​Why context is important for personalisation

Just because you can communicate with a customer in a highly personalised way, doesn’t mean you should, Monash says

Just because you can communicate with a customer in a highly personalised way, doesn’t mean you should, says director of marketing infrastructure at Monash University, Amin Foda.

Speaking at Tealium’s recent Digital Velocity event, Foda share the tertiary education provider's martech transformation at the event, begging attendees to remember that context is the most vital thing when it comes to communicating with customers. 

Personalisation is great, everyone is using the right data, targeting the right audiences with the right message. However, the right context is the most important thing. You can’t go around talking to people just because you can, you have to make sure you overlay the knowledge you have about them first,” he said. 

Monash embarked on a complicated journey when it overhauled its martech to achieve better personalisation. The university has 370,000 alumni, 80,000 students currently, four campuses and gets about 14,000-15,000 enrolments annually. It also has 20,000 staff. 

“Understanding our various audiences is important, and we do this through understanding our data,” Foda explained. “We look at observed behaviour on any channel and match that with the claimed and tracked data points we already have on our CRM. 

“From there, we can go in and crunch the data and create interesting curated experiences. Our audiences are not different to anyone else’s and we want to tailor content to them. We have a lot of content, so we’re focused targeting content for lifecycle stages, topics of interests, and who they are, all on their preferred channel, which is any channel.” 

Interestingly, Monash does not do mutually exclusive segments, because its audiences aren’t mutually exclusive.

“We don’t want to silo our audiences. We now use Vortex as our segmentation frame, and have started designing journeys," Foda continued. “We have a linear journey for people in years 11 and 12 onwards. After that it becomes more complicated, which is why we changed our segmentations. We need to understand different customer relationships. 

“Of course, we still need to find key handshake moments, which is not easy, as we have so many audiences. We have a lot of journeys in our system."

To help get there, Monash has worked to five core lifecycles stages. Within those there are four core aspects from a communications perspective. 

“We’re not going to build a funnel that does not make sense. We realised audiences go through the same stages at any given lifecycle," Foda said. “The team are constantly working on reviewing and refining communication points, from how we talk to them to what content is more relevant to them. This is labour intensive, but fruitful. We do this every week.” 

Foda said the average student gets 77 emails a year just for their course, let alone everything else. So he decided to strip back communications and decide what’s relevant from there. 

“We also want to be compliant, we can’t skip over that. But in this way we improve relationships with our audiences. Those audiences wear multiple hats, so we can’t just talk to them in one way," he said. 
“Like any other business, it’s about increasing conversions for us as well, and you get that with improved CX. However, conversions alone are not enough, we have to surface that data and make it compliant."

To do this, Monash starting looking at all metrics and sharing these with the whole university via dashboards. This created a culture of transparency. 

“Of course, we needed a tech stack that works to achieve all this. Now, our CDP [customer data platform] is Tealium, and we also use Salesforce and Marketing Cloud. Tealium helped us a lot by getting all those fragmented sources together and working in the best way possible," Foda said. 

To test the platform, Monash did a pilot campaign across 71,000 attendees at its open days this year.

"We started by implementing our consent banner across all of our assets. From there we can see what activity is happening on the website, what students are looking at and interest in, so we can understand all the variables for personalising the experience for them, for better recommendations," Foda said.  “This way, they receive info relevant to them only. There are 600 activities people can do on our sites, they can’t scroll through those, but now we can manage the content they are getting, so they get a good, personalised experience.” 

The campaign was a success, with the university obtaining 19 per cent more leads. On average, 20 per cent more events were added for those that had a more personalised experience. Also, 4.25 out of five people thought it was easier to find activities relevant to them. 

“Doing all this is pointless without proof it’s working.  But now, everyone around the university is coming on board with personalisation," Foda added. 

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