By Peter Kolster
CMOs hoping to transform their brands through a customer-centric approach face many challenges across data insights, channel optimization, and performance analytics. But the biggest challenge is creating and managing all the content needed to deliver authentic and relevant customer experiences, as marketers often struggle to produce content with the volume, variety, and velocity required to ensure the content resonates with customers and prospects.
With consumers bombarded by advertising every day, it's getting harder and harder for brands to get their attention — and hold it. Personalization is the most effective way to engage with an audience while simultaneously improving a campaign's performance.
In this context, a data- and AI-powered approach to content creation and delivery, known as dynamic creative optimization (DCO), is one of the most effective ways to engage with users. DCO generates personalized content based on three factors: availability of user data; the touchpoint; and the point in the customer journey. This facilitates real-time interaction with customers.
The focus of DCO is on tailoring content — whether it's a message, image, video, or promotion — that caters to the interests of specific users. In a recent survey released by Accenture, for instance, researchers found that among consumers who left a retailer/branded website because of poor personalization, 51 percent of respondents thought that invasive ads are on the rise. Unfortunately many brands are falling short: 46 percent of marketing executives are “not where they want to be” in their progress towards delivering personalized content, according to Forbes Insights. As a result, brands that use DCO for personalization have a promising opportunity to rise above and separate their message from the rest. The key to success is navigating both the technology and the processes involved to achieve end-to-end activation that yields results.
Personalization Across All Touchpoints
Reaching consumers at scale can be challenging because brands must quickly produce an ever-increasing amount of content to establish a level of personalization across all different touchpoints, each with their own requirements. Brands have to integrate this content into their marketing plans and factor it into their campaigns.
Accenture kept this in mind when the company worked with Radisson Hotel Group — which has seven hotel brands and more than 1,400 hotel locations — to build a new digital platform and usher in a new content creation strategy that would bring more customers to its hotels.
Together, the two companies leveraged DCO to integrate Radisson's email marketing, radio, TV, and offline ads and to gain greater visibility into ad spending. As a result, Radisson has already found "more opportunities to address more products with more customers," says Remy Merckx, VP, global digital at Radisson Hotel Group, adding that he sees "a very positive sign" stemming from dynamic content creation and programmatic media.
In another example of how DCO has been used successfully, a major international airline deployed a creative management platform with a completely dynamic approach. The platform provides tailored creative content for 38 markets in 28 languages and in more than 100 media formats. It not only connects different campaign types with a vast variety of dynamic assets, data points, and automation processes, but also enables a multichannel solution for display and mobile ads, social, DOOH (digital out of home), and video (for smart TVs and YouTube).
The platform in itself massively reduces production and coordination costs.
The effort has paid off nicely for the company: In combination with a programmatic media framework, the airline is seeing an increase in marketing spending efficiency that far exceeds current industry benchmarks.
Simplifying the Process
Although adopting increased personalization has many benefits, embracing it on a large scale often seems a bit overwhelming at first glance. But thinking about the end users and making them the center of communication can simplify the process of making the right decisions.
Paying attention to the three Vs of content — volume, variety, and velocity — can also help brands stay focused on the objectives that make the greatest difference among customers and prospects. If a brand tackles these three challenges successfully, its personalization efforts are likely to be very successful. Let's explore them in more depth.
The ability to achieve a high volume of content is mission-critical for major brands that operate globally in dozens of markets. Many require content localization, such as language, to resonate with the customer. Now add to this all the content needed to deliver a connected experience across all touchpoints, for every customer journey, and encompassing multiple channels — each with different content format requirements.
When brands are looking to achieve higher degrees of personalization while running multiple personalized campaigns simultaneously in multiple geographies, they won't be able to keep up with the volume unless they have the right approach to content production.
Fortunately, content can be scaled in unlimited ways with access to a proper data feed and a content strategy that uses a modular approach. That eliminates the need for manual design and development. Now it's possible for all of the creative elements within a piece of content to be dynamic, greatly increasing the variety of final versions available.
Variety is what brings the magic to DCO campaigns. The right data inputs, signals, and triggers enable a brand to build the relevant versions of content needed to engage its customers through personalized messages. Options available to brands, such as geolocation, weather, traffic, app usage, device, analytics, insights, and research, create the variety that keeps consumers engaged.
A European train line partnered with Accenture Interactive to use DCO to tailor its Facebook advertising to individual travelers' journeys. The train line's team created 60 interactions to serve 12 geographic locations and five interest-based audience segments. The train line also optimized existing brand assets to better fit Instagram and Facebook news feeds and dynamically engaged users with creative that featured their nearest station, journey time, and ticket price.
At a time when brands can measure the impact of a piece of content in real time, an increase in production velocity gives brands a key competitive advantage. Many of today's consumers are accustomed to watching 15- to 60-second videos that expire in 24 hours.
DCO allows brands to produce ad versions at a volume that would be impossible to achieve manually due to the speed and effort required. A dynamic approach helps brands deliver the volume and variety of content required at the pace — the velocity — needed to optimize the customer journey.
Man Versus Machine
Executing this at scale requires platforms and methodologies that can be used effectively without a huge increase in costs. Brands must sort through the multiplying number of tools and solutions available to address the demand. They must also engage in the "man versus machine" debate for each piece of content creation and channel activation. Sometimes it may be better to rely on team members, such as an art or creative director, to help with key parts of the process; in other situations, automation may be best.
Putting in place a Customer Interaction Management layer that can run a recommendation and decision engine for communication based on a user's interest is a key factor to successfully implementing DCO. Accenture Interactive saw an opportunity to increase video performance for Soma, a multichannel apparel retailer, by adapting its creative assets to fit user behavior on Facebook.
Using DCO, Accenture optimized existing creative assets into native ad units designed to drive performance on each platform, and developed multiple optimized videos for Soma from a single, 30-second TV spot. Each video told a different brand story to focus on different aspects of Soma's product line. The optimized creative assets, averaging eight seconds each, delivered a return on ad spending 13 times higher than the original TV spot.
As brands consider these factors, it's important to remember that DCO does not work in a vacuum. The ability to create endless versions of content needs to be guided by the delivery channel; for example, a programmatic advertising approach greatly impacts the potential outcome. When creative and media work together, there is a 150 percent improvement in performance, according to Google.
Brands must invest in the right technology to achieve results of dynamic content. Ultimately, the brand and its creative and media teams must be aligned to create a strong, personalized, dynamic creative strategy — and their efforts must be underpinned by the right technology. Having the right technology is also critical to collecting all of the data coming from data management platforms, analytics, customer relationship management software, and other sources.
Building a solid omnichannel DCO strategy takes commitment, but there is ample reward: It can help brands achieve key performance indicators used to measure effectiveness and connect with their target consumers. When the shopping experience is highly personalized, customers are 110 percent more likely to add additional items to their baskets and 40 percent more likely to spend more than they planned, according to Boston Consulting Group.
What's more, offering consumers tailored, branded content increases the likelihood they will interact with brands. Accenture's Personalization Pulse Check, for example, found that 48 percent of consumers left a brand's website and made a purchase elsewhere because the experience was poorly curated.
The key is communication. It is vital to connect DCO pros within all channels at the beginning of a campaign so they can participate in the planning. They are the glue that will merge data and creativity together and can be a critical conduit of ideas from other industries.
All customers who take part in a brand's customer journey are also involved in customer journeys with other brands in parallel. By using the right DCO strategy, a brand can capture consumers' attention at critical moments, establishing a powerful connection no matter how many other brands are vying for their time.
Peter Kolster is managing director, next-gen content services lead at Accenture, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program.