Emily CollinsEmily CollinsJune 4, 2020
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6min1181

Brands have a personalisation problem.

While marketers and CX pros alike share visions of delivering individualised and anticipatory experiences that earn loyalty, the execution usually undermines customer relationships.

They can’t even get the basics right: only 7 percent of UK consumers agree that emails are usually timed well with their needs.  Right now, amidst a global pandemic and economic crisis, the stakes are high. You can’t afford to alienate customers with:

  • Personalisation that puts the business, not the customer, first. Personalisation efforts today are often narrowly focused on product recommendations or next-best offers that drive incremental purchases. A “buy this, do that” mentality prioritises the product and short-term revenue targets over what the customer wants.
  • Mounds of data that don’t yield the right insights. Much of the first-party data brands collect helps link purchases to a single customer, but it doesn’t provide much insight into who the person is, what motivates them, or what they’ll need in the future – all elements of a more meaningful personalised experience.
  • Tools, processes, and goals that reinforce the wrong priorities. Many of the personalisation tools out there are built to market products and drive sales – not meet customers’ unique needs. And since personalisation can manifest in marketing, service, sales, product, and other experiences, organisational silos and resource constraints only add to the challenges.

Success starts with a shift in perspective: reframe your personalisation program to put the customer needs front and centre. This means focusing on what value you can deliver for the customer, rather than the value you can extract from them.

Ground yourself in the customer’s journey and ask questions like, “What will they want?”; “How do they feel?”; and “How involved do they think our brand should be?” to define key moments where a personalised interaction might be welcome. And when you do start to test new kinds of personalised experiences, don’t forget to involve customers in your efforts by asking them for feedback in real-time.

Then, to enhance customer interactions and experiences based on context and preferences, you need data that’s going to tell you what those things are. A multi-national eCommerce retailer saw a 40 percent uptick in lifetime value when it used both purchase intent and customer motivation data in campaigns.

Lean on preference centres and progressive profiling to gain insight into lifestyle preferences that cannot be derived from what your customer bought last.

Whether you’re using customer segments to targeting offer content or machine learning algorithms to dynamically modify website experiences, check your personalisation efforts against three key questions. Does it:

  • Deliver relevance? This means determining what kind of value your customers want – and finding ways to provide that value, not just hawking the latest and greatest from your brand.
  • Build emotional resonance? This is all about creating memorable moments and feelings that have the strongest connection to customer loyalty. Demonstrate that you have a deeper understanding of your customers by talking to them about who they are and what they value, not just what they’ve bought lately.
  • Show restraint? Brands assume that if they have customer information, they should use it. But consumers already feel inundated by emails, and many crave privacy over personalisation. Respecting customer preferences might lead to some surprising results: a US footwear and accessories manufacturer found that shorter emails led to high customer interaction.

Done well, personalisation captures customer attention and creates value for your customers, which in turn drives customer loyalty and long-term profitability – all things you should be focusing on in this time of crisis. It’s never too late to leave your short-sighted product-obsessed personalisation ways behind. Your customers will thank you.

Emily Colins is a Research Director at Forrester Research.

Learn more about Forrester and their research content here.

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