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/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/274852_l_srgb_s_gl_360254.jpgI’ve got nothing against Justin Bieber, but I’d never go to one of his concerts. Yet, several months ago, my credit card company sent me an “exclusive” promotion to purchase advanced tickets for his Brooklyn, NY show. As a marketer, my first response was laughter. Then, I was heartbroken. This credit card and I have been in a relationship for 7 glorious years – that’s longer than I’ve known my wife. I take it everywhere I go, and I thought it cared. After all, it knows so much about me. It definitely knows that I live in the Bay Area and, and I haven’t bought a concert ticket in all the years we’ve been together.

Yet, it still tried to get me to travel 2,500 miles for a Bieber show. And that’s not the first time. A few years back, it offered me a Jonas Brothers concert in Boston. Is it trying to change me as a person? Does it want me to embrace the boy band culture? Or, does it just not care? It’s probably neither of these.

In reality, there is a marketer behind each of these interactions. The marketer doesn’t have a devilish vendetta against me. In fact, the marketer is probably quite smart, and a recent Forrester study commissioned by SAP revealed that over 70% of senior level marketers believe that personalization can have a significant impact on revenue, customer retention rates and other key business metrics.  In addition, marketers are also acutely aware that they need to radically improve their personalization capabilities to avoid losing customers to their competition.

So, what’s the rub? Why has the marketer from my credit card company consistently let me down? Well, according to the survey, marketers still face many challenges when it comes to personalization. First, it’s not a problem of limited data – these days they actually have too much, from too many different sources, in too many different formats. For example, a retailer likely has customer data that includes past purchase behavior from its point-of-sale system, profile and preferences from its loyalty management system, clickstream analysis from its mobile/online presence, location and time-of-day info from its mobile app, sentiment analysis from social media, and much, much more. According to 86% of the survey respondents, the real challenge is in analyzing all the available data in real-time, to create a comprehensive, contextually sensitive profile for each consumer.

What happens if a marketer is able to solve this first challenge? Then comes the next hurdle – 81% say they have difficulty optimizing content or offers to each person by matching identities to available products, promotions, messages, etc. So, even if my credit card did have this nice and complete 360 degree profile of me, and what offers or recommendations would be best for me in a particular moment, it still would have a very difficult time executing real-time, 1-to-1 marketing.

1-to-1 marketing, of course, is the Holy Grail. Gone would be the careless NYC Bieber offers that force me to question my relationship with the credit card company. They would be replaced my more thoughtful and contextually relevant interactions which I would cherish. For example, my credit card would know that I love BBQ, visit my local butcher weekly, and just bought a new Weber grill. Then, as I’m strolling down the street on a lazy Sunday, it would send me a mobile invite to travel one more block in order to join Bob’s BBQ University for a baby back ribs seminar taking place later that afternoon – and, it would offer me 30% off. Bob is a small businessman who’d jump at the opportunity to connect with a new customer and fill a last-minute vacancy. My love for the credit card would be rekindled. The credit card company would be the biggest winner, acting as the perfect matchmaker between its two customers.

According to the Forrester study (click here to download the free report and click here to check out the infographic), marketers believe that they will eventually be able to use technology to deliver these types of personalized experiences. However, in order to do so, marketers believe that they’ll need to reach beyond their traditional ad agencies for help, partnering with Big Data firms, software vendors and app developers. One such success is La Société de transport de Montreal (STM), North America’s 4th largest public transit organization. By co-innovating with SAP, the two companies conceived and developed STM Merci, a transformative mobile app which empowers STM’s merchant partners to deliver personalized and contextually relevant campaigns to its 1.2 million daily riders based on the time of day, their location, profile, preferences and past behavior. Since launching this May, it’s been a huge success, winning praise from both STM’s riders and its merchant partners. Within 48 hours it became the #1 app on Apple’s Canadian App Store under the lifestyle category. Equally impressive – over 50% of the app’s users are completing their profiles and preferences, leading to a better user experience and translating to higher campaign conversion rates.

I can’t wait for my credit card company to deliver a similar level of personalization. If not, I’ll have to end our relationship. Or, worse yet, I’ll just have to give in and embrace Bieber.

Breakup or boy bands? To see what happens, follow me on twitter @brentcohler

Originally publisshed on Mobile Marketing & Technology

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