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Personalisation: The consumer view

Today’s consumers expect personalised communications that are tailored to their individual preferences and delivered seamlessly across every channel.

But while retailers and brands have a wealth of data to derive insights at their fingertips, harnessing the power of personalisation to target individual shoppers with the right message, at the right time, and in the right channel is proving challenging for most. Others, meanwhile, are overlooking attractive consumer segments that are eager to be engaged. Those retailers that have developed personalised marketing strategies will know that there are highs and lows along the way to finding success, but what is it that really matters to consumers?

At Periscope By McKinsey, we look at that question regularly, and in March this year conducted a survey among consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany to see how attitudes towards personalisation are changing not only domestically but also in important European markets and for many US retailers and brands.  The findings highlighted several key areas that should help retailers answer the question for themselves and guide the development of their personalised marketing strategy, particularly given the research found that one-third of messages received by US (37%) and French (32%) consumers, and around one-quarter of messages received by German (27%) and UK (26%) consumers had stimulated them to act.

Which channels get consumer attention?

Asked what percentage of messages they had actually opened and read, SMS/text messages stimulated high engagement levels with shoppers everywhere. In the US, it was the channel most likely to elicit an ‘open and read’ action, with 42% of all messages received being opened and scanned. It was a similar story for consumers in France, who confirm they’d reviewed 45% of received SMS messages.

While SMS stimulated high open rates with consumers in Germany (57%) and the UK (40%), it was communications sent via messaging apps like WhatsApp that got the most attention in those markets. German shoppers read 67% of the instant messages they’d received, while UK shoppers reviewed 41% of communications sent to them in this channel.

When consumers were given the option to select their top three preferred channels for receiving personalised messages, while email predominated in all countries surveyed, shoppers in the UK, US and Germany identified coupons linked to their loyalty cards as their second choice, followed by either WhatsApp (US and Germany) or adverts on Instagram (UK). Consumers in France, however, selected the option of receiving adverts through their Instagram account as their second choice just ahead of coupons.

Deals represent a top motivating factor for consumers

Asked what motivates them most to act on a personalised communication, taking advantage of an offer that saves them money topped the list for consumers in the US (61%), UK (59%), France (54%) and Germany (49%). Messages about products they wanted to buy proved the next motivating factor for consumers in the US (47%) and UK (45%), followed by communications about products within their budget (41% US and UK).

The number two motivating factor for consumers in Germany (48%) and France (47%) proved to be messages about products that match their personal tastes. Taking the third spot for 45% of consumers in Germany were communications on products they wanted to buy, while 42% of shoppers in France were motivated by notifications about products within their budget range.

When personalisation gets creepy

While shoppers recognise that brands and retailers are using their data to target and personalise messages, they’re definitely unsettled when they feel their digital or personal privacy is being invaded. Unsolicited communications from companies they don’t know was a top issue for US consumers (41%). However, it was the unsettling eeriness of location tracking messages that caused the most anxiety for German (40%) and UK (40%) shoppers and was listed as the second greatest cause for apprehension among French (41%) and US (40%) consumers.

Aim for the next level of personalisation

What the research uncovered and customers we speak with every day are realising, is that retailers and brands must take their personalisation efforts to the next level – it is a significant opportunity to increase consumer engagement. To be successful and reap the rewards, businesses must employ advanced analytics and scalable and sustainable solutions that help them better understand their consumers and create the right mix of content, channel and timing to drive a change in the behaviour of an individual customer. Not doing anything, or getting it wrong, may result in a very heavy price to pay.

You can read more about the survey’s findings by downloading “The Art of Personalization— Keeping it Relevant, Timely and Contextual”.

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