Isn’t it cheerful, being greeted by name when you go into a shop? Back in the days when people shopped locally, most retailers would know their customers, their preferences, likes and dislikes. The rise of supermarkets and out-of-town centres has heavily diluted the personal touch, but taking good care of customers is still possible in the virtual world.
Wherever people choose to spend their money, they should feel valued as a customer, and personalised experiences are key to creating that aura of appreciation. With online transactions, unlike the high streets of the past, we can benefit from the vast amount of data that can be gathered from all the customer touchpoints. Analysed and deployed effectively, insights from this data can be used to ensure each customer is treated as an important individual – and this is hugely impactful. Research shows that 41% of brands see more repeat purchases after launching personalisation initiatives.
However, it is essential for the personalisation strategy to be clearly thought through. Simply relying on basic algorithms to suggest new purchases based on previous activity, or serving up banner ads relevant to buying history, isn’t enough. Your personalisation strategy must not only be aligned with the customers’ needs, but also with the business model of your organisation – it’s the ‘who, what’ where’ approach.
Who is your target audience? You have customer data – but where is the real value in that data? Do you have enough data to generate actionable insights? To achieve truly personalised experiences for your customers in the digital world, the data needs to be transformed into information that you can leverage.
There are many ways your customers offer up data, and no chance should be wasted. Data from every single brand touchpoint, from social media to storefront, will strengthen your understanding of customer behaviours, and contribute towards creating a true personalised experience. Here, solutions like a customer data platform (CDP) can be a hugely valuable tool in retailers’ arsenals. Providing a centralised and unified customer database, CDPs deliver a unified view of customers in real time. This makes it possible to build a 360-degree profile of your customers, enabling you to identify the higher value segments and prioritise those in terms of marketing spend – giving them access to exclusive deals and offers, making them feel like VIPs. Too often brands focus heavily on acquiring new customers and neglect the ones they already have.
So you have your customer segmentation – what are you going to deliver in terms of personalisation? Many brands are far too narrow in their approach to this and fail to consider the potential of many areas. These include the type of device that the customer uses to interact with your brand, the time of day they interact, and whether they are a new or returning visitor. Where are your customers located – are you providing country or region-specific support? Do you know which social media channels they use to interact with your brand, and when? Do referral codes and special offers have better take-up from particular channels, and can these be cross-referenced?
Profiling customers using a range of scenarios creates individual, or ‘known’ customers, rather than anonymous visitors, and gives your clear segmentation. The personalisation and customisation of your interactions can now become much more complex and accurate. They could include contextualising your website based on the number of views from an individual, or the type of content searched. There is huge potential here to personalise the calls to action. Once a visitor has completed an action such as a purchase, or signed up to an event, they should be offered the next stage in the journey to continue the relationship – suggestions for complementary items to buy, or alerts for similar upcoming events.
With your priority customer segments and key personalisation use cases identified, and content matched accordingly to each use case, the final step is the distribution strategy. At which point in the customer journey are you planning to implement the personalisation? Depending on the use case, might it make sense to target the individual on a specific landing page, rather than on the website home page? Timing is important – based on your ‘known’ customer behaviours, when is the optimal time for engagement?
The choice of channel is key – with your in-depth customer insights, you will know which touchpoints they prefer, so can personalise interactions and engage across a range of platforms including social media, messaging apps and email. It is a constantly evolving process – your customers’ behaviours will change over time, and you need to be able to adapt your personalisation strategies to reflect those changes.
Brands need to be agile in this digital world where the options for customer engagement are ever-changing. The ability to both follow and predict your customers’ journey, wherever they may seek or meet your brand, is essential. Collecting the right data, in the right way, analysing it to ensure the most valuable information is extracted and applying that knowledge to build brand loyalty and repeat custom should be the key goals of any marketing department. The huge benefit of being in a digital world is flexibility - different personalisation use cases can be trialled to see which deliver the best results, and strategy adjusted accordingly. These will form the solid foundation for your future campaigns and programmes to establish long-term customer trust and loyalty, improving sales conversions and strengthening positive brand perception. It’s all about making it personal.
Lynne Capozzi, CMO of Acquia.