without their knowledge, and almost half (46 per cent) feel the same if advertising follows them between websites. The key, for brands, is to maintain customer trust by making it clear why they are collecting data and explaining how it will be used.

Starting a conversation

Data alone is not enough. Once a digital marketer has leveraged data insights to identify who their next customers are, where to find them and what appeals to them, they can start to build the relevant, personalised offer that will engage them. The most important consideration is then presenting that offer in the right place, at the right time. Using a combination of unique first party behavioural data and machine learning can help brands do exactly that.

Personalisation appeals to the innate human need to feel engaged. As our research shows, the rewards for getting personalised engagement right are clear, with large numbers of consumers prepared to welcome brands which communicate with them in the right way, at the right time and on the most appropriate device.

Over the next few years, all brands will adopt personalisation in some form, such is the trend towards customer-centric digital marketing. The challenge for leading brands will be their ability to harness new technologies to deliver personalised, targeted communications that do not infringe the personal privacy barriers of their customers.

Dan Cohen, ‎Regional Director at Tradedoubler