Breaking Through the Barriers to Personalization

A few months ago, we came across research done by Demand Metric in conjunction with Seismic, concerning the reasons that companies do not do more personalization of content in their customer communications. The top 5 reasons??? Well, they are pretty easy to guess since they have not changed for nearly a decade:

1. Don’t have the technology (59%)
2. Don’t have the resources to execute (59%)
3. Don’t have the needed data (53%)
4. Too difficult to execute (28%)
5. Don’t understand the benefits (14%)

This research flies in the face of continued evidence that personalization can make a material difference in the outcomes of communications campaigns. The CMO Council reported that 56% of respondents to a 2015 survey they conducted reported higher response and engagement rates, 43% reported increased conversions, and 40% reported greater loyalty among the benefits of personalization in customer communications.

There is no question that building out a content strategy and the underlying architecture for execution of personalized touchpoints takes work and is more expensive than generic communications. However, as customers continue to draw on their consumer experiences with leaders like Amazon, Netflix and Google, where personalization is built-in, the expectations of companies across all spectra is increasing. More and more, we have come to presume that the information reaching our desks/phones/tablets is tailored to meet our needs. In the best cases, we control the ‘dials’ that tune that content, but in high-trust relationships, like those with healthcare insurers, we expect that these organizations will put what they know about us to best use for us.

Our advice to reticent marketers? Start small and start now.

The barriers to personalization are not really founded in technology, but rather in the collective knowledge of how to best put technology to use. Keep initial programs smaller and simpler, and focus on those things that should be easiest but often are not…like making sure the customer’s name and address and gender are right. Build in subtle, small personal content elements over a span of touches so that no one mailing gets held up over complexity.

Amazon, Google, Netflix and other sophisticated communicators have years of technical effort under their belts, making the hard look simple. Like them, approach the challenge in measured steps and you will find that your programs will quickly progress without requiring herculean effort and massive financial support.


Demand Metric, “Content Personalization: Content Marketing’s Evolultion: The Age of Hyper-Personalization and Automation” in partnership with Seismic, March 22, 2016.

CMO Council, “Brand Attraction from Enriched Interaction” sponsored by IBM Digital Experience, August 18, 2015.