Late last year Gartner declared 80 per cent of marketers would abandon personalisation efforts by 2025 because of a lack of ROI and a rising tide of data regulation. The analysts argued many data and personalisation efforts were backfiring with consumers finally catching on to the trade off and rejecting brands overtures.

But personalisation is far from dead, according to Scott Brinker, a leading martech analyst now running platform ecosystems at Hubspot. 

In response to Gartner’s predictions, Brinker told Which-50 that personalisation should not be painted with too broad a brush and argued the strategy can still add value to customer experience.

“Buying and selling behavioural data on prospects at the top of the funnel to feed ad targeting is very different than making product recommendations to a known customer when they log into your site or app,” Brinker said. 

“The key in most data privacy and data ethics initiatives is to give the customer control over which data they want to share and how they want it used. Respect their preferences. Offer personalisation options for which they feel they’re receiving benefit. Be transparent.”

Brinker acknowledges that for many marketers this will require a change and, in some cases, they will need to show greater respect for consumers’ privacy. But he rejected the argument that personalisation is both costly and incompatible with privacy.

Regulation rising

If marketers do pursue personalised messaging they must now do it in an increasingly regulated environment. Europe and the US have introduced strict new data regulations seeking to give consumers more control over how their information is collected and used. Australia, too, may yet tighten its oversight following a landmark inquiry into digital platforms and a subsequent, ongoing adtech probe. 

Brinker says regulation like GDPR and CCPA represent “the right way” to implement personalisation.

“These regulations are about respecting the customer’s wishes. What is the purpose of personalisation if not to serve customers in the way they want to be served?

“So I don’t think regulation inherently makes personalisation significantly harder.”

Scott Brinker, Editor at chiefmartec.com, VP Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot. Supplied.

It still remains a challenge, Brinker says, to develop a “single source of truth” for customer preferences and to ensure they are respected across all touchpoints. 

In the past failure to do so was sloppy but not necessarily a compliance risk. Today, it is, and in the EU it could cost an organisation 4 per cent of its worldwide annual revenue.

“ In practice …  many companies haven’t implemented that level of personalisation management,” Brinker says. “Legally, they could get away with data silos and disconnected experiences [in the past]. Although the ROI from poor or incomplete implementations has been questionable.

“Now, however, there’s no choice in the matter. If you’re going to have personalisation, you can’t do your data management halfway.”

Improving the martech stack and operational process will pay off beyond compliance, Brinker says, because it will also help deliver better customer experiences. And the hard work won’t always be recognised.

“The customer doesn’t care about any of our internal structure or our martech stack architecture. They only care about their experience across these touchpoints in what they perceive as one continuous flow in their day. Did we serve them well? Did we meet or exceed their expectations? Did we go so far as to truly delight them?”

To that end, Brinker says personalisation is just one tool or part of customer experience, and marketers need to take a holistic approach.

“A holistic experience is going to inevitably leverage a ton of specialised technologies to deliver that. Personalisation technologies, in the broadest sense, are going to be a part of that equation. The key is to apply them in the service of something greater than a technical parlor trick.”

Platforming

With martech options becoming increasingly complex – Brinker is perhaps best known for his market analysis, categorising thousands of solutions each year – organisations should be looking to consolidate their technology stack and integrate it with a centralised platform.

“Every martech product in your stack should feed into that central repository and — importantly — respect the master set of customer preferences stored there.

“With a centralised platform, you can better enforce your data privacy policies. The ecosystem of apps around that platform can be held to ‘good citizen’ standards.”

Brinker argues the platform model can connect data silos and martech while still providing a single layer of governance. He says Apple and its tightly guarded operating systems and app stores are a good example of the platform model in action, and many B2B app marketplaces could take a cue from the consumer tech giant’s success.

“Businesses are using more and more kinds of software, not less. The focus needs to be on getting them to work better together,” Brinker says.

“I’m biased, of course, given my role in championing HubSpot’s platform ecosystem. But this platform approach is clearly gaining momentum across the industry. We’re headed in the right direction.”

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