Drive Customer Conversion With Personalized Video

August 2, 2019
Contributor: Laura Starita

Personalized video used as part of a content marketing strategy can nudge existing customers to take the next step in their customer journey.

Colleges have a big marketing problem: Summer melt. Every year, a certain percentage of accepted students say they plan to matriculate, but never enroll. For the George State University (GSU) admissions team, the key to reducing summer melt was personalization. In 2016, the team launched a pilot that sent personalized text messages powered by an AI virtual assistant to students. These texts reduced summer melt by 21% and increased overall enrollment by more than 3%.

Building on that success, GSU wanted to develop personalized video to nudge students to complete the enrollment process and attend the school. They came up with a three-video content marketing series. Of the people who watched the first video, 58% then enrolled. 

Personalized video enhances customer engagement, and for GSU, it moved accepted students (prospects) past obstructions along the route to becoming actual students (customers).

“Personalized video content should address a need in the customer buying journey,” says Anna Maria Virzi, Principal Analyst, Gartner. “The most prevalent examples of personalized video make a strong emotional connection or fulfill an information need.”

In addition to creating an emotional connection, brands might use personalized video to explain a complex process or to show appreciation to loyal customers.

To create videos that effectively engage customers, marketers should ask a trio of questions:

Who’s the audience?

Personalized video — as opposed to targeted or traditional video — works best when the recipient already knows the organization. In the case of GSU, the prospects receiving the videos had applied to the school, so there was a logical connection.

In the business world, Adidas wanted to commemorate its 30-year partnership with the Boston Athletic Association as a sponsor of the Boston Marathon, the Association’s marquee event. On race day, Adidas captured video footage of the 30,000 participating runners at multiple points along the race course, and sent each runner a personalized video 24 hours later. The email open rate for the videos was 113% above baseline for Adidas, and clickthroughs to the website led to an 11x increase in apparel sales above the baseline.

Brands can use personalized video to enhance or solidify existing relationships. In fact, these videos would not be effective for prospects unfamiliar with a brand. It can be disconcerting, even creepy, for a recipient to see their name and personal details used in communications from a brand they don’t know. Gartner research shows that 57% of customers unsubscribe from the email lists of brands that make them feel creepy.

"Brands can use personalized video to enhance or solidify existing relationships."

What’s the goal?

Both GSU and Adidas had clear goals they hoped to achieve with personalized video. Typically, content development teams identify specific actions customers might take to fulfill the goal. The video content can then focus on and steer customers toward those desired actions.

GSU’s goal of increasing matriculation among accepted students guided its decision to show video content that positioned the student as a campus community member and generate a sense of connection with the school. Critically, the videos offered accepted students a convenient avenue to finish the enrollment process via a list of steps with associated links.

Adidas likewise wanted to engage marathon runners and commemorate a long-held partnership. The event video generated an emotional response designed to raise brand awareness and inspire a purchase of marathon-branded apparel to remind them of the experience for years.

In both cases, the goals were connected to actions that could be measured by the brands and compared to alternative approaches to gauge the effect of the videos.

Do we have the resources we need to make a high-quality video?

Personalized video has a high bar to meet to produce positive results for the brand. Video that integrates personal details can vacillate between creative, creepy or cringeworthy based on the smallest variations in execution. Key must-haves for effective personalized video include:

Good-quality data: The personalized details must be accurate to produce the desired effect. Misspellings, inaccurate details and irrelevance can erode trust and reduce engagement. Marketing organizations with an immature or nonexistent customer analytics practice should postpone personalization efforts.

The right mix of personalized and general information: Personalized video incorporates elements specific to the customer alongside more general content. Hit the right mix to engage customers without making them uncomfortable.

Relevant calls to action: Customers feel harassed when brands remind them to take actions they’ve already fulfilled. Worse, it can make an organization look like it doesn’t know the customer. Effective videos address customers based on where they are in the customer journey.

Brand consistency: Both personalization and video are relatively new marketing tools for many organizations. For best results, double-check that video assets such as images, music, language and messaging are consistent with the organization’s brand identity and its broader goals.

Technology tools for the job: Personalized video solutions range from fully self-service tools to a mix of consulting and technology capabilities. Decide on audience and goals first, then look for providers with solutions that fit your needs.

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