Famed American poet Walt Whitman said it best, “Nothing endures but personal qualities.” Whitman wrote that over 200 years ago. Performance marketing agency Merkle teamed with research firm Marketing Dive which conducted a survey just a month before the U.S President Donald Trump declared a national emergency because of COVID-19.

What Do the Two Have in Common?

Marketing Dive polled nearly 200 CMOs and marketing experts about their challenges and successes in producing personal customer stories. Before COVID-19, consumers were averaging six-and-a-half hours daily on digital media. It’s now higher because of mandated lockdowns in many cities and states. What was known before the pandemic was declared is that today’s consumer wants and needs more personalized attention. COVID-19 placed a huge punctuation mark on it.

Key Findings

In looking at the next ten years, 91% of respondents agreed that the right personalized experience is essential for the continued and successful existence of a brand. Just 3% disagreed. Brands that recognize this and are still in the process of organizing need to remove any silos, work as teams and share data, and technology among themselves. Figuring out new ways to encourage data sharing could help advance this.

Although 49% of those surveyed felt they were fairly average in personalizing their consumer messaging, many admitted to having no more than a name and email address. 66% also reported usually being unable to identify who visited their website but who didn’t log in.

Securing more personal information is critical to understand consumer behavior to improve personalized communications and marketing. It’s not too late to seek it out. In requesting this, brands must be sensitive to consumer privacy, state their brand’s privacy policy, and assure consumers that their personal information will never be released or shared with others.

Merkle Vice President Barry Lattimer said his firm has seen revenues increase by more than 30% when brands personalize their messaging. The paradigm shift was from being product-centric to becoming customer-centric.

Another interesting discovery was that 80% of consumers who buy don’t log in. This again is where engaging the consumer to learn more about them as well as their interests and knowing their intent are important to nurturing and personalizing that relationship in the future.

The most shocking result of the survey was that 68% of the marketers said they had no capability of personalizing their customer communications. This must be a priority for brands seeking to not only ride out the pandemic but also emerge from it with an aggressive marketing plan.

Having the proper tools to personalize consumer communication and marketing will not only assist a brand to tailor its messaging, but also create brand loyalty and repeat business. What’s also known is that the current pandemic has caused more people to rely on digital media, not only to socialize, but also to search for and purchase necessary household items, Now’s the time to pull it all together, gather the marketing team and other departments around, and move forward.

To quote Whitman again, “These are the days that must happen to you.”

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.