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, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.