You’re right to be sceptical about personalisation at scale

4th March 2021

Audiences are receptive to personalised advertising but sceptical of its execution and implementation. How far are we from delivering truly personalised advertising at scale?

We are all part of the ‘customer experience revolution’. 84% of consumers say their digital experiences fall short of their expectations, according to a 2018 Gartner survey.

There are still considerable gaps in the ability of enterprises to make customer experiences easy – to earn trust and deliver desirable results. ‘Personalisation at scale’ is a very significant cog in being able to deliver compelling customer experiences. The re-write which we are in – digital transformation – is essentially about creating connected customer experiences.

We need that re-write to continue to provide the technological basis for truly personalised advertising at scale.

But you are right to be sceptical.

As it stands, people are right to be sceptical of personalised advertising execution and implementation. It is close to impossible to deliver end to end advertising on a multi-touch journey in a truly personalised way.

Worse than that, customer touchpoints are proliferating even further, and it is becoming harder and harder to follow customers through their journey across all their touchpoints. Take the latest iOS14 tracking update as an example.

Big tech is breaking ground

Despite the complexity, we know that the most successful digital marketing engagements are those that consider the customer and their experience.

Big tech knows this. Google, for example, spends huge sums on continuously advancing algorithms to improve platform experience. They know and understand that the best search experience correlates with the most successful advertising engagements, which will drive more revenue.

Take Google’s ranking factors for example. They are totally centred on customer experience:

  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Is it faster?
  • Does it work on your device?
  • Is it popular with others? (user metrics)
  • Is it trusted by experts? (links)
  • Does it answer the question? (content)

The excellent customer experience on their platform is then multiplied with personalisation. They are focused on putting the correct, high-quality content in front of the right person, at the right time.

The big 4 tech companies – Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook – are genuinely delivering mass personalisation at scale, in real-time. They have been doing this for years and have built incredibly successful methods to use AI to drive those decisions. It is also improving performance.

The downfall for us as advertisers is that this can only happen within their walled gardens. Even that theory is creaking, however, as software developers such as Apple work to boost the privacy of their consumers.

So, as soon as we leave the walled garden (which we must as advertisers to reach our customers in their preferred environments), we are back to being sceptical as to how we will manage the customer experience/personalisation conundrum at scale.

The relentless rise of programmatic

The phrase right place, right time has been with us for some time now and shows no sign of being replaced by another catchy agency/tech vendor phrase. 

In a bought media context, this is ‘personalisation’ in its broadest form. The AI developments we are seeing are totally geared up at manipulating data to understand right place, right time to extremes.

The continued acceleration of programmatic media coupled with artificial intelligence has created new opportunities to develop ‘mass personalisation’ and speak to customers in the right place, at the right time, but also in the right way (creative). 

The programmatic platforms have made substantial improvements and the exciting advancements in dynamic creative also make personalisation quite accessible to most agencies.

The technology, however (back to the need for digital transformation), continues to be limiting in most agency/advertiser relationships. The maturity required in technology and data science capability (client and agency side)to truly manage 1st party data assets for existing customers and prospects is reserved only for the most advanced enterprises in the world.

We are still at the very beginning.

Despite our advancements, and continuous drive to create amazing personalised, customer experiences for our clients and their customers, the technology is still in its infancy.

This is still the beginning for some platforms as well. The emerging programmatic opportunity within other formats such as out of home, audio and video are only just surfacing.

We have a long way to go and we have an exciting journey ahead.


About Adapt

Digital performance marketing, analytics & consultancy for growth-minded brands.

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