AdobeVoice: Why Personalization Is Key To The Future Of Marketing

May 12 2014, 8:58am CDT | by

By Aseem Chandra, vice president of Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Target, Adobe

Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks was most certainly living in a pre-Internet world.

Today it isn’t unusual for young professionals to have had several different careers before turning 30. Our faster pace of life is conducive to change, and millennials seem to happily embrace it. Truth is, I think as marketers we need to take a cue and follow suit.

Ann Lewnes, Adobe’s CMO, recently shared interesting survey data demonstrating exactly that need—for marketers to reinvent themselves. The overwhelming majority of marketers agreed their roles would change within the next three years, but few felt they knew how to take risks and embrace change in order to remain competitive. Although, when asked about the capability most important to their future marketing efforts, “personalization” ranked highest, hands down.

In other words, we not only need a marketing makeover, but taking more risks and infusing creativity into our personalization efforts will be key to its success and longevity.

Not Just in Hollywood

‘Personalization’ today seems light years ahead of what we considered so helpful even just a couple years ago. Yet, I believe as marketers we still don’t fully grasp the potential of what today’s technologies can help achieve in terms of online and offline personalization—and until we start taking risks and reaching beyond what we believed was possible, we’ll never get to our much-needed reinvention.

In my favorite movie scene from Iron Man 2, billionaire Tony Stark appears before a Senate committee to defend his high-tech superhero suit. With the swipe of his fingers, he commandeers the committee’s TV screen from his mobile device and projects video from his device directly onto the screen, obtaining the upper hand during the proceedings.

What a clever Hollywood screenwriter imagined just four years ago may have seemed inaccessible, but in reality, the technology exists today. This cool project, focused on enabling workspaces of the future and built in our own labs, delivers functionality to wirelessly share content across different screens with the flick of your fingers. Point is, what begins as a dream among developers can have immense applicability in the physical and digital worlds. Think about retailers offering kiosks where shoppers can transfer desired products or outfits from their devices onto screens to find similar items in-store.

Likewise, it’s critical in the era of the social web and sharing economy for marketers to ensure they’re personalizing experiences in the ‘offline’ or physical world, as well as its digital counterpart, and always grounding it in data. For example, fitmob connects fitness enthusiasts who share similar fitness levels and interests with local trainers for group workouts. The company’s website and mobile app function as the main faces of its service, but they place equal importance on curating the offline experiences to deliver on users’ expectations, providing seamless service across channels.

Daring to Dream

In truth, the possibilities for online and offline personalization are only limited by marketers’ imaginations. Here’s further inspiration:

Smart Furniture designed a clever online tool to identify and categorize shoppers’ personal furniture styles. The retailer then dynamically suggests and highlights products individual to each shopper and offers a visualization feature to lay out the products in a customer’s own space.

Redbox tailors homepage content for first-time or repeat visitors and suggests new products based on previous rentals or favorite categories. The rental service even offers streaming options when a particular video isn’t available nearby, as well as online reservations so customers simply insert their credit card at the kiosk to obtain a previously reserved item.

Online shopping services Stitch Fix and Le Tote offer curated selections of clothing to purchase or rent (think Netflix for fashion) and refine recommendations over time based on members’ individual budgets and tastes. Personal stylists provide recommendations that are further refined by machine algorithms to deliver a truly customized service. Stitch Fix also works to create a tailored offline experience for every customer. A beautifully wrapped box arrives with a stylist’s hand-written note describing why each item was selected—continuing the same brand experience the customer first encountered online.

Take the Risk to Reinvent

It’s clear consumers are increasingly demanding more personalized and customized service in the digital as well as physical worlds. A mobile-optimized website or salesperson wielding an iPad are table stakes now, and as marketers we need to anticipate expectations with new ideas and inspirations of our own./>/>

Here, we can all take inspiration from the great Walt Disney, who famously said, “if you can dream it, you can do it.” After suffering several setbacks early in his career, he created some of the world’s most iconic animated characters and stories, not to mention a theme park and business empire. Not only was he a pioneer in animated film (akin to the digital world of his time), but he brought these magical experiences to life in the physical world, too.

By infusing that same drive, perseverance and creativity—as well as a touch of the latest technology—into our own marketing and personalization strategies, we can create the change that’s tantalizingly at our fingertips.

Aseem Chandra is vice president of Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Target for Adobe’s Digital Marketing business. In his role, Chandra is the general manager of these product lines, and oversees business strategy and investment plans, product roadmap, market positioning, field enablement, and pricing. He has 20 years of general technology management, marketing, partnering, and mergers-and-acquisitions experience. Chandra is on the board of Gaja Capital, a private equity fund based in Mumbai, India, and Hydrocephalus Association, a non-profit organization that advocates and directs research on behalf of those affected by brain injuries. He’s a frequent speaker at prominent industry conferences.


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