Direct-to-Consumer: The Power Of Personalized Content

Michael Brenner

Imagine digital signage that connects with people and meets their unique information needs. Customers see answers that are uniquely relevant to them based on real-time composite data. Generating truly personalized content is possible using full-scale direct-to-consumer (DTC) interaction.

Introducing the real-time mirror: DTC marketing

DTC cuts the response time in digital marketing to avoid creating messages that miss the mark. It directly addresses individuals and adapts to stay relevant. Using live data streams, it models a dynamic reference persona based on the person, not the type.

The confluence of data creates a real-time user profile

The DTC system balances inputs such as the consumer’s current activity and current location (within the limits of GDPR for European consumers). It then gathers their expressed interests, inferred state of mind (did they choose junk food or healthy food?), anticipated next choices (what does their location suggest?), and the current topics and interests on their social network that might be influencing them.

A relationship-style interaction

The system includes these data feeds in a constantly updating model. Digital marketing functions create an omnichannel response, which reflects the consumer in their current environment and should lead them to feel they can identify with the marketing messages. There’s a kind of digital mirror effect geared toward influencing one specific consumer. But what’s the ROI?

Existing IT investments meet outdated needs

This full-on digital marketing approach has a lot of “wow” factor, but it’s also a big leap for most companies and their IT departments. Many organizations are still running Big Data powerhouses, generating multifaceted profiles that remove much of the guesswork from targeting segments of the consumer population. These profiles are used to guide future marketing plans and media once they’ve been reviewed, approved, and implemented. Companies need a way to leverage this slow, powerful process and embrace responsive DTC technologies. For a more detailed analysis of the challenges of re-thinking IT architecture for the direct to consumer model, see my previous blog.

Reducing initial DTC costs by using Big Data

The “bimodal IT” approach suggested by Gartner can help bridge the gap using existing data resources. The profiles that Big Data has developed can bootstrap a new generation of tech with in-memory databases running systems such as SAP Customer Experience portfolio. Part of this transitional model is legacy data, and part is real-time. There’s a way to get started today by leveraging existing IT investments. The ROI picture suddenly gets better.

DTC generates consumer possibilities

Personalized content doesn’t just anticipate the consumer’s needs and focus available options to their interests and goals, such as providing clothing in the style and color a consumer wants. Direct-to-consumer marketing also provides interesting and relevant choices, connections with the choices friends are making, ways to share these interesting options with friends, and ways for consumers to both actively and passively influence the marketing stream. Customers make choices by taking action and making selections.

Transparency brings trust and comfort

Personalized content is based on participation. It’s transparent – something that the consumer is aware of and has given relevant permissions for. It provides convenience, insight, and opportunities the customer may not have thought of. It riffs off the melody of a consumer’s life, providing interesting, exciting, and useful paths to explore.

Consumers expect a degree of DTC already

In marketing, Amazon’s book recommendation system and Netflix’s video suggestions implement pieces of this system. They have ways to prime the pump by asking users what they like or use existing purchase data. That gives direct-to-consumer marketing systems a starting point in their own large experience-based matrix.

Computer science concepts and the tree

As the consumer chooses, the matrix becomes like a tree that’s pruned to reflect that person’s preferences and choices. Predictive algorithms join in, providing anticipated tree branches and possible ones. For bimodal or two-speed IT, this is where the system uses existing tree data and adds green shoots growing from today’s actions and choices.

MyVOD: Establishing a complex relationship with a service

This MyVOD implementation example based on a video-on-demand service shows how the DTC model grows dimensionally. In this case, consumers with specific interests (such as indie films) become aware that MyVOD can be a potential source of content, which interests them. MyVOD takes an active interest in the consumer, asking what interests them, suggesting content, and providing thank-you gifts when the consumer tells friends about the service.

A durable relationship as the investment return

The ROI starts looking attractive as a paradigm shift: the customer begins to realize that the marketer wants to get to know them and establish a helpful relationship. The goal becomes less transactional and more relational. That’s why the fluid, agile connection is needed. It needs to be responsive and quick: if you don’t catch on to what’s important to this customer, someone else will.

Dynamic influence, dynamic choices, repeat

Trends are no longer seasonal. They’re fluid and choices are dynamic. Technologies like Bluetooth low energy beacons seek to influence in-store customers at the point of choice. To use a driving metaphor, direct-to-consumer technologies aim at that decision point not as an intelligent billboard but as part of the driver’s infotainment system – a trusted and responsive guide.

Tightening customer retention

Coming back to ROI, a big part of DTC’s benefit is customer retention. Customers are connected to the product by many valuable threads. These include incentives, pricing strategies, and the ongoing relationship. The relationship brings with it the ability to anticipate and meet the consumer’s specific needs – with respect for the consumer implied in how the data is gathered and used.

Like a reliable friend, DTC systems can provide value to the consumer in the relationship itself and even more in well-selected, targeted products and services. The process is nearly frictionless as the consumer recognizes the possibilities of the relationship and gives permissions, provides financial data, and makes purchases in a very natural way. Should the consumer no longer need the relationship, such as a bride who marries and no longer needs a wedding service, it still provides a springboard to other direct-to-consumer systems.

For more insight, see “Media Firms And The Direct-To-Consumer Business Model: Why Your IT Architecture May Need A Rethink.”


About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.