Personalising the customer experience

Strategic Approach to Personalisation

The ability to truly understand the individual behaviours exhibited by customers and to provide content, product choices and experiences based on that individualism is now a critical attribute of digitally-mature, successful and enduring brands.

In this article we will take a look at the reality behind the buzzwords and explore how to achieve one-to-one conversations with your customers through data-driven context-awareness and personalisation.

In a world where almost everything has been commoditised, individual relationships with customers are becoming critical. As brands we need to give our audience something of value - something that recognises that unique moment in which they are transacting with us.

The ability for retailers to truly understand the individual behaviours exhibited by their customers and to provide content, product choices and experiences based on that individualism will be a defining attribute of digitally-mature, successful and enduring brands within the next few years.

We have all seen the statistics showing that customers increasingly demand tailored and personalised experiences. It is, however, evident that very few brands have been able to execute such plans or incorporate personalisation into their strategies.

Why personalise

As with any potentially transformative technology, the hype and hoopla often precedes the implementable reality, and many of you are probably already tiring of the constant buzz about data, the single customer view and personalisation. The reality is, that despite the apparent noise, the growing availability of tools and the emphasis on the subject, the majority of brands are failing to tap into the very real opportunities presented by personalisation.

Customers are beyond collecting points to get discounts, that’s the past, what they want is a one-on-one personalised relationship.

- Alex Barbier, digital marketing director at Oliver Sweeney -

Barriers to adoption

For many senior marketers, implementing personalisation initiatives has been a difficult endeavour. Some of the common barriers include:

  • Presenting a business case to the C-Suite that effectively demonstrates ROI

  • Organisational silos; personalisation is one product of a properly designed Customer Experience, which requires enterprise-wide collaboration and can be resource-intensive

  • The lack of a devolved organisational structure and decision-making ability

  • The continued use of inflexible project approaches when agility is required

  • The myriad tools and technologies adopted by the organisation makes it difficult to achieve the single view of the customer

  • A lack of knowledge about the most appropriate technologies to adopt and the methods needed to correctly implement personalisation

  • A tactical approach rather than a strategic one, leading to demands for instant results

Yet this list of barriers is also a call-to-action for those brands wishing to see their personalisation projects really succeed.

Personalisation challenges Customer view challenges

Steps to implementing a data-driven personalisation initiative in your organisation

You may well be thinking that, given the common barriers and the scale of some big brands adopting this initiative, the implementation of personalisation within your own business will be difficult, if not impossible. The reality, however, is different. Irrespective of the size of your own organisation and the available budgets, with the right approach and mindset you can confidently start your own personalisation program.

Before looking into the steps needed to implement personalised experiences, let’s put some context around the term. In the broadest sense, Personalisation can be defined as the creation of dynamically customised, highly relevant experiences based on insight about a customer’s behavior, location, profile and other derived or known attributes.

At RIKA, we have found that the following framework enables organisations of all sizes to deliver real-world personalisation programs and achieve the promised individual relationship with their customers.

Step 1: Insight
Start with an evaluation of your current situation:

Insight starts with an evaluation of your organisation: this is about really being honest about where are you in the Marketing Maturity Model (or how digitally mature your organisation is). A great start is to conduct a comprehensive and objective analysis of your 3Cs: Capabilities, Consumers and Competitors.

Capabilities

What skills (not roles) do you have in your organisation? This is an opportunity to break down those silos!

Where does your organisational and customer data exist?

What appropriate tools and technologies are currently available to you and how integrated are they?

Consumers

Who are your customers and what do you know about them?

What feedback do you have from your customers? What are they telling you?

Do you have someone in your organisation to represent your customers’ interests and sponsor the initiative?

Competitors

What can you learn from the way your competitors engage with their customers

Is anyone disrupting your sector and what are they doing differently?

Step 2: Strategy
Don’t personalise for personalisation’s sake

Building a great customer experience requires a vision of what you are doing and why. It is a commitment that starts with implementing a rock-solid analytics platform; a foundation that will grow into a robust and effective personalisation program. Importantly, try to resist the temptations of a tactical approach – simply chasing the quick-wins in isolation – and instead adopt more strategic thinking.

A correctly defined strategy provides a set of prioritised interventions – which include addressing the low-hanging fruit – that allow your business to exploit the significant opportunities of personalisation.

An effective approach is to build on Step 1’s insights and address the following:

Understand and accurately define your audience(s)

Build research-based personas derived from behavioural and demographic data from internal and external sources (e.g Analytics, CRM, qualitative research).

Select the segments/personas/lead types that you want to focus on

In which group does the most value lie? What quantifiable outcomes are you hoping to achieve?

What are you personalising and on which channel?

Design the customer journeys, touchpoints and interactions that describe the unfolding relationships with your customers. Then plan your content to match the context of your customer’s visit (the ‘micro-moment’), providing highly relevant messaging, services, products or experiences.

Put the right policies in place

Safety of customer data is important. Understanding privacy principles and ensuring the compliance of your digital analytics and personalisation activities is critical. Make sure that you only personalise the experience for customers who have‘opted-in’ for that personalisation. Follow best practices and comply with existing legislations.

Step 3: Technology
Tools to make personalised experiences a reality

Armed with a strategy that all of the stakeholders in your business wholeheartedly support (repeat: no silos and an organisation-wide focus on the customer), the next step is to identify, implement and utilise the most appropriate technology to help you meet your objectives. But where to start?

The capability audit in Step 1 should have revealed the tools and systems already available within your organisation and whether they are configured/calibrated correctly. You may have also identified the need to acquire new technology that will support your new initiative. The ability to integrate data-sources and systems here is key and any new platform should give you the flexibility to utilise existing assets, wherever they may be located.

There are myriad tools available today in the marketing and personalisation space, each attempting to deliver a part of the overall solution (best of breed), an all-in-one (fully-integrated) platform or somewhere in between. In truth there is only one right answer; the one that is right for your business.

Personalisation platforms

With so much choice, it’s important to get the right advice to help you understand what these platforms really offer. You need to be able to see beyond the marketing fluff and understand how those platforms can meet your long-term strategic objectives and at what cost. It’s also key to understand how well they integrate and how to correctly implement them within your organisation, whether they are cloud-based or on-premise.

Step 4: Test & learn
Adopt an agile approach to continuous improvement of the customer experience

Start small and select a specific segment, geographic region or campaign where you can personalise the experience. Then pick an element (e.g. the home page or a landing page) to personalise and define the conversion points, taking care to ensure you have added your analytics tags correctly and have a baseline saved. Create variants of the chosen element(s) with meaningful personalisations and start tracking. In reality, you will need to give it a little time to collect a statistically significant set of data to compare with your baseline. If you are seeing improvements, you might then decide to scale your initiative to include more segments, more elements and even adopting predictive analytics until such point that the entire journey is unique for each persona. Take care to correlate what your data is showing with feedback from your customers - you need to avoid ‘wind-tunnel marketing’ (where you make decisions based purely on data alone) at all costs.

To measure the impact of personalisation, setting a “test and learn” agenda is critical. This will allow you to react quickly and iteratively to feedback from anywhere.

The not-so-obvious benefits of personalisation

A well defined and well-implemented personalisation strategy provides the many benefits of a great customer experience for your audiences and for your organisation’s revenues. Yet there are other not-so-obvious benefits that personalisation can offer, particularly around your business operations. For example; agile pricing models (optimising pricing to maximise sales), increases in inventory management efficiency, minimising fraud and improvements in customer service whilst lowering costs. Your mileage may vary, depending on numerous factors, but when you look at the value of personalisation and not simply its costs, it is justified in its position as the CMO’s top priority today.

Conclusions

Creating a strategic personalisation program is not just about technology and rules. As the RIKA team has learned through working with brands in various stages of digital maturity, building-out a customer-centric experience starts with gaining insight and ensuring collaboration within the organisation. Devising the right strategy and adopting integrative technology, data analytics and test/learn cycles will ultimately improve and accelerate decisions, especially when the data-driven view of the interactions and experiences matches your customer’s experiences.

This article was originally prepared for eCommerce Insights/TFM, published July 2016



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