4 ingredients to move from mass communication to mass personalization

Brands want customer relationships that drive performance. It’s a simple statement, yet the pressure on the C-suite to drive growth is palpable, especially in times of disruption and uncertainty.

Consumers have high expectations. They understand the data-value exchange with brands, and they’re eager to enter into that exchange for a better customer experience. Marketers are being asked to drive growth for their brands while reducing costs and proving marketing ROI in a short amount of time. Underlying everything is the industry, which has undergone significant changes to the drumbeat of consumer privacy.

Marketers must move the levers that are going to drive brand performance without relying on any one platform or provider and shift from mass communication to mass personalization with four main ingredients:

1. Knowledge

No matter how much first-party data they have, most marketers still have a blurry view of their customers. Hotel chains, for example, know when someone stays at their hotel, which brand they stay with and how often they stay. The brand can know their guests’ personal preferences and how they interact with the brand across channels and devices.

Even with all this first-party data, the hotel can only see a fraction of the life of that guest. To provide deeper relevance, brands need a view of each individual that connects first- and third-party data, and allows them to see the individual’s activity outside of the brand. It’s important for brands to not only get a high-definition view of their customers and of everyone who matters to their brand, but it’s essential that the data is ethically sourced and protected.

2. Identity

We commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a study on identity resolution and found marketers whose brands have poor identity resolution face issues such as reaching the wrong customer (45%), wasting marketing spend (42%) and offering irrelevant products or services (38%).

A strong identity foundation can help brands avoid these issues. It also allows marketers to understand more about their best and potential customers at the individual level and maintain that knowledge over time to use it effectively for marketing purposes and comply with regulations. Strong identity resolution also allows you to predict, learn and anticipate consumer signals that lead to business outcomes.

3. Machine learning

Brands must be able to both ideate and execute at scale. They must take massive sets of data, operating in real-time, and constantly recalibrate and update their messages based on the patterns people are exhibiting. Dynamic creative at scale, powered by machine learning, eliminates waste and allows brands to take key learnings and bring them back into the creative process.

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There’s nothing more irrelevant than receiving a promotional message about a hotel you just booked or a trip that just ended. In fact, there’s nothing more brand damaging than receiving an offer for a cheaper rate. That’s a broken customer experience. Without the ability to recalibrate messages in real-time at scale, the customer experience breaks down.

4. Activation

Brands need to be able to activate messages across all channels with performance transparency at the individual level to prove outcomes. Look for partners that deliver solutions grounded in outcomes, not actions. This also requires them to have a managed performance mindset, acting as more than just a managed service vendor.

Ultimately, brands’ ability to take back control of their customer relationships to drive performance comes down to a simple equation: data + identity + machine learning + activation. It’s how you move up from mass communication to mass personalization. Although it’s a simple formula, the volume of data necessary to do this in the right way at scale, and the complexity of the technology are quite complicated. When brands get the balance right, however, there are no walls between them and their customers.

**This post is an update to an article originally posted on Adweek, August 2020.