Personalisation is no longer something consumers are surprised by – it’s something they expect. In a world where consumers think they’re seeing more adverts than ever before, it’s important that what they do see is timely and relevant. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by brands. In fact, according to research, 66% of marketing decision makers in the UK cite personalisation as a high priority for them.
However, personalisation in its current form doesn’t go far enough. According to research by Sitecore, 98% of UK consumers believe there is such a thing as bad personalisation.
Analysis by Forrester suggests that this could be because – despite 89% of digital businesses investing in personalisation – businesses are still trying to deliver personalised experiences based on age-old methods of segmentation – putting their customers into buckets based on presumed and static personas.
Customers expect relevant and valuable interactions from the businesses they spend their money with. And the good news is that they’re willing to share information about themselves in return for these valuable interactions, but businesses need to ensure they’re using the data correctly.
This is where businesses can move beyond personalisation, and onto individualisation. Individualisation utilises specific customer data points to provide a holistic, 360-degree view of each customer. This allows you to target them as individuals, not as broad persona types. This is key to providing a great customer experience.
Here are four steps to move beyond traditional segmentation, and into individualisation.
1. Recognise your customers
The first step is to recognise your customers as individuals. Each experience needs to be tailored to each customer – segmenting them into broad personas is not enough. Do this by collecting in-depth information about them, such as their attitudes, sentiments, context, affinities etc. As this data sits across multiple platforms – such as CRMs and social media – and is gathered from various places – such as in-store and online – it’s best to collate this data, and store it in a single place so the information isn’t siloed.
2. Avoid the “creep factor”
Next, given the depth of knowledge needed, you need to be overt and open with your customers about why you need the data, and how you’re going to use it. For example, if a clothing brand asks customers for their sizes, they need to be explicit that the data will be used to suggest clothes that will work for them
3. Be consistent
After doing this, you need to simplify how you identify your customers to ensure consistency. For example, if you identify customers using something as simple as an email address, you can align the instore and online experience. Instore customers can give store associates their email address, try on clothes in store, and then have them added to their online basket alongside other recommendations. What’s more, you can build up a customer’s profile over time. Eventually, by understanding their behaviour, you can predict what they might want before they realise it themselves!
4. Break down the barriers
Finally, everyone in the organisation must get involved if individualisation is to succeed. It should be seen as a business-wide strategy, and not a short-term tactic. Each team must contribute – marketing, IT, customer experience, store managers and beyond. From a back office perspective, the CIO and CMO must align their priorities and work together to deliver an individualisation strategy. The MarTech stack must be useful to the marketing team. It must also be accessible, as data must be shared across the company so you can engage with customers on every channel.
Putting customers into boxes provides them with little to no value. Addressing them by name or wishing them a happy birthday is basic, and now expected. In an age where consumers are being marketed to on every front, you need to go further.
Advertising a jumper to a customer who looked at it online, and subsequently purchased instore, is annoying, and not a good experience. But by combining multiple data sets from every channel, you can move from using information about a customer’s past, to marketing to them based on their current wants or needs. This is true individualisation, and a great customer experience.
By Paul Fennemore, C-suite level digital marketing and customer experience consultant at Sitecore