The science behind personalised communications

Personalisation offers brands loyal customers and improved response rates

Effective personalisation offers brands and organisations a proven method for loyal customer relationships and improved response rates. It’s no surprise that the implementation of personalisation has become one of the most important trends - and challenges - within our industry today. Communication directors have to analyse, match and act on big data to integrate a fully successful personalised communication strategy.


Personalised communication captures a fundamental change within the overall communications strategy: the introduction of big data. The implementation of this data is key to developing a successful personalisation strategy. When implementing personalisation, organisations will come across a paradoxical dilemma: on the one hand brands and organisations want to profile and target users with personalised - yet automated - content, messages and offers; but on the other hand, personalised communication will deprive your target audience of more diverse insights and information about your company.

"Personalisation requires a fundamental change within the overall communications strategy: the introduction of big data."

Long before today’s advanced digital technology was widely available and adopted among marketing and communication directors, ‘personalisation’ referred to using a customer’s name within a direct email campaign or a new product offer. As technology evolved, the ability to further personalise evolved as well. Through big data insights, communication directors can adapt to consumer’s needs and wishes. Brands sometimes even know what a consumer wants before the consumer realises this him or herself.

Anyone who understands how technology can take personalised communications to an unprecedented level, even to a one-to-one dynamic, can have a powerful influence on the customer journey. Messaging tools and automated bots such as Falcon Social and OBI4wan have made communicating with customers so fast, flexible and personal that it is also changing consumer expectations and behaviour - sometimes even directly.

Analyse: it’s all about data!

In order to optimise personalisation in communication, a clear understanding of perceptions and opinions of consumers and other stakeholders is crucial. As social media has become an important platform for these stakeholders to share opinions and perceptions, it is important to include e-listening within the stakeholder analysis framework to gain knowledge and insight.

Dashboard analytics solutions and social listening tools such as Brandwatch, Buzzcapture, DashThis, Tableau and Talkwalker promise to unlock a tidal wave of actionable insights for your business - some even based on real-time data. The trick is getting to those insights from amongst the volumes of (social) media data found in networks, forums, communities, blogs, news sites and online comments - some tools even include offline media such as radio, television, newspapers and magazines.

But what’s next? The power of insights gained from (social) media data can truly be felt when compared to that of other data sources. Visualisations (such as infographics) and dashboards can sit alongside internal business data to help you make decisions. For example: stakeholder sentiment following the launch of a new product or service can be compared with actual sales or to weather conditions at the time of an event.

Match: Actionable, actionable, actionable!

Data analytics should be able to extract insights from data. Organisational change is needed to mix workgroups internally for both branding and reputation to align the metrics. The intelligence of reputation and personalised communication goes beyond tracking or measuring alone. It’s about integration, looking further than the automated numbers and a stakeholder centric approach of data is key. We need to remember: metrics are about insights, not numbers.

"Social listening combined with other data offers communication directors insights to effectively implement personalised communications."

“Many companies are struggling to make sense out of their data and still don’t really know how to create value off their big data investments. This is why the promise of actionable insights can make a massive difference” states Carina Dusseldorp, Head of Research at Buzzcapture. “How can we build relevant content and communication strategies for specific target groups? What interests do they have? What are most relevant platforms or media to target them? What associations and perceptions do target groups have on my brand or certain topics? In what context are target groups discussing my brand or certain topics?”

When combined with other data, social listening offers communication directors insights to effectively implement personalised communications – in order to offer consumers the right solution, product or service at the right time - because they know what they want, where they can be found online and what they actually need.

Act: deliver your target audience what they expect! 

Nowadays, consumers are aware of the fact they are giving away personal data about themselves the second they go online. We all use location based apps, share our opinions through social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and we even buy our groceries in an online store.

Because we are aware of the fact that companies store and use our data, we expect organisations to understand our needs. Consumers will often look past companies who neglect to communicate in a meaningful and relevant way. Organisations need to act based off their consumers’ expectations. Part of knowing what your consumers want and need is also knowing how personalised they want you to go with your offers and communications. The risk of knowing everything about your consumer is to go too far. Personalised communications should be implemented step by step.

Next up: implement reputation management

All this data is not only useful for personalised communications; it also offers communication directors insights into the overall reputation of the company or industry.

Reputation management is basically everything for an organisation. Reputation is the collective judgment of stakeholders and consumers and the direct result of what you say and do – and what others say and do about you. Therefore reputation management is multidimensional and not owned by you.

At the end of the day, your reputation has a huge effect on sales and bottom-line reputation can make or break a brand - and also influence your personalization strategy. If your stakeholders don’t agree on your views, actions or statements, it will have a huge effect on your profit and sales.

It is advocated that reputation management is one of the most important factors for a successful communications strategy. The challenge within reputation management is to prove how the value of reputation helps to transform an organisation. The question regarding the mapping is not only focused on the how, but also the ‘where do I start?’ Brands not only have to deal with messages from consumers on social media on a daily basis but also information on news sites, blogs and in newspapers and magazines.

The base of reputation management starts with good monitoring: mapping, protecting and improving online reputation. Therefore you must clearly define what you need monitoring and which information is important for your organisation? Just as important is making sure the information is brought to the attention of the right people in an understandable and feasible manner. An efficient and effective information stream leads to awareness and (when necessary) action. You have to throw all the acquired data onto a big pile to be able to map your reputation.

And so it all comes back to data in end. A communication team that understands how to turn data into actionable insights is ready to conquer the world.

Kevin Lamers

Kevin Lamers is head of content at Buzzcapture, an Amsterdam-based media monitoring firm. Prior to joining Buzzcapture, Kevin worked in PR and social media management roles at Social Embassy and TBWA/Worldwide, working with clients such as Unilever, Adidas and Procter & Gamble.