Hey personalisation, change your name | This is not a party political broadcast

The tech and media landscape needs to "rebrand" itself and better define it's tone of voice. Personalisation as a category in ecommerce and marketing should become relevance.

Relevance as defined by the Cambridge dictionary - the degree to which something is related or useful to what is happening or being talked about:

Software and martech by its nature is trying to be relevant, not personal. In better understanding what it means to be relevant, we can really start to remove the boundaries that we, as consumers, perceive to have around personalisation and it's by products - security and peace of mind.

I was watching the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sky news for a time last night. I was waiting to hear some of the formal announcements from political parties and listened with interest. Opposition leader, Keir Starmer, I believe got it right. Before you read on, this is not a post about politics, this is about tech and marketing within eCommerce but...

He used the language of his party (Labour), he knew the importance of the monarchy, and in particular the late Queen to many of his party followers. His background as a solicitor helped in his oration. He balanced sorrow, joy, pride and nostalgia in a well crafted 2.5 minute speech. Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister, on the other hand, was monotone with very little appreciation for the enormity of the time. And therein lies a new UK challenge, change. (That is for another day). Back to tech.

If we learned anything from the last decade, it is that we leave a Hansel and Gretel sized footprint across digital. The Labour party will have used that data to guide the words of Starmer, of that I am in no doubt. We do it willingly for the most part but there is very little useful private data that somehow makes retailers or marketers in any way threatening.

Let's get back to relevance. Software services being sold to us as practitioners are wrongly positioned. A core function of ecommerce is to be slightly more relevant than out competitors to have a better chance of winning the sale. That is all we can do - this broad idea is called conversion rate optimisation (CRO). With global pressures exerting themselves the way they are we should be using every tool at our disposal to gain that edge. That really is what ecommerce is about at its core - it is not rocket science. Kantar recently released a very interesting report, titled simply "Media Reactions".

Campaigns are seven times more impactful among a receptive audience – so it is essential to know what consumers think of media channels and brands to identify the most effective ones for your brand.
Media Reactions is the only global advertising equity evaluation of media channels and media brands among consumers and marketers.

Personalisation specialists take note - People don’t usually seek out advertising - and often avoid it. (Page5). Personalisation as a core function does not work. Creating relevancy can. Note my language, can. This is not a given as relevance, as a utility, occurs only when we actually want it. So what does this mean for ecommerce and marketing?

We need to be on all channels, most of the time. We can do analysis of some places and times where we are utterly irrelevant. Our most basic customer profiling and audience data can tell us if we will ever be relevant. From the report, there are key takeaways for me ( you do with them, what you want).


  1. This year, offline channels continue to dominate the top-ranking media channels among consumers, with sponsored events topping the list. - How to use this info - This week I wrote about Google and Amazon both making available an ability to serve display ads in physical locations. If you are planning your media for next year and in a country where this is available, get on the train.

  2. Attitudes among ad equity are changing - fun and exciting, innovative and "relevance" are highly valued and received positively. (Martech companies take note).

  3. Content formats need investment - time, money and thought. Where to serve them, when and how to ensure structured content is delivering - leaving time to be fun and exciting.


Pause - Conversion rates globally have been around 2-3% in most key categories for over a decade. We have accepted this. We keep recycling top of funnel audiences and have long accepted these metrics. Imagine, we as an industry targeted an average conversion rate of 10% as a global standard. What could this mean?

  • Better quality ads and marketing

  • Safer and more trusted brands

  • Foster better tech -vendor relationships

  • Increase investment revenues in tech

We can achieve this if we change our approach to personalisation. I talked briefly about utility - the most used brands/platforms for investment in ads are utilities - Amazon, Google, Spotify . I am guessing next year you will be adding Netflix to this list.

What else have I learned?

Personalisation is an intrusion, not a help.


Intrusiveness is another perception that can be troublesome. It can be useful in attracting consumer attention in a cluttered online environment, but not at the cost of their irritation. Online ad platforms have a reputation for intrusive ads, which is correlated to lower advertising equity.
In addition, marketers themselves aren’t so hot on advertising this year. Trust and innovation perceptions of both media channels and media brands have gone down overall among marketers, and it might be a sign that there is always work to be done, from reputation to experience, to keep the equilibrium between consumers and marketers.

So what should/could be done about it. Could it be that we have NPS (net promoter score) style trust ratings on ad platforms and networks. Could you score your own and really start owning your own ad space. A recent discussion I had with streaming platform MNTN told me I can identify and target devices within households. Apple has done well at inverting the perceived relationship with have with our phones. They give us some nice menu options (iOS14) and tell us we can control our privacy. Privacy is not what we need, we should expect that, we need relevancy in order for experiences to improve. Change the marketing, change the rhetoric, change the game.

Thinking of expanding globally? Get out your cheque book, expand your team!


4. Amazon is now the global leader in ad platforms among consumers. Why? They know their place, they have earned this spot. And it makes sense because it is a relevant part of a shopping experience to be open to seeing alternatives, deals and replacements. When I am on google trying to find a cure for cottonmouth, I don't need to see an ad for active charcoal teeth whitening (your relevancy was kind off).

5. The key to setting up a successful communications strategy or new campaign is to start with fundamental knowledge of the media landscape in your market.


How can you use this to refine your strategy?

  1. Invest in a data platform and become hungry for info.

  2. Be curious, interrogate the data, don't dismiss it.

  3. Invest in content and brand

  4. Set a high bar on #CRO #Conversionrateoptimisation

  5. Martech industry leaders (Sean Donnelly , you could do this) - insist we lead on relevance as opposed to personalisation. Our privacy and data conversations would change drastically and for the better.

I am not an expert on privacy or data but I understand the language, tone and words matter. Personalisation is not the way forward, in fact it is the way we ended up where we are. We can change it, if we want to.