Creating and scaling effective marketing campaigns is no easy feat—consumer expectations have evolved, and today’s shoppers are looking for personalized and unique experiences at every checkpoint. In order to make an impact in 2021, brands are required to make data-driven decisions, leverage first party insights, and deliver customized experiences to each and every consumer.

The role of personalization and automation in eCommerce has greatly evolved over the years. A mere 10 years ago, consumers were impressed by even the simplest personalization tactics—brands employing automation in marketing were ahead of the curve. Today, personalized experiences are not only expected, but integral in advancing customer relationships and encouraging conversions.

With personalization and automation becoming a core driver of marketing strategies, agencies and brands alike need to prioritize the tactical gathering and leveraging of data. Quality data enables the effective delivery of organic and paid media experiences unique and relevant to individual customers. Automated processes and personalized digital experiences are expected nowadays, particularly by younger generations accustomed to instant gratification. The lack thereof can cause frustration, impatience, purchase friction and ultimately loss of revenue.

Personalization increases profitability

Personalization and automation do more than play a role in customer satisfaction; they positively contribute to organizations’ bottom line. An optimized, omnichannel personalization strategy is proven to generate more qualified customers: 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. 

Brands prioritizing personalization and marketing automation not only see more leads and conversions—they also achieve increased acquisition and retention rates. A personalization after COVID-19 study revealed that retention rates are now a greater motivator for eCommerce websites to implement personalization tactics than conversion rates and increased return on acquisition spend. Cultivating positive relationships with consumers through automated journeys and personalized experiences positively benefits long-term revenue and brand loyalty. 

Retention marketing benefits an organization’s bottom line by nurturing existing customers critical to the growth and profitability of the organization. It is 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, making personalization for retention a critical strategy for affordability. With loyal customers buying and spending more than first-time purchasers, there is a clear benefit in optimizing a personalization and automation strategy geared towards rewarding loyalty. 
The key to successful personalization and automation is data. While the amount of data remains important, the quality of data is integral to creating relevant and unique experiences consumers will truly appreciate. Superior data quality is the most important factor when considering personalization and will result in the greatest return on investment (ROI). ROI from personalization efforts varies greatly by industry, with hospitality seeing the largest returns. Retail isn’t far behind: a 2018 study conducted by Monetate reported respondents from the retail industry seeing a 2-3x ROI on their investment.

Creating a tailored customer experience

Nurturing customers as they move through the path to purchase is an integral part of the brand and consumer relationship. While personalization is often viewed as retargeting strategies and paid advertising, it encompasses a much more holistic approach. A tailored, omnichannel customer experience allows brands to invest in customer loyalty at every level of the funnel. Recognizing an individual’s needs at every touch point and delivering a custom experience to best serve those needs is a top-tier marketing strategy unlocking more potential lifetime value than any hard sell advertising.

Leveraging consumer data for personalization

Personalization is a vital part of a successful marketing strategy in 2021, despite brands facing more restrictions related to gathering consumer data. With various updates including the recent launch of iOS 14.5, brands and advertisers are encountering challenges accessing valuable data from previously common paths such as browser cookies. 

Let’s talk privacy. Major corporations such as Apple are taking steps to protect their users’ privacy above all else has been the trend in 2021 thus far, and prioritizing the responsible collection and use of consumer data will continue to make headlines in coming years. As the digital world moves away from browser cookies, API solutions have taken the spotlight when it comes to responsibly collecting and leveraging customer information. 

The disruption of privacy regulations in the marketing world will inevitably lead brands to rely on first party data. Opt-in points and consensual data collection through site visits and marketing solutions such as email allow brands to get their hands on accurate, up to date information. Although this shift may incite a need for brands to pivot their strategy, first party data is likely to result in higher conversion rates, better customer profiles, and a strengthened consumer-brand relationship. 

These restrictions call for more creative approaches to gathering consumer data, namingly server-side solutions like Convertevent. This API solution allows advertisers to send information through an alternative server-side route by simplifying the implementation of Facebook’s Conversions API. With a tool like Convertevent, brands can see immediate results and access data allowing for better personalization through retargeting campaigns and more. 

Further, creating opt-in checkpoints throughout your digital experience platform can lead to expert-level personalization. According to SmarterHQ, 90% of consumers are willing to share their behavioural data with brands if it means a cheaper and easier shopping experience. By storing data related to consumer preferences, brands can create a more holistic and seamless experience across various platforms. For instance, a clothing retailer has the opportunity and ability to create customer profiles noting size(s), style preferences, brand preferences, and nearest retail location. This information can then dynamically populate personalized automated email marketing campaigns, digital advertisements, and other marketing strategies. 
Ultimately, more data allows for more data driven decisions. Among the most impactful for marketers is the ability to segment audiences and communicate with smaller groups, specifically speaking to their interests, purchasing habits, geolocation, and more. Delivering a more specific and relevant experience to individual customers not only creates a more positive and mutually beneficial relationship, but provides effective conversion points leading to increased ROI. In fact, email marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.

How much personalization is too much?

While the statistics clearly show that brands adopting personalization tactics throughout their marketing strategies are seeing positive returns, it is imperative to consider the level of personalization that is appropriate and warranted by the consumer. At what point, if any, does personalization become invasive?

Data-driven marketing allows brands to successfully implement omnichannel experiences for their customers. Most consumers agree that advertisements and marketing communications relevant to their interests and buying behaviours are welcomed. In fact, 90% of U.S. consumers find marketing personalization very or somewhat appealing. With a large majority of American consumers on board with data sharing, provided it benefits them in some manner, do brands really need to worry about over-personalized experiences?

A high level risk assessment reveals that the benefits of personalization far outweigh the hesitation from a small minority of the consumer population. Many operating systems and regulation boards have begun to limit the amount of information sharing possible, reinstating the consumer’s power to make decisions about sharing data. In 2021, consumers have begun to see more authority over their data sharing decisions and a clearer path to opt out of information sharing. 

Data protection regulations are expected to increase worldwide, and consumers will continue to expect further transparency regarding what information they are sharing through which platforms. While consumers expect personalized messaging, they are simultaneously concerned about their personal privacy. Thus, brands must focus on opt-in data collection methods and collecting owned data from the consumer with consent. Legislation such as CASL in Canada and CAN-SPAM in the United States provide guidelines for brands to consider when building out a data collection strategy. It is imperative that organizations consider and adhere to regulations outlined in the above policies to avoid being penalized. 

Building personalized marketing campaigns will rely on a brand’s ability to gather high quality data from consenting customers and leveraging it to deliver customized, relevant experience and conversion opportunities. The data privacy conversation will remain relevant in coming years, thus staying up to date with the most recent regulations from software organizations and government agencies is critical.

Mobile-first approach

When considering personalization tactics, brands should take into account the recent shift towards mobile-first marketing. As mobile phones become more advanced and accessible than ever before, digital experiences are expected to adapt to present optimized mobile solutions on every platform. 

Mobile personalization and automation technologies will continue to occupy space in the modern marketing landscape, with SMS alerts and mobile applications emerging as prime opportunities to enrich customer experience. With smartphone shopping becoming more prevalent, optimizing online storefronts and digital experiences to suit mobile users is vital. A personalized experience on mobile may look different than its desktop counterpart, but is required to integrate seamlessly with the omnichannel brand experience. Offering SMS subscriptions to mobile site visitors, product recommendations based on omnichannel customer profiles, and frictionless checkout with saved preferences are standards every eCommerce brand should be considering.
Mobile marketing is greatly affected by privacy regulations. With Apple rolling out stricter regulations as part of the iOS 14.5 update, advertisers and app owners must find innovative solutions to gathering data and building out their customer profiles. Opt-in points throughout the site, account preferences, and email marketing are effective ways to collect owned data from customers during regular brand interactions.

Northern partners leading the charge

In preparing for a cookieless world, leveraging platform partners specializing in progressive profiling and conversion optimized experiences is a wise measure. Northern partners with innovative organizations to deliver customized automated solutions, allowing brands to connect with their customers via personalized marketing strategies.

Acquia Marketing Cloud

Acquia delivers a personalized experience for Drupal digital engagement engines leveraging unified customer profiles, centralized targeting, real-time optimization, and integrated advanced analytics. The solution creates consistent and coherent experiences based on real-time events, gathering insights from every channel to personalize each touchpoint of a customer’s digital experience. 

Acquia Marketing Cloud’s first party data strategy enables a comprehensive view of customer data leading to fewer, more effective customer communications. Acquia gives brands the ability to deliver relevant customer experiences, plan for growth, and increase customer engagement. The targeted approach to personalization encompasses marketing automation and data democratization, ensuring brands leveraging Acquia can continue to see success in a cookieless future. With rule-based hypothesis testing and refined targeting techniques, the potential unlocked with Acquia Marketing Cloud is limitless.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Salesforce’s digital marketing automation and analytics software enables brands and organizations to create personalized customer engagement at scale. Collecting data and insights at every stage of the customer journey, Salesforce equips marketers with the ability to understand and respond to customer intent. Access to a shared, single view customer profile accessible across business platforms enables brands to perfect the omnichannel experience—serving relevant touchpoints and capitalizing on appropriate conversion opportunities.

Klaviyo

While many predicted that email marketing would dwindle in favour of SMS and social media strategies, the automation and personalization capabilities of email campaigns and automated flows remain unmatched. An optimized email send can reach a consumer on any device at any time, leading them through various conversion points and gathering data simultaneously. Northern partner Klaviyo provides relationship building tools allowing organizations to create and manage email and SMS campaigns flawlessly. 

Klaviyo’s industry-leading segmentation enables brands to target extremely specific customer profiles across various channels. The platform leverages predictive analytics and real-time data to create unified customer profiles used to inform high-performing multichannel campaigns. Offering integrations with leading eCommerce platforms such as Magento and Shopify, Klaviyo is a powerful tool delivering personalized marketing communications.

Tailored experiences matter

Whether a brand is looking to achieve higher ROI, increase customer loyalty and retention, or simply improve the quality of its digital experiences, personalization matters. Collecting useful and high quality data enables organizations to deliver consumer experiences tailored to the individual, resulting in improved acquisition, retention, and conversion rates. Consumers engage more often and more meaningfully with personalized marketing communications, making the contextualization of interactions imperative to remaining competitive in today’s marketing landscape.

For unique insights surrounding personalization and automation strategies, contact Northern today.

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Northern is one of North America’s fastest growing eCommerce agencies, specializing in industry-leading eCommerce web development, design, and marketing services.