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Whitepaper: Personalization Across Channels

4 Ways to Win Customers by Proving You Understand Them


Since the dawn of the digital age, businesses have used personalization strategies across a variety of channels, from the website to email to the call center, and they have achieved solid returns by investing in personalization. In a recent survey of 506 marketers, VB Insight found that between 70 and 94 percent of respondents saw a notable increase in key customer engagement metrics by employing personalization.1

Yet consumers don’t perceive the benefits of personalization in their interactions with brands. In a survey by eConsultancy and IBM, nearly 80 percent of consumers stated that the average brand doesn’t understand them as individuals. 2 Likewise, 39 percent of senior marketing leaders cite “understanding our customers and translating into relevant interactions” as a top 2015 challenge. 3 In a recent Forrester study on behalf of Neustar, only 60 percent of marketers said they know how to engage their high-value customers, and 51 percent reported that they distribute the same content to all customers.4

Today’s more competitive environment, full of noise and with high consumer expectations of seamless omnichannel interactions, demands that you personalize more in order to stand out, delight your consumers, and earn their business. In this white paper, we’ll discuss why your consumers feel like you don’t understand them and offer four strategies you can employ now to amp up your personalization strategy.

Most Visitors Don’t Benefit from Website Personalization

Even though website personalization has showed solid returns since the early days of the web, the most commonly used techniques only have an impact on a small fraction of people who visit your site.

Logged in Visitors Are Only Two Percent

If you’re only personalizing to visitors who have logged into your site, you’re losing opportunities to get to know 98 percent or more of your visitors; research shows that only 0.85 percent6 to 2 percent7 of visitors actually log in. Personalizing against 2 percent of your site visitors is a great start, but you can’t count on it to help consumers feel understood.

Referring URLs Contain Limited Clues About Intent

Some referral URLs may give you a bit of insight into your visitors’ intent, but many visitors reach your site from sites that are completely unrelated to yours. Furthermore, referring URLs tell you nothing about a visitor’s demographic characteristics, preferences, or propensity to purchase, making it difficult to create personalized content.

Behavior-Based Personalization Fails to Shape Critical First Impressions

On-site behavioral targeting for unknown, unauthenticated visitors takes several clicks before it starts to become effective. But it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form a first opinion of your brand and just another 2.6 seconds for that viewer’s eyes to concentrate in a way that reinforces that first impression.8 The first 10-20 seconds are critical in visitors’ decisions to bounce or stay.9 Unless you’re personalizing from the moment that a visitor lands on your site, your visitor may bounce before your site shows that it can learn how to be relevant.

A/B Testing Is Not Personalization

Many companies assume that A/B testing is the best approach for optimizing the initial experience for the unauthenticated majority. But A/B testing does not actually help you develop a more relevant experience for each visitor. It relies upon you making a guess (on what the best content is) against a guess (who is really seeing that content). That’s why the benefits of A/B testing plateau so quickly.

What to Do Now

With the right tools and data, it’s possible to personalize site content and navigation to a key buyer persona from the first moment an unknown visitor touches your site. Here’s how:

  1. Establish a listening period to compile baseline data on how your best customers behave on your site. In addition to your web analytics, you’ll need solutions for segmenting and modeling these customers.
  2. Use the insights gained during the listening period, along with other first, second, and third-party data, to segment your customers based on their interests and buying behavior.
  3. Work with a provider that uses an authoritative identity methodology to resolve each visitor as a real person (not a bot) in real time and provide your personalization engine with a privacy-friendly, context-rich profile that maps the visitor to your key buyer personas.
  4. Serve the messaging and offers that are most meaningful to that person in real time, as soon as he or she lands on your site.

Uninformed Digital Media Targeting Is Wasted Spend

While website personalization is a well-established strategy for increasing conversions, more advanced marketers are also looking at how to personalize their digital media. The fact is, most online advertising today is based on a very limited dataset of online behavior stored in cookies and basic demographic data captured from consumer registrations. As a result, ads often miss the mark. Keep in mind that you can’t count on cookies or mobile advertising IDs to tell you an extended story:

  • On any given day, 50-70 percent of cookies used by ad networks are being seen for the first time10 and thus provide no historical insight.
  • Over the course of a month, more than 80 percent of ad network cookies are seen on only one day,11 making it more difficult to piece together associations to build that single customer view.
  • Consumers are constantly upgrading their devices. Deloitte predicts 1.15 billion smartphone upgrades globally in 2016. In addition, research undertaken in May-June 2014 indicates that about seven in ten smartphone owners in 14 developed markets had upgraded their phone in the previous 18 months, bringing a new, unknown mobile advertising ID into their interactions with brands and eliminating any insights gained from their old devices.12
  • iOS devices are set to limit ad tracking by default.

It should come as no surprise that few consumers respond to digital ads in light of the constant bombardment by irrelevant messaging every time they surf the web. Here are some of the biggest problems with digital advertising personalization:

Basic Demographic Data Has Little Predictive Power

Effective targeting and efficient media buys involve deeply understanding your consumer—both who is likely to and who is not likely to convert. This requires looking at a range of demographic, psychographic, lifestyle, attitudinal, and buying data. The data in cookies and mobile advertising IDs have little predictive value. And because they rarely persist over long periods, they can’t tell you how much a consumer has been exposed to your brand.

Segmentation Disconnected from Real Online Audiences Grows Virtual Dust on Virtual Shelves

Any modeling you do to better understand your customers must be actionable if it is going to have an impact on your campaigns. Too many segmentation frameworks can’t get past the theoretical because there is no way to purchase them as audiences or use them for site personalization.

Online-Only Segmentation and Measurement Provides a Skewed Picture

Traditional DMPs and website analytics offer segmentation based on digital behaviors (such as sites visited or mobile apps downloaded) to build an understanding of the consumer. This data can be useful, but it can give you a very skewed picture of the person you’re trying to reach. And once you do reach your target customer, how do you know what has been effective? Without a common framework that resolves visitors across channels and devices, you won’t be able to measure interactions or understand the full path to conversion.

The vast majority of purchases in many industries still take place offline. Yet Deloitte predicts that digital interactions are expected to influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in stores by the end of 2015, or $2.2 trillion.13

What to Do Now

By combining your CRM data with external data, you can build a much fuller picture of whom you’re reaching and deliver messages that are meaningful to that person at the time that your ads are served. Studies show that that using first-party data significantly increases ad effectiveness. For example, Neustar analyzed data from a selected client in the telco vertical and found that CRM data performed 39 times better than the advertiser average. 14 The implementation process is similar to any other personalization strategy:

  1. Engage in a “listening period,” using first- and third-party demographic, psychographic, lifestyle, attitudinal, or buying preference data to understand who your best customers are. Make sure that you incorporate both online and offline activities for a more complete customer model.
  2. Use audience data from your listening period to find look-alikes of your best-performing customers. Now that you know who your best customers are, you want to find more people like them online. But you also need to find out which segments are not interested and stop targeting them. You won’t want to waste your limited media budget on people who will never convert.
  3. Target your high-performing audiences with the most relevant messaging across every channel. To do so, you’ll need to be able to resolve audience members as real people, not just as “urban millennial male.”
  4. Consider techniques like sequential messaging to tailor messages to stages in the customer journey. To do this, you need a consistent way of reaching an individual consumer no matter where he or she is online or offline.
  5. Measure success by looking at both online and offline channels, using an authoritative identity methodology to connect activities in disparate channels. For example, a retailer needs to understand the impact that its digital and mobile campaigns have on in-store sales, not just on e-commerce.

Unsophisticated Remarketing Solutions Stalk Consumers with Irrelevant Messages

Does it ever seem like online ads are following you around? And to add insult to injury, how often do these ads feel completely generic? Or advertise something you already purchased? Remarketing can make online advertising much more effective, but you aren’t doing your consumers any favors if you don’t try to learn about them and instead personalize only based on the URLs they have visited.

More Remarketing Is Not Better Remarketing

It’s true that many marketers are upping their remarketing investments because of its favorable ROI. But when does this type of personalization stop being effective? A consumer survey conducted by InSkin Media and Rapp Media demonstrates both the upside and downside of remarketing.15

What to Do Now

You can inject more relevance into remarketing by implementing omnichannel campaigns that are informed by information such as affinities and past online and offline behavior, not just websites visited. You should:

  1. Reach out only to people who will care about your message, either because they have expressed interest or because they belong to a segment with a propensity to buy your products and services. Propensity is indicated by past online and offline behavior and advanced segmentation, not by one visit to a product page.
  2. Deliver your messages at the right time in the customer lifecycle, when they are more likely to earn consumers’ attention based on their typical purchase patterns. For example, remarketing windows for an item like a laptop may be shorter than those for a new automobile.
  3. Tailor your messages to the known relationship you have with each consumer. As the simplest example, don’t deliver a sign-up offer to an existing customer. An authoritative identity methodology that’s built with privacy in mind can recognize different types of relationships while conforming to your privacy policies.
  4. Use a segmentation framework that incorporates insights from online and offline sources. In addition to third-party data, incorporate first-party data from your CRM and other marketing technologies into your remarketing programs, so that you can more effectively reach people you already know.
  5. Execute remarketing consistently across online and offline channels. Use the same insights to shape personalized offers through the web, mobile, direct mail, and the call center.

Your Call Center Agents Miss Opportunities to Personalize Based on Omnichannel Activities

When a consumer calls your call center, he or she is actively expressing interest in or seeking help from your company. This makes the call center a prime channel for upselling and cross selling, not just for customer support. Yet your call center may not have the insights it needs to understand callers and deliver the right offers. It may not be equipped to treat each call as an important step in the omnichannel customer journey. Here’s why personalization in the call center can be challenging:

Website Activity Is Invisible

When a consumer closes her web browser and dials your call center, she may feel like she’s landing on a different planet. Unless she already completed a transaction, your call center staff probably has no visibility into the actions that she took online and will treat her like a brand new customer.

IVR Systems Don’t Capture Valuable Knowledge for Future Interactions

Most call centers don’t see data capture as a revenue-generating activity, so agents may not ask callers for additional contact information that you could use later for email or direct mail follow-ups. Likewise, most companies fail to treat the precious data in their interactive voice response (IVR) systems as lead sources because a) it never occurred to them or b) they lack the means to connect a phone number with a caller’s name and address.

Brands Lack the Power to Reach Consumers in the Best Channels

Some consumers respond best to phone calls, others to direct mail, and others to email. Ideally, brands would optimize channels based on consumer preference, but too often they lack enough information to exercise options. And in cases where you have only a phone number, the Do Not Call list may eliminate your only channel of communication.

What to Do Now

It’s actually not that difficult to seem and act like a single company online and offline because most callers provide you with a critical identifier—their phone numbers. You should:

  1. Append your CRM data with the consumer’s phone number so your agents understand that this is a person with whom you have interacted in the past.
  2. Use not only purchase history but also other first- and third-party data to understand the affinities a caller has with your best customers and to map her into your key audience segments.
  3. Provide call center agents with the offers that are most likely to resonate based on your deeper understanding of the person at the other end of the line.
  4. Create programs to reach out to callers—even those who never speak to an agent—via email, phone, or direct mail, while taking into account your privacy policy, consumer opt-ins, and Do Not Call requirements.

Neustar’s Omnichannel Personalization Can Help You Understand and Delight Your Consumers

Neustar solutions fuel the real-time intelligence that your execution engines need to understand both known and unknown consumers and serve them with a personalized, meaningful experience in any channel. Neustar makes it possible to marry your own first-party data with rich third-party information, generate true predictive segmentation, bring these context-rich profiles into online and offline channels, and deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time.

Neustar arms you with the five key ingredients that make omnichannel personalization possible at scale.

Ingredient #1: Neustar Identity

At the core of every personalized interaction is Neustar Identity, our authoritative identity methodology. Neustar Identity is the connective tissue that resolves disparate identifiers and recognizes them collectively as a single consumer, so you can:

  • Recognize discrete people as they cross devices
  • Sequence messaging through a defined customer journey
  • Measure results across online and offline touchpoints

Ingredient #2: A Robust Dataset to Complement Your First-Party Data

Neustar gives you a way to supplement real-time interaction data with any data that helps you better understand your consumers: your first-party data, second-party data from trusted providers, and third-party data from service providers. You can build rich audience profiles that mirror your best customers, using more than 15,000 online and offline attributes linked to validated authoritative demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data.

Ingredient #3: Neutrality

Effective omnichannel personalization requires regular inputs from all of your online and offline sources in order to stay relevant over time. You also need a critical mass of interactions for accurate performance measurement. Collecting this data across your business and your vendor ecosystem requires neutrality—an unbiased view of who your audiences are and how they’re behaving. A provider who is also selling media and advertising may have real or perceived conflicts of interest with other providers in the ecosystem, preventing them from collecting a robust dataset. At Neustar, we have built our entire solutions portfolio with neutrality as a key premise.

Ingredient #4: Integration with Ad Tech and Marketing Tech

Omnichannel personalization demands that multiple execution engines work in concert with each other: your CRM, website platform and/or optimization engine, email system, ad servers, and even direct mail or call center solutions. You also need to integrate inputs from offline channels into your measurement systems since consumer behavior is fundamentally omnichannel. An effective personalization hub will be able to fuel all of these touchpoints with consistent audience data—in real-time. This is the only way to keep messaging and offers both relevant and fresh.

Ingredient #5: Measurement & Attribution

Cross-channel measurement is the key to being both effective and efficient with every campaign. With Neustar Identity, you gain a full picture of activity across all consumer touchpoints, both online and offline, allowing for multi-touch attribution and closed loop analysis.

Get Personalized Now

You may be thinking about personalization in the context of a single dataset that you can use to optimize interactions in a single channel. You may have even structured your organization and your technology stack with this single-channel approach in mind. But because consumers are increasingly omnichannel, your personalization needs to be omnichannel, too.

We hope that this white paper has started you thinking about:

  • How to use omnichannel datasets to understand your customers
  • Executing on that understanding by syndicating relevant messaging and offers across channels
  • Measuring success across all channels, online and offline
  • Why a single, consistent customer view is critical to omnichannel personalization success

Contact Neustar to learn how you can evolve your omnichannel personalization strategy with:

  • A more complete understanding of your consumers
  • More relevant offers that perform better and delight your audiences
  • Accurate measurement of omnichannel performance
  • Customer experience advantages that are sustainable at enormous scale

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  1. Andrew Jones, “Marketing Personalization: Maximizing Relevant and Revenue,” August 19, 2015, accessed at http://insight.venturebeat.com/report/marketing-personalization-maximizing-relevance-and-revenue
  2. Stefan Tornquist, “The Consumer Conversation Report,” produced by Econsultancy in partnership with IBM, April 2015, accessed at https://econsultancy.com/reports/the-consumer-conversation/
  3. Experian Marketing Services, “The 2015 Digital Marketing Report,” 2015, http://www.experian.com/marketing-services/digital-marketer-report.html

    Forrester Consulting, “Marketing Relevance in An Omnichannel World,” a Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper commissioned by Neustar. https://www.neustar.biz/resources/whitepapers/omnichannel-marketing-relevance-report
  4. Andrew Jones, “Marketing Personalization: Maximizing Relevant and Revenue,” August 19, 2015, accessed at http://insight.venturebeat.com/report/marketing-personalization-maximizingrelevance-and-revenue
  5. BloomReach, “The e-Commerce Atlas: The Route to Delivering a Great User Experience to Every Consumer,” 2014, http://go.bloomreach.com/ eCommerce-Atlas
  6. Marketo, “Unmask Inbound Visitors: Using Real-Time Personalization to Increase Website Conversion,” 2014, https://www.marketo.com/_assets/uploads/Unmask-Inbound-Visitors-Using-Real-Time-PersonalizationIncrease-Website-Conversion.pdf
  7. Eye tracking studies conducted by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, http://news.mst.edu/2012/02/eye-tracking_studies_show_firs/
  8. http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-webpages/
  9. Neustar internal data
  10. ibid
  11. Deloitte, “TMT Predictions 2015,” http://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/tmtpred-smartphones-one-billion-upgrades.html
  12. Deloitte Digital, “Navigating the New Digital Divide: Capitalizing on Digital Influence in Retail,” May 2015, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/consumer-business/us-cbnavigating-the-new-digital-divide-v2-051315.pdf
  13. Neustar, “Media Intelligence Report,” January 2015
  14. https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2014/10/23/its-officialconsumers-are-just-not-that-into-retargeted-ads/
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