Digital marketers think they’re doing well at personalizing the experience for customers, but according to a recent study from Adobe, customers say they can do better — and they want more.

In a study of more than 1,000 device owners and 300 digital marketers, Adobe took the pulse of what has become a major buzzword and increasing focus for online and mobile retailers.

“Unfortunately, there is a disconnect,” said Ryan Dietzen, who is a senior market insights analyst at Adobe Systems and who worked on the study. The researchers found that while 93 percent of digital marketers rate their companies as “effective” at personalized marketing, only 63 percent of consumers agree.

Adobe found that consumers (90 percent) are increasingly willing to share personal information like age or gender if there was a direct benefit to them, in the form of coupons or discounts, a tailored digital experience or personalized ads. Self-reported “shopaholics” expect even more personalization that fits their needs. So, in other words, the more loyal customers want more personalization than the general first-time visitors to a site, so it’s up to the retailer to tailor not only the experience but to gauge how much tailoring a customer expects.

A lot of this, Dietzen said, can be accomplished with a sign-on that tracks not only demographics but past purchasing behavior. But he also emphasized the need for balance in recommending products.

“You don’t want to be bucketed and forever served the same type of search, just because you bought one blouse two years ago,” Dietzen said. “We asked people how they felt about being targeted by brands they don’t follow on social media, and they like to discover new things.”

Nearly 8 in 10 consumers and 90 percent of Millennials reported switching devices during digital activity, and this is a key area in which marketers stand to gain. As much at two-thirds of device owners found it frustrating when content was not synchronized across devices.

But, unless they sign in on all devices, recognizing when the same customer has switched from a tablet to a laptop or to a smartphone is a challenge, he said. To that end, Adobe has introduced the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op, a network that lets brands work together to identify consumers across so-called digital touch points. Co-op members will give Adobe access to cryptographically hashed login IDs and HTTP header data, which hide a consumer’s identity. Adobe then uses this to create groups of devices (“device clusters”) used by an unknown person or household.

In other words, if two brands are participating in the co-op, retailer A might communicate the identity of a customer with retailer B to help them recognize that it’s the same person, while keeping the person anonymous, based on their devices (beyond just cookies and IP addresses).

“People are really willing to share,” Dietzen said. “The challenge is how do you do it right and make sure retailers understand that [customers] evolve and needs change?” He has observed a shift in the comfort level that consumers, especially thanks to the 18-to-24 set, have in sharing information.

“It’s a value exchange,” he said. “They do want something in return, whether it’s more nuanced or explicit discounts.”

But that is easier said than done. “Some retailers are doing crude personalization,” he conceded, “and it’s such a challenge that they are patting themselves on the back.”

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