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Personalisation as a marketing tool: what do brands need to know?

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Brands that provide an authentic, personalised experience will better engage with customers and build long-lasting relationships. Channels may change and evolve, but one-to-one marketing remains key. So, are you doing it right?
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As new digital technology continues to disrupt and change the way that consumers absorb information, the possibilities for personalised marketing are also growing rapidly, says Jim Bowes, and charities, too, can harness this innovative approach to marketing.

Personalised marketing, often referred to as one-to-one marketing, is the strategy by which companies use data analysis to deliver individual messages, promotions and product offerings to existing or prospective customers. Imagine a scenario, for example, in which a shopper looks at a product online and, the next time they are on Facebook or Instagram, the site displays an ad for that same product or brand; that is personalised marketing and, specifically in this case, retargeting.

More and more companies are beginning to adopt a personalised approach. The latest technology in this area is making this process much easier, of course, as it enables companies to determine their customers’ location, learn about their browser history and keep a record of their transactions – all of which help the brand to build a detailed profile of the individual.

At this stage, once brands have gained an idea of what an individual customer likes and where they shop, they can tailor their marketing messages to reflect these particular demographics, interests, locations and purchase history. As a result, even though a brand may be reaching out to millions of consumers, it can provide each individual with content that is personally relevant and interesting.

However, personalisation is about more than this content alone; it is also about how and where this content is shared. The rapid rise of digital technology also means that brands need to keep up to date with the platforms their customers are using, which is likely to include multiple social media websites and tools. Regardless of which specific channels they use, brands must ensure that they are sharing engaging, personalised content that the user can identify with across all of these channels, based on clear, consistent messaging that creates a strong sense of empathy.

It is also important to build a ‘journey’ for the user that is well thought-out and easy to complete. Storytelling is fundamental part of this experience, but it will only be effective if these stories reflect and represent the brand’s core values, as well as the customer’s.

Communicating the brand story: case study

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help the most vulnerable and excluded children. UNICEF UK raises funds to transform their lives, through donations from individuals, organisations and companies, and lobbies and campaigns to keep children safe. In order help support this work, it needs to engage with its existing and potential supporters all around the world, using a compelling mix of stories and rich content that keeps people informed, interested and passionate about its work.

To this end, the charity wanted to transform the way in which it communicates with its supporters across all digital channels. The first step was to understand exactly who its supporters are and what digital channels they use, so an efficient digital content strategy could be formulated.

Which is where Manifesto came in. It created a comprehensive audience and content strategy, based on in-depth user research and market analysis. The insight gained during this exercise enabled Manifesto to deliver a total re-design and rebuild of the UNICEF UK website and digital presence.

In today’s ultra-competitive business environment, the way that organisations project themselves online is more critical than ever – and charities are no exception. The homepage of any website, whether it is a business or a charity, is critical in gaining and retaining attention from visitors. Therefore, we re-designed UNICEF UK’s homepage to focus more clearly on its commitment to making a difference for children all over the world, while at the same making it easier for supporters to donate online. This focus was also applied to the full website, ensuring that all content is engaging for visitors.

The charity also needed to ensure that any of the ‘calls to action’ positioned alongside this content were relevant, since this can help to increase user activity significantly.marketing tools article

All of these changes were a vital part of helping UNICEF UK to connect with its supporters more effectively. When it comes to creating an engaging digital presence, it’s imperative to remind visitors of the organisation’s mission and objectives. In this case, being faced with simple statistics such as ‘Raising £1,000 from a sponsored run will provide 200 blankets for refugee children’ shows how simply UNICEF UK’s objectives can be achieved through supporter action.

Engaging supporters through transformation of the marketing tool

marketing tool articleJames McDiarmid (pictured), head of Digital Engagement at UNICEF UK told us: ‘We knew we needed to update our digital presence in order to help raise awareness and maximise our fundraising ability. Consumers in the digital age not only expect information to be instantly available, but also for the content to be engaging and relevant to them. In our case, failure to achieve these goals was limiting our ability to raise awareness, as well as the money that UNICEF UK needs to support the vital work that it is doing to protect children in danger across the world.”

marketing tools article

Manifesto’s user research involved a survey with more than 2,000 responses as well as face-to-face interviews with numerous supporters and potential supporters. Working closely with the Unicef UK digital team, the agency was able to produce a number of strategic insights and recommendations. It was able to build on the organisation’s existing marketing segments to produce five personas representing important types of user. These personas, including detailed but easy to grasp info on needs, common pain points and typical behaviours, would become an ongoing reference for improving user experiences.

Even though it is a charity, UNICEF UK wasn’t scared to act like a business in order to attract and retain supporters for its important cause. The transformation of the charity’s digital presence will not only have far-reaching implications for UNICEF UK, but also for the millions of children that it helps each year. By engaging with its supporters to re-affirm their shared values online, UNICEF UK offers a perfect example of how digital marketing can help to drive real and sustainable change.

In a world full of content, businesses that provide an authentic, personalised experience will have an opportunity to engage with customers and build long-lasting relationships with them. This last point is important, as customer loyalty is built upon strong relationships, familiarity and shared values, all of which can be strengthened through personalisation.

2017 will be a big year for marketers, with more and more brands experimenting with innovative technology like chatbots and conversational interfaces. Without a doubt, digital technology will continue to change the way that brands engage with consumers, but personalisation will remain a vital tool for customer engagement and retention for some time to come.

Read also:

Customer engagement – are beacons really worth the hype?

Personalisation and contextualisation in a luxury world

Author: Jim Bowes
CEO and co-founder at Manifesto | www.the-gma.com

Manifesto is an award-winning agency of creatives and technologists who collaborate with exceptional organisations to change things for the better.

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