How the customer experience just got personal

Once dismissed as a marketing fad, personalisation has cemented its status as a major trend in how we consume products, services and experiences and shows no sign of waning. In a crowded market, where customer interaction is more often online than in a physical store, the need for meaningful connections in terms of how companies elevate their interaction and engagement with us has never been stronger.

Indeed, delivering a more defined and targeted offering has become a powerful differentiator, heralding an era in which personalisation is infiltrating all aspects of our lives, from the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, how we bank, keep fit and even consume healthcare and our favourite TV shows.

Ultimately, it’s an approach with no losers. A more relevant, contextual offering resonates on a deeper level with the customer whose complex needs are served. In turn this promotes greater brand loyalty with the business from which they can build a long-term dialogue and customer relationship, a prerequisite, for even more improved and refined personalised offerings.

>See also: The 3 types of analytics set to transform customer experience

Many factors have conspired to drive the traction – notably the fusion of technology with the more discerning and digitally empowered consumer. As data analytics lift the lid on the minutiae of consumer behaviour, brands have tapped into this insight to tailor and tweak their next actions and messages and build a competitive advantage.

Examples are particularly rife in the hotel sector. Think about the multiple adjustments we may make to a hotel room on arrival, from the room temperature, pillow preference and newspaper, to the rejection of certain flavours of teabags.

Yet if the customer data collected prior to arrival was shared with housekeeping, the room could be personalised and ready to go in advance, already aligned to the unique requirements of its valued guest.

Notably, personalisation is a complex and nuanced beast. It isn’t merely a message or offer that can simply be added to the purchase cycle in one hit, but instead must be applied in varying degrees, depending on the stage of the consumer journey.

Furthermore, businesses need to negotiate a balance between making insightful and spontaneous recommendations that elevate the customer experience and avoiding the intrusive hard sell propositions that can invade an individual’s privacy.

>See also: 4 factors set to impact customer experience management

In a similar vein, respecting the differences in consumer attitudes around personal data also becomes critical – an older person is likely to be warier about sharing their personal details than a younger digital native brought up on Amazon, Facebook and Instagram for example.

Getting into the customer’s psyche ultimately starts with establishing his or her identity, a challenge heightened by the different user IDs people have across their email, payment transaction, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

These disparate strands need to be interconnected, which is where the role of data management systems comes in to assimilate this information and from it derive one consistent and comprehensive profile with which to work.

As businesses drill deeper using data discovery tools and analytic modes to better understand the customer’s purchasing habits, these predictive insights provide the foundation from which decisions around personalisation can be based.

Today’s shoppers expect to be treated as individuals, rather than demographic segments, which means we can no longer rely on crude assumptions based on gender, age or marital status – but must instead think in terms of behaviour and motivation when it comes to anticipating preferences and extra touches.

>See also: 5 technologies improving the customer experience journey

Deriving real-time contextual insight from all elements of the purchase journey – the time of day it happened, total value expenditure, real-time browsing information, the channel they used to get to the website – all form a network of clues that results in a more sophisticated model on which to base a more developed persona.

Furthermore, advanced analytics with predictive capabilities that run at an industrial speed and scale and can deal with tens of thousands of interactions per second, enable us to respond when the purchase cycle hits its most critical stage – when the customer is deliberating and can be swayed by a timely and targeted intervention.

A common dominator of all this activity will be our handling of large volumes of both historic and real-time data. How we access and cleanse this to extrapolate the actionable insights and respond to what they tell us, is a continuous process of refinement that enables an organisation to be hyper-focused on consumers and their journeys and move with speed and agility when it needs to.

Crucially, technology cannot be relied upon to make it work in isolation, and must be supported by a broader cultural shift that deploys the human touch. We see this play out in the beauty arena.

For example, big brands are harnessing business intelligence to uncover the regular high purchasers, who are rewarded with a more specialist service in store via designated beauty advisers.

>See also: How businesses can benefit from prioritising customer experience

Further improving the digital engagement are, for example, the apps that make it easier than ever to find an exact foundation match for your skin tone and we see a creative hybrid of personalisation.

To summarise, the success of the customer journey is increasingly defined by how unique the experience is, and data and analytics remain one of our most potent tools in supporting this.

Personalisation, by its nature, is not a quick fix; it demands innovation on multiple fronts if it is to be applied successfully and a long-term mindset committed to continual evolution and iteration, everyone must in it for the long-haul.


Sourced by David Rosen, Office of the CTO, Strategy, Analytics and Digital Transformation at TIBCO Software Inc


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...