The Challenge of Personalization is a pervasive topic among loyalty marketers and one that Loyalty360 researched extensively earlier this year.

According to a study from Resulticks, the question is posed: Will marketers break through the personalization plateau with data cross-training?

“The marketing industry has touted the merits of personalization for years as a way to improve campaign response rates and ROI, which has forced marketers to do some data cross-training,” the study says. “In 2011, eMarketer3 reported that almost half of marketers registered positive results from personalized campaigns, but many were limited by a lack of relevant data and implementation tools. To move beyond targeting customers only by basic attributes like name, marketers were promised that learning new data disciplines would help them break through the plateau. By incorporating deeper attributes like purchase history, online visitor behavior, and cross-device identities, marketers could capitalize on the fact that 85 percent of online retail shoppers expect an individualized experience. By combining multiple data disciplines, personalization promised a new level of marketing performance.”

But, is that the reality?

“Training to use data in new ways hasn’t been easy for marketers, but they’re starting to see the benefits of combining traditional segmentation with highly targeted attributes,” the study says. “More than 60 percent of marketers say this multidimensional approach to customer data is a top priority for their companies, and an almost equal number have already fully or partially implemented personalization. But marketers haven’t mastered every facet of personalization; a quarter is just getting started on implementation and need help warming up. Their equipment might also be falling short, as only 20 percent of marketers with a technology stack in place rate their software’s ability to deliver on personalization as ‘excellent.’ Still, 42 percent of marketers are optimistic about personalization, and 36 percent feel energized by the term, which demonstrates a strong desire to break out of their old data routines and flex their data muscles in new ways.”

Another key study area focused on real-time marketing.

“It feels like marketers have been sprinting after real-time marketing forever, running hard toward the finish line of a data-driven strategy that responds to customer needs and actions in the moment,” the study explained. “The term ‘real-time marketing’ dates back to the 1990s when the rise of customer relationship management (CRM) platforms opened up new possibilities for reaching ‘the right person with the right message at the right time.’ When the Harvard Business Review wrote in-depth about the concept in 1995, the business magazine noted, ‘To build customer loyalty—to build brand—companies need to keep their customers engaged in a continuous dialogue.’ The advice took on an additional sense of urgency with the introduction of social media analytics tools, as the growing volume and speed of data continued to add new miles to the race.”

Marketers are energized by real-time marketing, but ‘race times’ must improve dramatically the study notes.

“Even though real-time marketing has turned into a marathon rather than a sprint, marketers have shown great endurance in their pursuit of the concept,” the study says. “Resulticks research finds that marketers are mostly energized (34 percent) and optimistic (36 percent) about real-time marketing, and almost half consider it a priority for their organizations (47 percent). Half of the marketers have fully implemented (19 percent) or partially implemented (31percent) real-time marketing solutions, and 58 percent rate their software’s ability to execute as ‘excellent’ or ‘good.’ But marketers do have an Achilles’ heel when it comes to real-time marketing: Only 28 percent define ‘real time’ as one second or less, and almost half (47 percent) define it as an hour or more. If marketers want to win this race, they should train with the 12 percent of their colleagues who think real-time marketing happens within milliseconds; unless they improve their times, marketers will get lapped by the competition.”

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