They flood the inbox. They sit in wait at the front door. Further still, the messenger app may well be full of them. I am of course referring to personalised brand communications. Common currency for every brand marketer, and yet many failing to hit the mark with consumers. In fact, according to research we recently conducted just 8% of consumers would be likely to engage more with a retailer if they addressed them by name in their communications. To them, putting their name at the top of an email hardly counts as an insight into their lives or demonstrates adding any significant value.

Consumers have become so accustomed to giving away personal details that they have come to naturally expect to receive this type of engagement – to the point where it’s not as effective in capturing their attention as it once was. Their name is simply a tag in a database along with millions of others. If they’ve typed it incorrectly when they sign up, they’ll know soon enough. There is clearly growing scepticism amongst consumers regarding the methods brands are using to engage them – and evidently a gap in understanding around what consumers expect from personalised communications.

Perhaps more interestingly though is looking at the way this information is used. So often brand marketers are simply ticking a box, thinking they are personalising without considering how people like to communicate and be communicated to. Marketers can easily hide behind the ‘safe’ option which means communicating without any human touch or emotion.

It is easy to see how this situation has arisen. Brand marketers often take months to deliver timeless copy, which could be sent out any time. This gulf in relevance couldn’t be more evident if you compare it with the chats happening between friends over social media including WhatsApp and Instagram. They are instant, simplified, emotive, exciting and relevant. Here lies the crux of personalisation. True personalisation is not simply about addressing a person. It is about engaging them in a way that applicable and relevant to their previous behaviour, preferences and interests at that given moment – insights that are in fact much more valuable than knowing their name in the first place.

It seems that receiving a message including a customer’s name isn’t the only personalisation tactic failing to deliver an impact. According to the research only 7% of consumers are likely to engage in marketing communications that reference their birthday in the subject line. Five or 10 years ago this figure would have been much higher, but consumer expectations have evolved and as this research demonstrates, so should brands. That doesn’t mean to say that brands should avoid customer details like their birthdays all together, but simply reminding consumers of the event and presenting an opportunity to buy is unlikely to curry much favour.

For a long time, many of the UK’s most loved and trusted brands have cultivated their reputation through a willingness to understand their customers on an individual basis, but in the competitive landscape when there are so many opportunities for brands to deliver the personal touch they must be committed to doing so in order to engage customers. It’s not to say that personalisation has no role in driving engagement. In fact, retailers should feel encouraged that almost half (45%) of consumers would be likely to engage more with a retailer that sends offers that are relevant and interesting to them. Personalisation is not dead by any means, but it is only going to be truly effective if it demonstrates relevance and value, which will in turn build an emotional connection and create differentiation. Retailers must show they know their audience and understand the kind of personalised messaging that will lead to positive brand engagement.

No doubt personalisation is here to stay. ‘Hi [Insert Name]’ emails will keep flooding inbox’s, but they hide the real desire for truly personalised communications that are valuable and relevant. With ever greater access to data, brands now have compelling opportunity to differentiate and encourage customers to engage. Relevant personalisation lives on for those retailers ready to embrace it.

Komal Helyer

Komal Helyer


Komal Helyer, Marketing Director, Pure360.