Guest Column | January 9, 2020

Predictions About The ANA's Word Of The Year: Personalization

By Meyar Sheik, Kibo

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Gartner recently delivered some rather dramatic predictions about personalization: they headlined their New Year’s report with an assertion that more than 80 percent of marketers will abandon all personalization efforts by 2025. In this era of inflammatory claims, one bad search on the internet could instill fears in marketers’ hearts that this prediction will come true. The news is out that California and other states are putting out stricter privacy laws. And, eMarketer reports that consumers are wary about what brands do with their data.

Funnily enough, the ANA came out with their own competing announcement. The ANA and their client-side marketer base have named personalization as the official marketing word of 2019. We believe that no one will look back at 2019 and laugh at the focus on personalization. Supporting analyst research demonstrates that there is another story to personalization with a lot more traction. And so, we predict that personalization is still in a nascent stage and that major advancements will drive significant growth by marketers in the next few years.

Prediction: Advanced Personalization Wins Out

With the vast majority of marketers claiming that they use personalization, it’s important to look a bit more closely before judging what the future will hold. The majority of today’s marketers are using very basic single-channel personalization, or even just testing, not true AI-driven prediction or cross-channel personalization.

A wealth of research shows that more advanced personalization really works. The research makes a big distinction between basic personalization (“we used a customer zip code”) and AI-driven advanced personalization. A study from Relevancy Group indicates that marketers that use more advanced personalization tactics have greater revenue than those with basic tactics. Our research is similar. The more advanced the personalization approach, particularly if there’s a sequence of personalized experiences, the more effective it is at driving results.

Seeing The Forest For The Trees

Rather than use whatever uncertainties exist in today’s market to predict the downfall of a powerful and valuable technology, we believe that these same market forces will force positive change. For example, advanced personalization uses good quality data; the kind that strict privacy laws actually encourage brands to build when they no longer have a supply of questionable third-party data.

Similarly, marketers will by no means abandon their own data projects but will refocus from massive data lakes and “Big Data” pursuits to smarter more nimble data as they determine what works best for each channel and goal.

A Valuable Read For Marketers

While we disagree with Gartner’s headlines, a read further into their predictions does show that they simply want to motivate marketers to do better. The report does make one thing clear: marketers have work to do. It’s true that privacy laws will require more strict data management practices. We also agree with Gartner that marketing teams would benefit from behavioral scientists and more structured cross-channel efforts overall.

However, let’s not forget how many small wins marketers can get on their way to perfect cross channel AI-driven nirvana. Small steps forward with data management, personalization, and cross-channel marketing can have a big effect. A single project to unite a mobile shopping history with desktop personalization could drive huge lift for a brand. The addition of loyalty data to home page personalization could be just as valuable.

The great thing about digital marketing is that every effort to advance their marketing strategy delivers insights that can help brands move even further. So, rather than discourage marketer advancement with ominous headlines, we believe a more encouraging approach is in order. The path to advanced marketing is filled with opportunity, including personalization.

About The Author

Meyar Sheik is President and Chief Commerce Officer, Kibo.