Best Practices for Personalisation Through AI in Marketing Campaigns

Seventy percent of consumers like to see some form of personalisation from marketing communications, according to market research by SAP Emarsys, while 44 percent expect personalised offers or discounts in exchange for their loyalty to a brand. What’s more, according to research from management consultancy McKinsey & Co., companies that excel at personalisation generate 40 percent more revenue from those activities than average players.

SAP Emarsys, an entity of leading software producer SAP, is an omnichannel customer engagement platform that builds, launches and scales personalised marketing campaigns across digital channels. The company works with more than 1,500 brands, including the likes of Adidas Runtastic, Aldo, Brand Alley, Harrods, Innovasport, Puma, Reformation and Zumiez.

To power personalised marketing campaigns, SAP Emarsys collects customer data to create AI-powered analytics to measure and drive business intelligence on the end-consumer. This streamlines the customer lifecycle management to grow acquisition, lifetime value, purchase frequency, average order value and retention.

Customer campaigns to drive loyalty are enhanced by SAP Emarsys’ partners such as communications platform Sinch, with whom the company educates customers like Harrods on best-in-class practices such as conversational channels and how to boost customer engagement via WhatsApp and other channels. SAP Emarsys users can also now take advantage of generative AI-powered tools through its ‘AI Subject Line Generator,’ enabling marketers to streamline their communications and customer engagements.

These initiatives are elements of the overarching omnichannel strategy which SAP Emarsys empowers marketers to adopt. Resources like The Omnichannel Difference, published in partnership with research and advisory company Forrester, highlight the benefits of embracing this approach. Key findings note that 89 percent of organisations will prioritise “personalising experiences across channels/touchpoints” over the next 12 months. The report concludes that omnichannel “isn’t a nice to have, it is a business critical”.

SAP Emarsys CEO, Joanna Milliken.

Now, BoF sits down with Emarsys CEO Joanna Milliken, to further explore how the company is leveraged by fashion and beauty businesses to drive customer loyalty and engagement.

What are the core aspects of SAP Emarsys’ omnichannel strategy for fashion and beauty clients?

The world moves quickly — there’s a new channel preference every day, so being adaptable is at the core of our strategy. Each customer has unique challenges — thus, ensuring that they are growing, while remaining responsible to business and being equipped with the tools to be nimble and move quickly, is important to us.

Connection is another critical aspect. Our approach is tailored to each industry — but regardless, we want to make sure that when it comes to our solutions, everything is connected. Our customers work with a large partner marketing ecosystem and it is important that they can connect those solutions with their core marketing automation solutions such that they can be fully empowered to maximise value for their customers.

The solutions we offer have to be insightful — another core pillar — which is all about being AI-driven. This means we can provide the necessary insights that marketers need to understand what they should do next, which variables to change, or which combinations of factors work best.

Why is personalisation critical in brand marketing today?

How personalisation is executed has changed a lot, but the desire and the intent for personalisation from marketers has been pretty consistent. That is because it shows a customer that you are listening. Customers are also smart — and understand the concept of a value exchange. If they are giving you all this information in order to download and use your app, they expect you to use it responsibly.

How can brands leverage SAP Emarsys to enhance customer loyalty and engagement?

When we look at metrics like customer lifetime value, we are looking for sincere engagement with the brand and customers that default to using that brand or that product — loyalty is the ultimate outcome. But there are many different types of loyalty, which we track in our yearly SAP Emarsys global Customer Loyalty Index: there can be active or “true” loyalists, actively promoting something on your behalf; there can be “silent” loyalists who have used a product for 20 years, but not necessarily advocating for it; there are “incentivised” loyalists that are only loyal based upon price and promotion. Understanding those insights, combined with AI, becomes useful in knowing what levers are the right ones to adjust for your business.

Through our research, we are seeing that loyalty is on the decline, because price and product are not the only factors that businesses need to compete on. They must also compete on that overall experience — and that is where differentiation can be found.

Meeting your customer on the right channel, finding out where they spend their time, where they want to engage and showing that you are listening to that and honouring those preferences by delivering content that is relevant to them, can increase customer loyalty. You are removing all the friction such they can enjoy each of those brand interactions.

Take for instance our new Mobile Wallet channel, which has been adopted by customers like City Beach and many more globally. If you sign up for loyalty on a website, you immediately get that loyalty card in your wallet. As a result, our customers have permission to continue to communicate with the consumer that way. Adding these new channels is driving uplift, both in terms of traffic back to websites and increased purchases.

How do you work with other leading service providers to boost brand partners’ experience through SAP Emarsys?

Mention Me are customer advocacy marketing experts and a technology partner of SAP Emarsys. We marry our expertise to empower businesses to understand their customer base through not only their purchasing behaviour but also their advocacy actions such as referral and reviews. Through unique advocacy data and insights, Mention Me enables brands to drive incremental revenue and increased profitability — and SAP Emarsys can utilise these insights for enhanced customer engagement and personalisation

For example, in 2021, global sports brand and SAP Emarsys customer, Puma, was looking to transform its fanbase into a key growth driver for their direct-to-consumer channel to achieve two goals: acquiring new customers and nurturing brand advocacy and loyalty. Through our partnership with Mention Me, they identified their biggest advocates and loyal customers. Results so far from Puma’s referral programme include: delivering six times ROI (following six months of optimisation); referred customers are four times more likely to introduce new customers; while 10 percent of referrals convert into new customers.

Why is the adoption of AI capabilities critical for marketing organisations’ success?

Marketing organisations now and in the future are going to face challenges if they are not leveraging AI solutions because of the need for speed to market. For example, AI-powered subject line generators can help marketers when they might otherwise have spent hours thinking up the right subject line for an email. Every brand needs to move faster and AI allows them to automate many tasks, but also glean the necessary insights in order to do that effectively.

Through our research, we are seeing that loyalty is on the decline, because price and product are not the only factors that businesses need to compete on. They must also compete on that overall experience.

Data is the currency of AI, so when you are using a marketing solution like SAP Emarsys, we are collecting all of that data. You need advocacy data, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) data and supply chain information, customer behaviour data — all of that has to be brought together in order to make actionable and leverageable solutions.

If you are not able to do that as a business, then you can’t feed the AI to generate the results you need to make the correct decisions. For example, we help our customers predict the best time to launch their campaigns based on past consumer behaviour in different time zones. We can provide AI-powered insights on segments and audiences for past performance, as well as future predictions of what they are going to do. We are constantly trying to find places where AI adds immediate value.

Joanna Milliken, CEO, presenting at the SAP Emarsys conference.

What insights can you share on the evolution of the customer journey?

We have a report that we did in conjunction with research and advisory company Forrester called ‘The Omnichannel Difference’, which is designed to map out various stages of the customer journey and offers insights into what is happening there. For example, we studied customers’ pre-purchase journeys and found that 50 percent of customers are struggling with websites and chatbots.

The report also found that there is an overreliance on third-party channels such as social media and digital advertising. Email, mobile and direct mail are less popular with marketers even though they are better sources of first-party data. When used effectively, these channels are sufficient to inform omnichannel strategy without reliance on third-party data.

The report provides insight back to the customers about the importance of being effective when you are using those channels, the real time engagement and also the inherent need that we all have for human interaction from time to time as well.

What is the next strategic business focus for SAP Emarsys?

We are experiencing one of the most rapid technological revolutions of our lifetime. We have used AI solutions for a long time and I think we have been taking them a little bit for granted — a huge part of our efforts are around continuing to put AI first for our customers.

Additionally, we want to continue making it easier than ever to adopt all the new channels for marketing. We provide mobile solutions, SMS solutions, mobile wallet, website personalisation and TikTok advertising. As a result, customers can try and test new channels more easily with our help. Supporting them with overall adoption is going to be key for us.

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