Your local coffee shop remembering your name and your order is generally seen as something positive. It’s a sign of familiarity and acknowledgement that you as an individual are at least slightly memorable, however, is the feeling replicated when your name is known by advertisements that interrupt your online streaming service? Or is it unnerving that not only can you be identified by name through your online activity, but recommendations can be made for you based on the data of your online footprint. Personalised marketing is the practise of delivering tailored messages and campaigns to individuals based on information derived from analysing their data. But can figures and data accurately represent the subtle nuances and quirks that differentiate us? Can our intricate, individual essence of self be surmised by analysing numbers and finding correlations? The answer appears to be yes, at least according to marketers.
Recommendations and Personalisation
The recommendation of a friend or acquaintance, or even an anonymous individual, is of pivotal importance when it comes to influencing our decisions. A website such a TripAdvisor, for example, wields a considerable amount of power when it comes to deciding the fate of hotels and restaurants because so many of us, for some reason, trust the opinion of John, 52, from Scarborough when he determines that a certain restaurant serves the worst pizza he has ever had. But aside from John’s opinions on various food establishments, what do we really know about him? Are we better to trust recommendations derived from data analysis or from individuals with Wi-Fi connections?
Companies such as Spotify use insights gained from data analysis to recommend new music to their millions of subscribers. A feature called ‘Discover Weekly’ is a personalised playlist that is cultivated from your personal listening data and what those with similar tastes are listening to. As of May 2016, tracks on ‘Discover Weekly’ playlists had been streamed 5 billion times. Spotify claims that more than half of the listeners of ‘Discover Weekly’ come back the following week, so clearly their algorithms are working. And while it’s nice (and maybe even a little nostalgic) to imagine an individual creating a personalised playlist just for you, unfortunately that’s not how it works. Spotify looks at tracks you’ve been listening to and compares that to others with similar tastes, they will then look for tracks that you haven’t listened to but that your musical peers have, ‘Let’s say you’ve been playing a song by The Killers and a song by Bruce Springsteen a lot. Algorithms look for how those songs are played and ordered in other Spotify users’ playlists’. Matt Ogle, a member of Spotify who is in charge of the playlist feature, comments, ‘I see Discover Weekly as one of the first products from this new era of personalization [sic]’. Spotify are connecting with their customers like never before, and after reaching 50 million paid users in March 2017 they are certainly seeing the results.
Spotify used data insights in their 2016 OOH campaigns, marking an undeniably tumultuous and odd year with humorous campaigns. These were rolled out across 16 countries and were specific to each country. Tag lines included ‘To the person who listened to “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” 52 times on the 9th February, Everyone celebrates Pancake Day differently’ and ‘Dear person who played “Sorry” 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?’. The campaigns were met with a positive reception; YouGov’s brand tracking data found that they had been Spotify’s most successful yet. By using personalised messaging derived from data insights, Spotify were able to connect with their consumers.
According to a study conducted by Accenture in 2016, consumers can be overwhelmed by an abundance of choices and therefore welcome personalised offerings. Accenture found that three in five would be more likely to make a purchase when they are offered choices based on previous buying history. Along with personalised recommendations, 75% of those surveyed would be more likely to return to a retailer if they were recognised (either in store or online) and if their purchase history is remembered. Global Personalization Lead at Accenture Interactive, Jeriad Zoghby, reinforces the importance of brands capitalising on consumers’ desire for personalisation, ‘The availability of data and digital technology today allows for a deeper level of personalization [sic] needed to dynamically curate experiences to each individual and context, across marketing, shopping, and services interactions.’ Using data to provide a personalised experience is an integral part of the future of marketing; in order to create and maintain a relationship with consumers, marketers need to ensure that they rise to the challenge and create offerings that speak to individuals.