The “Science of Personalization” and why it matters to your business

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All brands and businesses these days exist in the attention economy. Our digital experiences are so saturated with content that marketers need to be careful to ensure their content gets the attention it deserves. Given that most businesses spend up to a quarter of their marketing budget on content creation, the stakes keep getting higher. Simply put, if a business’s content isn’t driving business results, it means the marketing team is executing a strategy that could end up costing more than it brings.

If your business strategy is not data-driven (as most currently are not – given the challenge of finding high-quality content insights), then it will not be optimized and your business will not reap the full benefits of this marketing effort. By incorporating the principles of behavioral science into their marketing efforts, businesses can harness human psychology to improve their marketing strategies and drive brand awareness.

What do we really know about personalized content?

We often see solid statistics tossed around by surveys. Take, for example, Slideshare’s finding that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that provides a personalized experience. Or SmarterHQ tells us that 72% of users will only engage with personalized messages.

The problem with these statistics, however, is that they are based on opinion. We all want to believe that we are not affected by the ads and that we only buy ethical, relevant products that we would be happy to post about on our Instagram.

But the reality is messier than that and requires looking at demographics as well as behavioral data. What are we looking at? does it has an effect on us, whether personalized or not, and we are not always the idealized version of ourselves that we try to present to the world. That’s why Turtl has collected over 8 billion anonymized data points from its work in marketing and sales materials to unlock deeper data insights, remove measurement bias, and help businesses drive results from their digital content.

How does better data drive results?

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

To ensure attention, content must be two things: salient and relevant.

1. Prominent

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

You can think of marketing content as a box and its contents. The highlight is the box, and the human mind will always be drawn to a box that looks interesting – preferably wrapped with a name tag just for them – more than a boring, featureless brown cardboard box. In practice, Coca-Cola used this effect in their “Share a Coke with…” campaign to increase traffic to their Facebook page by 870%. Consumers saw their name on a Coke bottle and it immediately caught their attention, even though there were no changes to the product or design elements other than the inclusion of names.

How does this apply to B2B marketing strategies?

The first question anyone sent a document asks is, “Do I want to read this?” The answer to that 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 Coca-Cola demonstrated, is customization. The data backs this up, with content with a personalized front cover having a 49% lower bounce rate than non-personalised content. In marketing, it’s important to remember that the things that influence us in our personal lives often reflect in our professional lives. We still have our name and we have the same basic needs. When it comes to personalization, the same rules apply in B2B as they do in B2C.

2. Appropriate

Once the reader’s attention is secured by the prominence of a piece of content, marketers must ensure that their content is relevant so that they can retain that attention. In the real world, the best example of delivering relevant content is Netflix’s 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 divided into easily digestible chapters. Marketers can then choose which of these to include in each document delivered, based on each reader’s past activity (and, by extension, their personality). When delivering personalized content, readers view an average of 27 pages in each document, compared to just 20 pages when the content is not personalized. This represents an increase of 34%. By giving readers more of what we already know they like, we shorten their need to make decisions and increase their willingness to spend time with our content.

Amazon’s product recommendation tool works in a similar way, suggesting products that are closely related to items the user has already purchased or items they’ve shown interest in in the past. This is a very successful strategy, with 35% of Amazon purchases linked directly to their referral 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 directly meets their needs, while allowing businesses to market at a scale that allows them to remain sustainable. By doing the work for your audience and putting in front of them the content they want to read, you not only increase the likelihood 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 shows how hard your content strategy can work.

Deep personalization to achieve relevance and relevance

By taking content personalization to a deeper level, marketers can continue to drive increased interest in their content. When you communicate using highly personalized content, bounce rates continue to drop by 64%, resulting in a huge return on investment (ROI). Additionally, by personalizing their content to this extent, marketers can also increase engagement by 43%, a 9% improvement over standard personalization methods.

Essentially, the more relevant your content is, the more deeply people will engage. And when it comes to engaging senior executives whose time is extremely limited, marketers need to be able to deliver the maximum amount of relevant information in the shortest amount of time.

Interestingly, however, deeply personalized content leads not only to “passive” engagement with content, but also to active interactions, increasing by 42% in contrast to non-personalized content. Contrary to the perception-based metrics raised at the beginning of this article, this is actual behavior, not just stated behavior. We no longer measure passive consumption of content, but actively change the behavior of our audience.

The full benefit of personalized travel

When all of these individual improvements in engagement, attention, and churn are added together, the results become staggering. We evaluated more than 1,000 readers and found that content that was deeply personalized showed an 84% improvement in attention and engagement compared to non-personalized content.

When creating marketing or corporate content, there are so many factors to consider to improve results. Whether implemented lightly or executed in its highest form, the value of personalization to business is immense.

Large corporations have been using this behavioral science for years to drive improved business results, but even relatively small strategies can yield huge benefits. Now, with automated content delivery, smaller businesses can also begin to benefit from personalization.

Nick Mason is the CEO and founder of Turtl.

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