Mass marketing has been a favored strategy for over a century and just now is its popularity dwindling. Personalized experiences are taking over – and are here to stay. According to a study by Gartner, a marketing research firm, brands can risk losing 38% of their customers without adequate marketing personalization. At the same time, “tailored help,” to use Gartner’s parlance, can improve the chances for brand intent, purchase, repurchase and increased cart size by 20%, according to the same report.
Personalized marketing became important once the digital era began, but really took center stage with the rise of UX (user experience) design.
Today personalization can do everything from providing content and product suggestions based on the customer’s interests, to suggesting wardrobe choices based on the day’s local weather forecast.
Personalization reduces customer friction, improves participation, increases visit times, and extends relationships. It creates engaging digital touchpoints in a way that is not only tailored to the needs of the individual, but does so across all channels. It ensures experiences that uplift the brand, increase sales, and maximize long-term value.
With the massive investments in digital that took place in the past two years, personalized user experiences have only increased in importance. COVID-19 dealt a heavy blow to brands that were reliant on in-store and in-person sales, making personalized UX essential to strong and continuing customer relationships. Today, consumers demand experiences in which their preferences, their ideas, and even their unique emotions are brought together. Everything that goes into a close, friendly relationship is applicable to a personalized UX.
From a brand standpoint, personalized UX spans business and customer goals, audience segmentation and journeys, and opportunities for customization across the entire digital landscape. To achieve this level of personalization, investments in both people and technology are often required.
Setting a foundation for a personalized UX is a multi-faceted undertaking. It begins with discovery—a process that occurs on two fronts: customer experience and technology. From the CX lens, critical inputs include Identifying goals and KPIs, content resources, and the larger marketing landscape. Of course, more inputs from the beginning means a more holistic and accurate CX foundation. Technology discovery, on the other hand, involves reviewing the repositories and sources of data, tagging and taxonomy, as well as the martech stack that will be handling short-term and long-term personalization.
Following discovery, the next step is to align on a roadmap. As the personalization effort progresses, this step provides a framework for customer segmentation, technology procurement and implementation, and content strategy.
A strong roadmap will determine where the team should focus its efforts in year one—the most intensive period—along with subsequent years. This should be a well-planned document that includes briefs for how personalized experiences are expected to occur, along with content creation, testing/reporting and other key elements. While comprehensive in nature, the roadmap also needs to allow for flexibility; by year three, the program will have evolved and changes will no doubt be in order.
For personalization to be successful, specialists all across the organization must be invested. It should be a collaborative, integrated effort. Disciplines from creative and experience design to customer service and IT must work in concert, supported and led by C-level marketing or customer experience officers.
The level of orchestration required to offer customers a personalized experience is challenging, but also imperative. Marketing and IT, in particular, must cooperate and communicate because there is so much overlap in platforms, content and data. Marketing pros need to be willing to embrace the technical aspects—and IT must understand and facilitate the places marketing teammates want and need to go. It must be a shared vision to succeed.
Customers Demand More
Brands need personalization to compete—and every brand, no matter how advanced or challenged it is in its personalization program, has the potential to improve. Even with mature efforts, data, technology and processes can always be better synchronized. Better information and better systems enable brands to get deeper into the discipline, to provide the customer with more rewarding experiences.
Customers are changing—and they’re demanding more from their favorite brands. In their minds, personalization is more than seeing their name atop an email. They expect a call center or chat representative to already know what was bought, and when, without having to provide that information. If customers are going to surrender their unique data based on past experiences and purchase history, they want that data to be used for their benefit.
Delivering an engaging and personalized customer experience should be a top priority for brands in 2021. The days of mass marketing may be past—but personalization will require a new level of organizational coordination and commitment. The time to begin is now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SARIE DRAKE is senior director of experience design for R2integrated, a full-service digital experience agency.