Staff Writer
May 25, 2021

The CMO Circle: The power of personalisation

During the third edition of the Campaign x Salesforce roundtable series, leading marketers discussed how companies are improving channel personalisation efforts to meet customers’ expectations, and offered fresh insights on personalisation in the context of Covid, technology and 2021.

The CMO Circle: The power of personalisation

With methods and standards of communication shifting markedly in the last year, personalisation has never been more important.

According to Salesforce's latest State of Marketing report, 73% of customers now expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. While the same report finds that channel personalisation has improved over the last year, there is much left for marketers to do. 

What exactly do marketers need to consider when it comes to data-driven marketing with personalisation at its core?

This was the question at the heart of the third gathering of The CMO Circle, a roundtable of senior brand leaders organised by Campaign Asia and Salesforce in April. The event was moderated by Campaign Asia’s editorial director Robert Sawatzky, with exclusive insights from Sophie Crosby, SVP Marketing Cloud at Salesforce and former CMO at Ticketmaster.

Authentic and empathetic marketing 

As customers navigate the new normal, being “personal, and not just personalised” is an ongoing challenge, pointed out Wendy Walker, senior director marketing, ASEAN at Salesforce Asia.

Sophie Crosby, SVP for marketing cloud, Salesforce, delivered a candid presentation about her experiences working at Ticketmaster as SVP for Insight, Data and Marketing. During this time, Ticketmaster utilised Salesforce tools to replace an ageing CRM system, and created a customer data warehouse of over 100 million single customer views across 16 markets and multiple platforms. 

“Personalisation is not a strategy; it's a tactic.” said Crosby, adding that salience of relevant content, matched with long-term brand spend, personalised offers and customer experience is “the new marketing”. 

Crosby recalled how her tenure at Ticketmaster took the company on a journey from “batch and blast” across large segments to targeted segments with tailored content, determined on the moment of open via automation. This change preceded a 50% uplift in click-through rate and conversion. 

But Crosby offered a stark warning about planning, recalling that Ticketmaster would send out emails after a concert to encourage fans to share their photos. On the night of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing at an Ariana Grande concert, Ticketmaster “had to be really on the ball” halting automations, “because the last thing we wanted to do was send out an email asking how the concert was, when somebody’s child didn’t come home.”.

Sensitive messaging and respect for empathy is something that CMOs have discussed consistently in the last year.

Data sets the approach

It’s not possible to be empathetic in your marketing if you don’t understand who you’re talking to, and building a clear understanding of customers’ needs is essential. Brands are making great strides towards managing, interpreting and applying customer data. 

But how noticeable should personalisation be? Some say it shouldn't be noticeable at all, pointed out Sawatzky.

Marketers can be guilty of overcomplicating things, highlighted Jess O’Reilly, AVP for cloud sales ASEAN at Salesforce Asia – a comment that raised uniform agreement. “Sometimes we're really hard on ourselves. But, to be frank, for a lot of our customers, just a little bit of personalisation is enough to make them happy.”

Crosby agreed that from experience, the “labyrinth” of hyper-personalisation can create a rabbit hole, and the “80/20” rule should always apply.

Sumit Ramchandani, CEO of the AirAsia Media Group, pointed to the unique scale and quality of first-party data that AirAsia has and how it, along with AirAsia’s omnichannel assets, is being leveraged to drive marketing goals for strategic brand advertisers and merchant partners.

“Even for us internally, our big vision is the whole superapp with curated high frequency services that we are building,” he said. “How do we leverage that single view of the customer and maximise our cross-sells and up-sells? That really is the holy grail.”

AirAsia had been hit hard by the pandemic, but the airline strives to drive relevance through social listening and it’s own chat platform and leveraging those insights to not just address customer challenges but also to identify new contextually relevant offering through it’s super app such as food delivery, ride hailing etc.

Meanwhile, Disney+, which is still nascent in Asia, is pivoting to adapt to differing expectations in the region.

“In many emerging markets, there is low proclivity to pay for content viewing online. In Indonesia, for example, SVOD subscriptions represent less than 10% of households,” said Daniel Tan, executive director, marketing, Disney+ and Content Distribution. “But with rapid shifts in the media landscape and content consumption behaviour, the growth is very encouraging. It is contingent upon us to demonstrate value for the consumer and create unique, personalised experiences.”

Tan adds that Disney+ is leveraging martech and other in-house tools for CRM, and is also actively using first-party data analytics that put customers at the centre of everything it does.

Timing it right

Having the message and the data are two pieces of the personalisation puzzle. But marketers are always seeking to provide messages that resonate with an individual’s unique needs at precisely the right time.

Jeff Chan, senior manager for innovations at Del Monte Philippines, acknowledged that Del Monte is seeking agility when it comes to converting data into something relevant and actionable for the consumer. “Consumers are smart enough to really know if we're just forcing the product into the communication. It’s all about working with speedy partners.”

AirAsia’s Ramchandani explained that trigger and event-based messages, such as reminders, are easier to handle. “But to draw customer insights and really look at our consumer journey from that omnichannel standpoint and then figuring out the next best course of action – there is no clear answer on how to get the timing exactly right.”

Personalisation is also about finding the right channel, said Tan, as he shared that Disney+ is studying the viability of new customer communication channels, based on how responsive consumers have been in other use cases.

The next step in personalisation

The phrase ‘death by data’ is something many marketers resonate with. A refrain among certain marketers is that 'we have too much data'. 

Tan highlighted that “it is possible for two marketers to derive different conclusions from the same data set, which is why it is important to be very clear from the outset on what the business objectives and problem statements are, in order to create a more constructive data-driven marketing strategy.”

When it comes to personalisation, AI is increasingly doing the heavy lifting and may well become a tool that alleviates the strain from excessive data. Marketers are keen to discuss the merits of AI but remain cagey about revealing insights from implementation, noted Sawatzky. 

“The State of Marketing report showed this huge spike in the use of AI. And yet, every time we talk to CMOs about it, they don't want to say too much about how they're using it.”

Regardless of brands’ readiness to discuss it in-depth, it is estimated that by 2025, 95% of interactions with consumers will be driven by AI, with personalisation, segmentation, and deep-data insights being particularly popular. It’s sure to become an unavoidable subject before then.

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