Team working together on creative plan

Unlocking Data-Driven Creative Personalization

The in’s and out’s of delivering real-time creative for an audience of one.

Creative personalization at scale is an essential way for brands to unlock exponential growth and efficiencies in media. The need for advertisers to stay true to their brand and speak to individuals on a personal level, without sacrificing brand identity is becoming increasingly critical. Consumers ultimately see one output, a creative piece which is the voice of a brand. All the work invested in understanding the audience, mapping the customer journey, identifying channels to activate within, are all designed to help brands connect with those they identify as potential consumers. 

Although brands have been building amazing creatives for years, the proliferation of media and data has created a challenge for brands; building data-driven creatives at scale. Without data-driven creative personalization in place, how can brands continue to attract new consumers and most importantly, retain their attention?

According to eMarketer and Google insights, less than one percent of all display creatives served in Canada include an element of personalization. Yet, Canadian brands continue to invest over $3 billion dollars into display advertising each year. 

Brands that succeed at integrating customer data and signals within their creative can test, track and optimize creative in real-time - guaranteeing that the right offer and message is served to the right customer, and generate significant efficiencies in media activation. This allows brands to resonate better with audiences, deepen the relationship and maintain their competitive edge. By combining all these data points, it enables brands to have real-time, specific, and precise targeted conversations with their audiences.

Using Signals to Understand Audiences

Most marketers think they know their customers, while audience segmentation is often neglected or not utilized to its full potential. The first step of data-driven creative personalization requires a deep understanding of these audience segments. This requires brands to look beyond first-party data and combine internal data sets, website analytics, and purchase data with external sources, such as weather, competitor activity, and market signals. 

Doing so enables brands to get a holistic view of the different audience segments they want to engage, along with the tone of their brand message tailored to the individual’s interests and needs. Brands should go beyond demographics when looking deeper into audience insights, as it will not only be more effective, but significantly more efficient in delivering the message.

Combining these segments and signals against market trends and opportunities will result in hundreds, if not thousands, of possible combinations between audience, message, incentive and creative. 

Creating a Scalable Creative Template 

Personalization is a two-way communication - the customer provides signals and intent data, and the brand offers relevant solutions to address their needs and desires.
It requires careful planning and a suitable process to building a creative library—one that has unique messages for different audiences and different tactics and various phases. 
It also requires excellent planning to leverage typography, iconography, imagery, font and photography. Coming up with the right template is a creative and data problem grounded in a team that can effectively solve the same puzzle.

Once the creative’s associated trigger fires, technology allows for optimization, where future potential customers receive appropriate triggered messages based on their position in the sales funnel. This becomes more important, especially when taking into consideration that consumers nowadays are on a constant journey. Most of us go through thousands, of touch points before converting, sharing our time across multiple screens simultaneously. 

A Full Funnel Approach

For marketers, the purchase funnel is wildly more complicated than it was just a few years ago. The display channel playing a particularly crucial role in driving new prospects into a funnel and closing the loop by driving sales. Yet so many brands are still focusing on either a prospecting, or remarketing strategy only.

Having a holistic, full funnel, year-round approach becomes more important than ever before, and it allows brands to speak to and respond to their target audience when their consumers' preferences are shaped. It also allows for constant flow of new audiences into the funnel by adding them to prospecting audiences, while optimizing existing audiences lower down the funnel to close the sale.   

Step 1 | Prospecting at Scale

Speaking to consumers on an individual level and achieving personalization at scale all at once can be daunting at first. Figuring out the initial message and creative requires taking a closer look at behaviours, patterns, and habits to understand audiences at a meaningful level - first impressions count for a lot. That’s why it’s essential to talk to people when they’re in shopping mode. Programmatic does a fantastic and vital job of utilizing behaviour and analytical signals (Example Site Visit, and Interest,) to identify audiences with the highest intent and use those signals to make creative more relevant and tailored to the viewer. Smart Bidding then ensures the strongest performing creative is appearing in the right place, at the right time, to the right person.

One of our travel clients discovered that utilizing imagery of the destination along with unique attributes generated 100 percent more clicks to site and 55 percent increase in conversions. 

Step 2 | Remarketing at scale

As there are more platforms, more signals, and more data sources to inform the creative process than ever before, creative assets are playing a crucial role as the consumer moves down the sales funnel and is especially effective when it comes to closing the actual conversion. Remarketing not only allows for advertising of relevant recommendations on products that they selected and expressed interest in, but also can incorporate suggestions on products they didn’t even think about - such as valuable bundles and offers. A perfect example with a client, operating in the Home Security space, that leveraged remarketing creative to provide site visitors with unique incentives and promotions on alternative products, once they left the site to ensure they returned, resulting in a 24% improvement in conversion. 

Remarketing can be highly effective but can appear to be creepy or irrelevant if not done correctly or in a meaningful way. Brands need to get more sophisticated than just providing the same product the consumer shopped for in a banner ad. The most relevant remarketing creatives are ones that suggest complementary product skews to go with an actual purchase. Where a brand traditionally excludes audiences if they purchased a product, we've worked with a leading speaker brand have identified the best window for remarketing, was 48 hours post sale. They've leveraged this insight to deliver upsell opportunities on additional speakers, just when customers would have received their initial shipment, and the product interest is at its highest.  

Ensuring teams pay attention to the frequency of their retargeting campaigns is also critical. This tactic can get irritating to the viewers, if not observed correctly or managed properly. Although remarketing CPC/CPM tend to be lower than prospecting, it’s not a reason to bombard customers with the same message repeatedly. It may cause creative fatigue over time and feel intrusive to many consumers.   

Step 3 | Personalization at scale

Personalization at scale helps consumers resonate with the ads and speaks to them on a more individual level. It focuses on user experience; ultimately allowing for better ad engagement. This is where the true value of personalization is unlocked for brands and where marketing effectiveness is maximized. It implies a deep understanding of the customer wherever they interact and regardless of how they engage with a brand.  Brands that know how to leverage personalization effectively - generated significant value from media.

Aligning Technology Stack

To work at this pace, and scale, requires an agile process, to replace the old ones. 
Leaders in personalization and data-driven creative are continually testing and that requires putting a team together that not only has the right skills but also understands how to work together. 
A cohesive team is also able to leverage signals better, both from 1st part data and other signals like market, weather, and other competitor elements to deliver better messaging and creativity as well as enhance customer value where it’s possible. 

That is why aligning on a technology stack, for example the Google Marketing Platform, enables teams to make changes and optimizations faster, as well as easily measuring the true impact of each creative towards business goals. Its integrated workflows built on a solid floodlight configuration combined with the most robust data privacy protection standards makes GMP an attractive option to choose.

A Shift in Mindset for Better Personalization

Although, there isn’t an exact formula to where the line stops with personalization. Marketing teams need to do a better job of bridging creative data (Offer, Design, Copy Lines, Images, etc.,) AND media data (Audience, Conversion, Format, Inventory, etc.,) to identify the threshold and determine what drives the incremental sale, while ensuring seamless and meaningful customer experience.

Consumers see value in function while marketers are challenged to deliver more for less. Brand leaders who master data driven creative personalization will create value for consumers in high-priority areas and in an environment of increased competition. More importantly, they’ll drive amazing experiences to consumers.