Marketers have been talking about personalisation for over a decade - and consumers are getting fed up, according to Russell Loarridge, managing director (Europe) for Janrain, who here examines why there's such a huge difference between the highly engaging, relevant and personal experience delivered by switched-on brands and the absolute deluge of irrelevance from the rest. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

Consumer patience has run out - as recent research from Janrain reveals, well over half (58%) of consumers will unsubscribe after three mistargeted emails. Nearly a fifth (17%) will unsubscribe after just one. And yet marketers are still failing to deliver a relevant, personal experience. They are second guessing consumer likes and dislikes; and failing to respond to consumers' clear willingness to exchange accurate information in order to achieve an engaging brand experience.

With customers now operating a 'one strike' policy, ill-judged and ill-targeted campaigns are actually destroying the customer base. Any marketing team unable to achieve true customer personalisation today should stop all outbound marketing immediately.

No More Chances
Consumers have no more patience for inept brand communication. The warning signs have been there for some time but it is now clear - while customers endured poor targeting and ill-judged messaging when digital marketing was new and innovative, those days have gone. Recent research reveals that customers actively disengage from brands that fail to deliver a relevant, personalised and timely interaction.

A massive 95% of consumers react negatively to mistargeting - with 55% automatically deleting emails and 53% unsubscribing; while 40% categorise the emails as junk/spam. Nearly a fifth (17%) will unsubscribe after just one mistargeted email - while 58% will unsubscribe after three! And yet marketers persist in deluging customers with untargeted email. While less than 10% of consumers believe they never receive mistargeted promotions, of the rest, 45% receive mistargeted information sometimes, 37% frequently and 9% almost all the time.

The reality is that brands are now in touching distance of losing a customer as a result of a single mistargeted communication - an ill-judged email or misplaced recommendation. Or put it another way: any company not undertaking highly effective, personalised communication today would actually be better off stopping all outbound marketing activity. In today's world, a brand is less likely to lose its customer base with no marketing than through irrelevant messaging.

Stop Guessing!
Sadly, despite the marketers' mantra of better targeting, most people are still receiving improperly targeted messages. Mistakes range from offers that clearly show the brand does not know who the customer is (61%); to errors in basic information (37%); and mixed information across different methods of communication (36%). But what happens each time a brand sends out a campaign riddled with such errors? Each ill-focused campaign will prompt growing numbers of customers to unsubscribe; and over the course of perhaps six emails the entire market has been destroyed.

When so many marketers are talking about personalisation, why are the results still so unimpressive? Because in the world of big data, personalisation means little more than guessing. Marketers are inferring gender from name; assuming interests from sites visited. Brands are, without doubt, absorbing huge amounts of information about customers; and investing heavily in big data technologies to turn that information into customer insight. But however sophisticated, it is still based on guesswork - brands are still guessing everything from colour preference to marital status.

But why? Why not actually ask the consumer what he or she likes or dislikes? Survey after survey reveals that consumers - especially the younger generation - will be happy to share personal information with a trusted brand in order to receive a relevant, personalised and engaging experience. Consumers are not, however, happy to share information in return for a bad experience and, as a result, growing numbers are now actively providing misinformation to brands.

Almost three quarters (72%) of UK consumers admit to intentionally providing misinformation when creating accounts - by failing to make those customers feel valued at even the initial touch point, brands are actively undermining their own attempts at collecting information and jeopardising attempts at personalisation.

Value Your Data
Consumer trust has to be won. And switched on brands are now actively giving the consumer a reason for exchanging information in order to deliver that high quality, engaging experience. They are offering customers the ease and speed of social login to access the website and then asking that individual whether he or she would like to share social history in return for something of value - such as a discount or free product.

As a result, consumers perceive value in the social login approach - and not only for the ease of access - such as the fact that social login enables a brand to suggest products and promotions based on profile information (68%). A good experience goes beyond simply collecting accurate customer data; it is about the way in which that data is used by the brand to create a relationship.

"Switched-on brands truly value customer data; these companies don't start to communicate with customers until they have enough information to support a relevant targeted message. And when they do communicate, they offer something of real value - something that makes the customer feel special, not just one of the (very generic and probably not very relevant) crowd," explained Loarridge.

With each step in this process the brand can gain a little more information and add a little more personalisation and relevance - and the results are stunning. While typical click through rates on email campaigns are less than 1%, Universal Music Group's (UMG) highly targeted campaigns that combine in depth customer information with an offer of a free download, prompt open rates of x and click through rates of y.

Back to basics, then
Despite rhetoric to the contrary, for too many marketers personalisation remains a goal; a nice to have. Yet, by now personalisation should be a standard component of the marketing toolset - it is what customers expect and it is what the best brands are now delivering. Consumers are getting used to a high quality, relevant experience from brands that truly understand personalisation.

These brands provide customers with a reason to share accurate data in return for something of value; cautiously use that information; work hard to slowly build up a deep profile of the customer - and then reward that individual to create a special relationship.

The comparison between this carefully honed experience and a blast of seemingly random offers and messages from the rest of the market is stark. Right now, customers are giving brands one chance - one strike - before disengaging for good. In the not too distant future, that will be down to no chances: and those brands that do not deliver a relevant experience at the very first touch will see the customer base plummet.