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How Machine Learning Personalization Drives Meaningful Connections with Millennial Audiences

James Glover
President and CEO, Coherent Path

Millennials represent a major demographic in today's' marketplace, 35 percent of the American labor force, with a combined annual spending power of $600 billion. Yet many well-established brands have encountered difficulties engaging younger cohorts. Some brands, in fact,  attribute recent declines in market shares to millennial pushback over what the generation perceives as corporate inauthenticity.

Connecting with this massive, social-savvy demographic requires a revolutionary approach to email strategy. “One-size-fits-all” emails are no longer enough, nor is traditional list segmentation. To understand the inevitable future, we need to look closer at why so many millennial-targeted campaigns fall flat.

Why Are Millennials So Discriminating?

Millennials grew up on the internet and are engaged with their mobile and wearable devices 24/7. They expect a seamless omnichannel experience that flows across every screen in their lives, and they’re jaded from long-term exposure to digital marketing. A discouraging 84 percent of millennials reported outright disliking advertising. Only one percent said that advertisements strengthen their trust in a brand.

How do we account for this resistance? Finances form one piece of the puzzle. Millennials make $10,000 less per year on average than their Boomer predecessors did — and a tighter budget necessitates cautious spending habits. But a deeper factor is also at play here: authenticity.

Millennials resent being marketed to by brands that haven’t invested the time to understand their aesthetics and aspirations. They expect to be recognized as unique individuals, not reduced to anonymous points on a sales chart.

The world of social media has accustomed millennials to a highly personalized, “always-on” experience — and when a brand’s outreach fails to hit the right notes at the right moments, a hard-won customer relationship can instantly evaporate.

Conversely, millennials respond strongly to “authentic,” personalized brand interactions. This expectation of authenticity isn’t just a defining characteristic of the millennial mindset — it’s the beating heart that lies at the core of their every purchase decision.

A More Discriminating Generation Demands a More Discriminating Approach

A full 63 percent of millennials prefer email updates to other online advertising methods. Yet email open rates have declined in recent years, leading some to argue that email marketing is obsolete. How do we reconcile these data points?

While millennials respond well to some email marketing, the crux is that they’re also very discriminating about which emails they actually open.

That means retailers must evolve beyond “one-size-fits-all” email campaigns, whose cadences and content are the same for all subscribers. This approach results in irrelevant, impersonal emails arriving at the wrong times — falling flat on the engagement meter, and often never getting opened.

The reason traditional email marketing approaches often fail to engage millennials is that they can come across as impersonal and inauthentic. Millennials value meaningful personal connections — and the only way to deliver those connections at scale is with an automated personalization solution.

Machine Learning Personalization Allows for Next Level Campaign Automation

An individually personalized email for every customer is the holy grail, but as your subscriber list climbs into the millions, manual personalization quickly becomes impossible. Even when lists are segmented, marketers still face the challenge of sending out “best guess” emails to large swaths of customers whose tastes seem to be related — and that’s always a gamble.

Machine learning personalization solves the problem behind these problems.

With the right combination of multi-party data and customized guardrail rules, an automated personalization solution does far more than just segment your list — it pulls from a pre-approved library of creative assets aligned with your brand’s voice to generate a unique email for every individual subscriber.

Well-trained models learn from every interaction, too, allowing them to evolve along with the customer’s changing tastes, and delivering increasingly smarter, more relevant, better-targeted emails that guide customers toward your highest-value product categories.

Instead of bombarding subscribers with generic advertisements, automated machine-learning personalization actively helps each member of your audience discover the products they’re looking for — plus the ones they haven’t even realized they want yet. This adaptive marketing approach creates magical moments of meaningful connection at every stage of the customer journey. And those moments are crucial, because customer acquisition costs significantly more than selling to customers whose loyalty you’ve already won.

To win back millennials’ trust, companies need to engage their subscribers in ways that don’t feel generic or insincere. And to do that, they need to leverage machine learning to build personalized, automated email campaigns. The next generation of intelligent automation solutions assemble and deliver content tailored for every individual subscriber — at just the moment when it’s most likely to connect and convert.

                                                                                                                                       

Authenticity helps you form a stronger bond with your audience. Forging a human connection makes all the difference. Find out more by reading “Being Human: How H2H Marketing Forges Strong Customer Relationships.”

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