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More than three-quarters (77%) of marketers are personalizing their email marketing, which, joined by websites (52%), are the only channels in which a majority use personalization. That’s according to the 2018 Trends in Personalization report [pdf] from Evergage and Researchscape International, which surveyed 300 marketers on their personalization efforts.

The results align with last year’s study – in which email and websites were again the only channels with widespread use of personalization – and with separate research from Econsultancy and RedEye, which also find personalization efforts mainly used for email, with a slight majority also personalizing websites.

Not surprisingly, then, email content (71%) is the area where the most marketers are personalizing experiences, followed by home pages (45%) and landing pages (37%), per this latest report.

How Are Marketers Personalizing Email?

Given personalization’s strong role in email marketing, it’s instructive to see how marketers are putting these efforts to use. As it turns out, personalization initiatives remain relatively basic for the time being.

The most common form of email campaign personalization is first name and/or company name in the message or subject line (76%). While this is the most basic use of email personalization, it has been found effective in generating above-average response rates.

The research shows, however, that marketers are yet to move to individualized campaigns. For example, respondents are twice as likely to tailor their messages or promotions by audience segment (52%) than by individual (25%). Likewise, they’re twice as apt to be found personalizing their product or content recommendations by audience segment (51%) than by individual (25%).

This may be an area where machine learning can help: virtually all (96%) marketers are confident that machine learning can personalize email content down to an individual’s specific interests and improve the customer experience, according to a recent survey.

Few marketers are taking advantage of machine learning applications for the time being, per the Evergage research. Rule-based targeting to segments is the most common approach to personalization, used by two-thirds (68%) of respondents, while about half (52%) use triggered messages and notifications. Only half as many as that (26%) are employing machine learning/algorithmic 1-to-1 personalization, although many who aren’t yet doing so plan to be using such an approach within the coming year.

Majority Don’t Feel They Have Enough Data and Insights

One reason why marketers may not be targeting individuals is a lack of sufficient data. In fact, marketers were more likely to say they do not (55%) have sufficient data for effective personalization as to say they do have enough (45%).

Interestingly, marketers at B2B companies are less likely than their counterparts at B2C companies to feel that they have sufficient data and insights, which may explain why they’re also less apt to have plans to utilize machine-learning in the next year.

Data quality has been seen as the greatest challenge to personalization, according to research from Monetate.

Internally, though, there are other roadblocks to greater usage of personalization. Fully 77% believe that personalization should be a bigger priority in their organization than it currently is, but lack of budgets (51%) and lack of personnel (49%) appear to be strong deterrents to making personalization have that higher priority.

On a more positive note, the lack of higher priority isn’t due to an absence of buy-in: just 24% said that lack of executive sponsorship was holding them back.

Other Survey Highlights

The following is a list of other notable findings from the Evergage report.

  • About 3 in 4 respondents (74%) believe that personalization has an “extreme” (17%) or “strong” (56%) impact on advancing customer relationships.
  • Fully 88% feel that prospects/customers expect a personalized experience.
  • Fewer than one-third (31%) believe that marketers are getting personalization right. Respondents from companies with at least $1 billion in revenues are the most pessimistic: just 17% believe that marketers are getting it right.
  • Marketers are skeptical of their own personalization prowess: only half are at least moderately satisfied with the level of personalization in their marketing efforts, and a “C” was the most common grade they awarded themselves for their current efforts.
  • Campaign source, location, demographics and products purchased are the leading criteria used for targeting audiences in order to personalize experiences.
  • Improvements in conversion rate and click-through rate are the two primary ways by which personalization is measured.
  • Almost 9 in 10 are seeing at least some “lift” from their personalization efforts, with most seeing a 1-20% lift.
  • More than one-third (37%) are increasing their personalization budgets this year versus last.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 300 marketers, among whom the Technology (21%) and Finance & Insurance (18%) industries were most heavily represented. Half of the respondents are from companies with at least $100 million in revenues. Respondents were twice as likely to come from B2B (41%) than B2C (20%) companies, with the rest a hybrid of both. Virtually all (93%) respondents are located in the US.

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