Chances are high that if you’re a marketer, you’ve at least heard of personalization. And if you’re like 92% of marketers, you’re using personalization in at least one channel. So how does your personalization program compare to other marketers like you?

We set out to understand how marketers are using and thinking about personalization in our annual study with Researchscape International, 2018 Trends in Personalization. Evergage CMO Andy Zimmerman and I recently presented some of our findings from this study in a webinar.

In this blog post, I’ll give a preview of what we discussed. For more detail, check out the webinar replay.

Marketers recognize the importance of personalization — and they’re investing

Marketers overwhelmingly agree (98%) that personalization helps advance customer
relationships, with 74% claiming it has a “strong” or “extreme” impact. Nearly 9 out of
10 (88%) state that their customers and prospects — both B2B and B2C — expect a personalized experience.

This attitude is translating into investment and usage. The majority (77%) of marketers are using personalization in their email, while more than half (52%) are personalizing their websites. And the vast majority (97%) of companies plan to maintain or increase their investment in personalization this year.

Marketers are not meeting their own high expectations for performance

While marketers are investing in personalization, they have very high expectations for their programs — and they do not feel that they have met those expectations. Over two-thirds (69%) feel that marketers, on average, are not getting personalization right, while 65% would grade their own personalization efforts as a “C” or lower. Overall, they feel they have plenty of room to grow, as half (52%) rate their personalization maturity as “limited” and one-third (33%) rate it as “moderate.”

These findings indicate to us that marketers have a better understanding of what’s possible with personalization these days, and they know there is more they can do to be relevant to their prospects and customers.

There’s room for marketers to grow with personalization

The good news is that the way forward is clear. In the findings we saw a number of areas where marketers can improve their personalization programs:

  • Bring data sources together: More than half of marketers (55%) say they don’t have sufficient data and insights to drive effective personalization, while 69% say their customer data is stored in three or more systems. Marketers may have the data they need somewhere in their organization but can’t access it and/or put it to use effectively. This is a key area to focus on in the next year.
  • Connect channels: 73% of marketers say their company has just a few – or no – channels connected. These days, the ability to recognize a person in multiple channels to provide a consistent experience is seen as something of a holy grail for marketers, and we expect marketers to continue to work toward this goal.
  • Leverage machine learning: Only one-quarter (26%) of marketers say they employ machine learning-driven personalization currently. Given the necessity of machine learning to deliver one-to-one experiences at scale, we believe that marketers won’t feel truly satisfied with their personalization programs until they adopt machine learning.
  • Go beyond basic email personalization tactics: The most common email personalization tactic marketers leverage is using the recipient’s first name or company name, followed by segment-based communication. Segmentation and attributes like first name are a good start, but delivering more individually relevant emails can elevate marketers’ existing email personalization programs for next year.

How are you personalizing your email campaigns? 

key trends in personalization 2018

Wrap Up

This year’s study showed us that the benefits of personalization are clear and marketers have high expectations for the personalized experiences they deliver to their prospects and customers. As a result, they’re judging themselves more harshly than in the past and recognizing that they have room to grow. Rather than run away from this challenge, they’re investing in their personalization programs. And they’re looking for the expertise, best practices and examples to help guide their strategies.

To find more insights from this year’s study, be sure to watch the full webinar replay.