The digital marketing field is rapidly evolving, and marketing professionals need to stay up to date on the latest trends, best practices and tools in order to do their jobs effectively. Personalization has quickly become top-of-mind for B2B and B2C marketers alike because it allows them treat their prospects and customers as individuals and deliver relevant content and experiences to each person.
Machine learning, segmentation and customer data aggregation are all critical pieces of the personalization puzzle, but they don’t — and can’t — exist in a vacuum. In order to be efficiently utilized, they need to be factored into a larger customer experience strategy. This may seem obvious, but in reality, with so many competing priorities, it can be hard sometimes for marketers to take a step back and ask themselves what they’re trying to accomplish with personalization in the first place.
On January 9th, we hosted a meet-up and panel discussion to explore trends in personalization for 2018. Moderated by Evergage CEO and Co-Founder Karl Wirth, panelists Vanessa Theoharis of OHO Interactive, Kevin Nichols of AvenueCX, and Susan Rutgerson, an independent marketing consultant, ran through a few trends in personalization that they expect will play a major role in 2018 in the context of the broader marketing technology landscape. This brief recap of the discussion outlines the hot trends for this coming year, as well as a few things that might not be so hot and are probably worth leaving behind in 2017.
Segmentation: Hot or Not?
There are always things that reappear as “trends” each year, but if they keep showing up, are they really trends? Segmentation falls neatly into this category as a marketing tactic that most consider a classic. Segment-based communication goes a long way toward delivering personalized content to different groups of audiences, creating more relevant experiences and driving conversions.
It’s safe to say that segmentation will stick around as an important part of personalization because marketers will always be pushing to be more relevant to their target audiences.
Machine Learning: Hot or Not?
Machine learning has certainly reached buzzword status, but is this trend here to stay? In terms of personalization, machine learning – a form of AI (another major buzzword) – is the key to getting beyond segment-based communication and reaching the goal of one-to-one personalized experiences.
Vanessa Theoharis shared how she’s taking inspiration from e-commerce companies, using deep behavioral data and machine learning to drive content recommendations at the one-to-one level for visitors to higher education sites.
One idea that gets lost in the machine learning conversation is that it can’t be deployed effectively without human brain power. Machine learning can help marketers execute their personalization strategy, but it’s no silver bullet. As panelist Kevin Nichols noted, “You can do AI or machine learning, but simply doing it and doing it well are two different things.”
So while machine learning and AI are definitely “hot” right now, it’s critical to remember the power (and necessity) of smart, capable team members who know how to successfully incorporate machine learning into their strategies.
Email: Hot or Not?
Email marketing has been around for a long time now, and digital marketers have been using it to target customers with varying levels of success. For years, emails with a low level of personalization still drove traffic to a company’s site and landing pages, and customers weren’t too bothered by the general nature of the content streaming into their inboxes.
That tide is turning. Now, customers expect relevant content, targeted product recommendations and customized offers, and they’re showing loyalty to companies that meet those expectations. During the discussion, Susan Rutgerson shared her experiences and results with highly personalized email campaigns and the positive impact on engagement and customer loyalty.
Trends come and go, but it’s a sure bet that personalization will play an increasingly important role in digital marketers’ lives for the foreseeable future. Segmentation, machine learning and email are three critical elements in a well-designed personalization strategy for companies across industries.
To learn more about the past, present and future of personalization, download our new full-length book, One-to-One Personalization in the Age of Machine Learning.