‘The science of personalization’ and why it matters for your business

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Nowadays, all brands and businesses exist in the attention economy. Our digital experiences are so saturated with content that marketers need to be careful to ensure that their content gets the attention it deserves. Given most businesses spend up to a quarter of their marketing budget on content creation, the stakes are ever-increasing. Simply put, if a business’ content doesn’t drive business results, that means the marketing team is running a strategy that can end up costing more than it brings in.

If your business strategy is not data-driven (as most currently are not – given the challenge with finding high-quality insights within content), then it won’t be optimized, and your business won’t be garnering the full results of this marketing activity. By incorporating principles of behavioral science into their marketing activity, businesses can harness human psychology to improve their marketing strategies and drive attention to their brand.

What do we truly know about personalized content?

We often see hefty stats brandished from surveys. Take for instance Slideshare finding that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that provides a tailored experience. Or SmarterHQ telling us that 72% consumers will only engage with personalized messaging.

The issue with these stats, however, is that they are opinion-based. We all want to believe that we aren’t affected by advertising, and that we only ever buy ethical, relevant products that we’d be happy to post about on our Instagram.

But reality is messier than that and requires a look at demographics as well as behavioral data. What we watch does have an effect on us, regardless of whether it is personalized, and we aren’t always the idealized version of ourselves we try to present to the world. This is why Turtl has collated over 8 billion anonymized data points from its work in marketing and sales material to unlock deeper data insights, remove bias from measurement, and help businesses drive outcomes from their digital content.

How does better data drive results?

To understand how marketing strategies work nowadays, you need to know how the human brain works. After all, successful sales strategies always play into some level of behavioral psychology. The big question, then, is how can marketers get people to pay attention to their message and their content?

To secure attention, content needs to be two things: salient and relevant.

1. Salient

In content, salience means that the content grabs our attention from the outset. This can be as simple as seeing your name on the front cover of a personalized report. Seeing your name, which you automatically (and naturally) associate with yourself, immediately draws your attention, and makes you feel included. 

You can think of marketing content as a box and its contents. Salience is the box, and the human mind will always be attracted to a box that looks interesting – preferably wrapped with a name tag just for them – more than a bland, brown cardboard box with no distinguishing features. In practice, Coca-Cola used this effect in their “Share a Coke with…” campaign to drive an 870% increase in traffic to their Facebook page. Consumers saw their name on a Coke bottle and this immediately grabbed their attention, even though there were no changes to the product or to design elements, aside from incorporating names.

How does this apply to B2B marketing strategies?

The first question any person being sent a document asks is: “Do I want to read this?” The answer to this question is measured by the bounce rate, or how many readers left the document before clicking past the front cover.

So, given that we want readers to engage with our content, how can we optimize engagement beyond the front cover of our content?

The answer, as demonstrated by Coca-Cola, is personalization. The data backs this up, with content featuring a personalized front cover seeing a 49% lower bounce rate than non-personalized content. In marketing, it is important to remember that the things that influence us in our personal lives often reflect into our work lives. We still have our name and have the same basic needs. When it comes to personalization, the same rules apply in B2B as in B2C.

2. Relevant

Once a reader’s attention has been secured by the salience of a piece of content, marketers need to ensure their content is relevant so that they can retain this attention. In the real world, the best example of delivering relevant content is the Netflix personalization algorithm – which makes suggestions based on a viewer’s previous habits and preferences.

In marketing content, we can achieve a similar effect by creating modular content, or content that is broken into easily digestible chapters. Marketers can then select which of these should be included in each document that is delivered, based on each reader’s previous activity (and, by extension, their personality). When delivered personalized content, readers viewed an average of 27 pages in each document, compared to just 20 pages when the content wasn’t personalized. This represents an increase of 34%. By giving readers more of what we already know they like, we cut short their need to make decisions, and increase their willingness to spend time in our content.

Amazon’s product recommendation tool works in a similar way, by suggesting products that are closely related to a user’s previously bought items, or the items they have shown interest in, in the past. This is a highly successful strategy, with 35% of Amazon purchases relating directly to their recommendation tool.

The holy grail of marketing is to achieve a 1:1 approach that works at scale. This will ensure that each individual reader feels that the content they receive caters directly to their needs, while also allowing businesses to market at a scale that enables them to stay sustainable. By doing the work for your audience and putting the content they want to read in front of them, you not only make it more likely that they will engage with your content, but you create a better perception of your brand as one that works for them. The combination of these two benefits demonstrates just how hard your content strategy can work for you.

Deep personalization to achieve salience and relevance

By taking content personalization to a deeper level, marketers can continue to drive increased interest in their content. When communicating using deeply personalized content, bounce rates continue to drop by 64%, which results in a huge return on investment (ROI). Additionally, by personalizing their content to this extent, marketers can also increase engagement by 43%, which is an improvement of 9%, compared to standard personalization methods. 

Essentially, the more relevant your content, the deeper people will engage. And, when it comes to engaging senior decision makers whose time is extremely limited, marketers have to be able to deliver the maximum amount of relevant information in the smallest amount of time.

Interestingly, though, deeply personalized content drives not only “passive” engagement with content, but also active interactions, with these increasing 42% when contrasted with non-personalized content. Contrary to the perception-based metrics raised right at the start of this article, this is actual behavior, not just claimed behavior. We are no longer measuring passive consumption of content, but actively changing our audience’s behavior.

The total benefit of a personalized journey

When all of these individual improvements to engagement, attention and bounce rates are added together, the results become staggering. We assessed more than 1,000 readers and determined that content that is deeply personalized shows an 84% improvement in attention and engagement, compared to non-personalized content.

When we create marketing or corporate content, there are so many factors that need to be kept in mind to improve results. Whether implemented lightly or executed to its highest form, the value of personalization for businesses is huge. 

Big corporations have been using this behavioral science for years to drive improved business performance, yet even relatively small strategies can lead to massive benefits. Now, with automated content delivery, smaller businesses can start to take advantage of personalization too.

Nick Mason is the CEO and founder of Turtl.

Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz