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Personalisation needs a purpose

The digital revolution is well underway. Brands are experiencing increasing pressure to stand out in a highly personalised online environment - every connected individual has access to a dedicated, tailored personal assistant who understands their movements and interests. Based on this information, it can recommend products and services according to a customer's personal expectations. Sounds like every marketer's dream, right? Wrong.
Ashish Williams
Google processes an average of 40,000 search queries every second; over 3,5 billion searches per day worldwide (Source: Internetlivestats). Despite these staggering statistics, each search is personalised for the individual based on their online behaviour, making Google billions of people’s personal online assistant. Over time, this concept has evolved into smartphone versions, such as Mycroft (Android) and Siri (iPhones). Physical manifestations of these assistants are also available in the form of smart speakers, like Amazon’s Echo.

Consequently, we’re facing a massive uptick in terms of connected home technology. Digital assistants are starting to nestle themselves in more and more South Africans’ lives and homes, and while doing so, going beyond providing simple ‘request and response’ features. Today, these bot butlers can provide almost anything - from make-up advice, personalised news bulletins, and restaurant recommendations.

In essence, they’re changing the way brands engage with people - in a very real way.

A new type of online influencer

The following scenario is a typical modern-day engagement with a digital assistant, which clearly shows the importance they’re beginning to play in consumer behaviour.

User: “Google, what’s the best brand of running shoes?”
Google Assistant: “Are you looking for yourself, Sheila, or the kids?”
User: “For myself.”
Google Assistant: “Based on your workout patterns, it looks like you like trail-running more than asphalt. Is that correct?”
User: “Yes.”
Google Assistant: “Based on popular ratings, reviews, and product purchases, here are the top three brands for you.”


Understandably, Google search share is becoming increasingly important as the marketing landscape shifts towards brands that invest considerable time, effort, and budget into their Google spend. Although effective in its own right, this method won’t automatically convince digital assistants to recommend your brand to its user.

And the fact is that, if users aren’t recognising your presence online, then their assistants won’t either.

Personalisation with a purpose

Luckily, there is one method to disrupt Google’s algorithms, which is to be at the forefront of the consumer’s mind - even before they decide to type text into the search bar. This will improve organic Google rankings, a challenging feat for any business to achieve. To realise this and grow a brand’s Google search visibility, different marketing disciplines need to integrate and innovate together.

It is no longer enough to personalise content; personalisation must have purpose.

Getting into Google’s inner-workings

In the case of digital assistants, laying the groundwork to reach customers starts with predicting your customers’ needs and understanding how you can be more assistive through the channels you’re already using. The trick is to start building assistive experiences with the customer data you have available.

This is where targeted personalisation comes in. While users are busy uploading every calorie they eat and high-end boutique they visit to the cloud, brands can increasingly personalise content to break through the wall of digital assistants.

This sentiment circles back to an age-old marketing motto: Understand your customer. Only now, what we need to know is far more complex and detailed than we could have ever expected it to be. Brands need to understand how Google thinks in order to understand what customers want.

About the author

Ashish Williams is the CEO of MediaCom South Africa.

MediaCom's press office

MediaCom MediaCom's new way of thinking has brought about a new way of operating. We're the leading initiators of change when it comes to planning and buying placement across media channels.
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