Brands Aren’t Effectively Planning for Personalization and Segmentation Ahead of the Holidays

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Brands are still relying on the email marketing campaigns to engage customers, and neglecting a supposed priority: personalization.

A report from B2C marketing and analytics company Zaius shows that many companies, though they claim to be spotlighting personalization and segmentation as a way to engage customers, are actually not capably following through. Omnichannel marketing strategies, which are essential to effectively segment audiences and target customize features, are not as pervasive in the industry as the hype might suggest.

Forty percent of Zaius’s survey respondents have no omnichannel strategy in place at all for the 2017 holiday season, according to “The 2017 Ecommerce Holiday Report”, released Tuesday. It found that many companies are still planning to use email as one of their top marketing tactics during the coming 2017 holiday season.

Basic personalization within email campaigns, such as adding the customer’s first name, is achievable and does improve email marketing performance in many cases. But with so much data being collected about the customer, there are many more opportunities to impact buying decisions, and email isn’t always the best way to reach the consumer.

The report also found that the brands that responded to the survey considered search and retargeting advertisements to be low priorities – both alternatives to email and often ones that can attain those more personal, customized content targeting specific consumer behaviors. Fifteen percent of the survey’s respondents indicated that search ads were an investment priority, and 12% indicated that retargeting ads were an investment priority.

“There is a huge opportunity to stand out by building a strong omnichannel strategy, focusing on mobile shopping, and exploring new channels outside of email,” the report states.

Brick-and-mortar retailers have much to gain by employing omnichannel. The omnichannel approach, linking a customer’s usage and experience across different devices and apps, is sometimes mistaken for a multichannel approach, but is different when it comes to gaining a big-picture assessment of the customer. When realized, such a tactic enables brands to access and analyze data about consumers who research online and buy offline, to better understand and measure their engagement. This method would facilitate smarter promotional and advertising investments – if a brand or SMB does not employ multi-touch/multi-click attribution, it could credit the wrong source and misalign marketing spending.

Zaius surveyed hundreds of “ecommerce practitioners” for the report. About half were from an online-only brand with no brick-and-mortar locations.

“Of the diverse group of respondents, 49% work for a company with fewer than 49 people and 33% did more than $15 million in revenue in 2016. In addition, 33% had the title of manager, 24% were director, and 17% were CMO/CEO/Founder,” the report states.

“In these survey results, we hear marketers’ frustration, ambition and dedication to their brands at a critical time of year. They know they need personalized and relevant content to convert potential buyers into customers, especially during busy seasons when consumers are overwhelmed with messages from brands,” said Mark Gally, CEO of Zaius, in a statement. “This data uncovers the path to help marketers overcome their frustration by leveraging omnichannel, marketing automation and B2C CRM solutions that can put them ahead this holiday season.”

About a quarter of survey respondents indicated that the majority of their goods are sold in-store, but their marketing is still focused on ecommerce – further indicating the disconnect between what brands want to do and what they’re actually able to do. Some brands are investing in artificial intelligence (AI) to execute B2C campaigns, but Zaius’s report suggests that many are not tech-savvy enough to handle the amount of data that AI can provide.

Consumers will continue to grow the online shopping sector for both online-only commerce brands and brick-and mortar, and as mobile purchases continue to increase, some companies may start to see more success with push notifications. The Zaius report shows that desktop push messaging was the last investment priority for 15% of respondents for this coming holiday season, and mobile push messaging was the last investment priority for 9% of respondents.

April Nowicki is a staff writer at Street Fight.