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Roughly three-quarters (74%) of marketers think that personalization should be a bigger priority in their organization, according to a study [PDF] published by Evergage. But given the fact that two-thirds (65%) of those surveyed give their company’s personalization a “C” grade or below, many feel they aren’t getting the benefits they could be obtaining if they got personalization right.

This low grade may be less to do with a perception that personalization is not being done well, but rather than it isn’t being utilized to its fullest extent. Virtually all (98%) note that personalization advances their customer relationships, while 9 in 10 marketers report a measurable lift in business results. But only 1 in 10 marketers describe their organization’s personalization maturity as “advanced” or “best-in-class”, compared to half (51%) who say it’s “limited” at best. These marketers with a lackluster view of their own efforts might also be concerned that consumers find some personalization to be “creepy.”

Other studies have highlighted that personalization leads to ROI, and the Evergage study reports similar findings. Perceived benefits of personalization among this survey’s respondents include:

  • Increased conversion rates (61%);
  • Increased visitor engagement (59%);
  • Improved customer experience (56%); and
  • Increased lead generation/customer acquisition (56%)

So what’s getting in the way of achieving better results?

For more than 4 in 10, it’s a lack of personnel (46%) and a lack of budget (43%). Other people-related issues round out the top obstacles, namely a lack of knowledge/skills (38%) and a lack of organizational alignment (32%).

Only after these does access to data (30%) or poor technology solutions (28%) feature. This suggests that in a world with thousands of technology solutions, it’s the organizational issues limiting the use of such tools that are key hindrances.

On the point of data, about 3 in 4 respondents (74%) said they had only a “few” or “no” channels connected to drive omnichannel personalization, while 45% said they don’t have the data or insights they need to power it effectively.

How are marketers applying personalization?

A previous study by Monetate noted that email activity is the source of data most often used to support personalization efforts. Email also comes top as a personalization channel in this study, with nearly 8 in 10 (78%) saying they use personalization in their emails.

This reflects the fact that much personalization appears to be basic: while three-quarters personalize the first name or company name in emails, only around 1 in 5 (21%) tailor messaging or promotions based on the individual recipient.

Other channels where personalization is deployed include the website (58%); in person, such as through store associates and kiosks (42%); in online advertising (35%); and in mobile apps (28%) and web apps (19%).

In terms of the triggers used to personalize the customer experience, marketers report personalizing content and experiences based on campaign source (49%), pages/content viewed (35%), email opens (34%), products purchased (33%) and email clickthroughs (32%), among other factors.

Machine learning may yield improved performance

In last year’s study, around one-quarter (26%) of marketers claimed to be using machine learning or algorithmic personalization. That figure has leapt to 40% this year.

These marketers are more likely than others to report higher performance – while 58% of all respondents say that personalization has lifted performance by 10% or more, the figure among marketers using machine-learning personalization is 77%.

This success may be a reason why senior leadership is keen to put advanced technology high on their list when it comes to improving performance. As seen in a separate report, the most frequent use case for CMOs using artificial intelligence is to drive personalization.

The full report is available to view here.

About the Data: Data is based on responses from 159 B2B and B2C marketers at companies of various sizes, 83% of whom are based in the US.

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