Personalised marketing: The future is now

When it comes to marketing, the future is already here, says Grant Shippey, Dot Network CEO

Steven Spielberg’s 2002 science-fiction film Minority Report imagines a world in 2054 where every aspect of life is monitored by personalised digital information, including shopping fuelled by personalised marketing.


The movie’s protagonist, played by Tom Cruise, walks into a mall and is immediately engaged by screens and audio offering him clothing in his size and tailored to his established fashion preferences.


Though movies aren’t a reliable source of future trends, integrated real-world and digital experiences are becoming increasingly possible. With the development of devices that can send personalised information, and constantly improving data collection that lets companies aim their product messages accurately, the world of marketing is an exciting space to watch.


An integrated experience uses what marketers call an “omnichannel approach” that tries to piece together the different parts of a person’s life and the various aspects of their behaviour to reach them with advertising messages that view them holistically, and not just as someone who buys one particular product or who shops in one particular way.


People consume media in many different ways and on multiple devices. An integrated approach to marketing lets brands track consumers across their devices and through offline interactions, such as service calls, loyalty cards and point-of-sale information, and then guide them through the sales process, from making them aware of a product, to the sale, and then to retaining them as a long-term customer.


A truly integrated experience has data at its core — whether that data comes from CRM, research, sales data or programmatic data. It puts the customer at the centre — all the communication is tailored for their interests, behaviour, location, and, in some cases, time of day when they are most likely to respond. There isn’t a mass, generalised approach where every possible person is sent the same message.


When there’s an omnichannel approach, someone who reads a fashion blog and shops at a particular store could get an SMS at their preferred time of day for shopping that lets them know about a special on a new fashion trend that they are interested in. They could also receive information based on proximity. So if they are in a mall to buy their groceries and the relevant clothing store is in the same mall, they can be alerted to the clothing sale.

Personalised marketing is already in use worldwide

One of the most interesting international case studies about integrated marketing comes from discount-store retailer Target in the US, which used information from its shoppers’ loyalty cards to predict when a woman was pregnant, as early as their second trimester, and send them promotional information for baby products.


Some countries are also already using technology like indoor positioning systems, which use a person’s phone to know exactly where they are inside a building, such as a big department store, to send them personalised messages like, “You bought a lawnmower last month. How about some garden furniture? It’s on special.”


Technology manufacturer Intel has developed an Audience Impression Metric Suite that turns digital displays into content systems that can tell the gender and age of viewers and show them relevant messages for their demographic.


Omnichannel doesn’t have to involve huge technological developments as long as it puts the customer at the centre of the experience and serves a useful function. Take for example Oasis, the British clothing retailer who has merged the appeal of their physical and online stores in a low-key yet effective way by giving its sales staff iPads.


Staff are able to help customers search in-store for similar items or find items that are out of stock in stores but available online — and then order these items and have them delivered. The iPads are also mobile till points, allowing customers to pay wherever they are in the store.


The Internet of Things can also form a powerful part of a seamless omnichannel experience. As if shopping on Amazon wasn’t easy enough, the retail giant developed The Dash Button. This WiFi-enabled device is branded specifically for certain products like Glad, Bounty, Finish, and several other brands. Users can purchase buttons for the brands they desire and stick them in their home.


With a simple click of the button, customers can renew their Amazon order which is then billed to their account and delivered. Each button costs US$5, but after your first product purchase, Amazon refunds you that amount, effectively making Dash free.

What’s happening in SA?

Indoor positioning systems and smart digital displays aren’t used much in South Africa yet, but the local marketing sector is already becoming savvy with the onmichannel approach and is offering clients the opportunity to use integrated marketing experiences to reach their target audiences.


Data activation and programmatic advertising platforms are already in use that uses real-time bidding to purchase the best ad space possible for its clients so that their advertising message reaches the right audience on the site or app that is most convenient for them, at the right time of day for them to be able to act on it, all while optimising the clients’ advertising spend.


Dot Network has a number of platforms that are tailored to specific portfolios, such as fashion and beauty, food and drink and particular types of audiences. The agency can also target audiences in terms of their location. It recently ran a campaign for Volvo where people who own a car, live within a set distance of a Volvo dealership and earn a certain amount were sent marketing information about a sales offer.


This article first appeared on Memeburn.


Grant Shippey is CEO of Dot Network. Contact him.

"A truly integrated experience has data at its core. It puts the customer at the centre — all the communication is tailored for their interests, behaviour, location, and, in some cases, time of day when they are most likely to respond."