For decades, we’ve been using data to find out meaningful things about our customers. At its simplest level, that has meant everything from using their date of birth to send them birthday offers, through to personal recommendations based on their previous purchases.
Personalisation helps us provide the most relevant, contextualised experiences possible. That’s our job as customer experience specialists. And the time has come to take personalisation to the next level.
There are pretty compelling reasons to do so. We know that personalisation works. According to CMO Council, 43% of marketers said personalisation led to more conversions. Simply by knowing our customers and speaking to them as individuals, we can increase our conversion rate. Sounds great, right?
So imagine if we ramped up the ways we’re speaking to customers. What could we accomplish for our brands and our customers then?
Reaching customers as a segment of one
Personalisation isn’t just about our ability to know the customer. It’s not just about the superficial things – like knowing their names and addresses.
Truly effective personalisation is about understanding them as human beings. That means knowing their behaviour, their habits – and even, dare we say it, their emotions.
It means treating our customers not as the personas our strategists came up with, but as real people. We don’t want to talk to people as part of a broader segment, using general attitudes and broad behavioural guides. We want to talk to them as a segment of one.
And to do that, we need to understand their interactions with more than just the one brand. We need to understand what makes them who they are.
After all, no two people are the same – even if they fit the same persona. You might have a whole group of runners, for example, but at a specific time only a few of those runners will be actually running. We know that the feeling of euphoria works best at the climax of exercise, so surface key messages then. And by feeding such a specific and personal moment in time, we can access personalisation at its most meaningful.
The next generation
Of course, there are even bigger opportunities to be had. What if we were to understand what’s actually going on in our customers’ heads?
Ever-more interesting ways to do just that are constantly in development. Tweet Me Watson, for example, extracts personality insights from Twitter profiles based on how a person writes. The service aims to match people, opportunities and products. Interestingly, the ‘you’re likely/not likely to’ feature explores a person’s probable behaviour, which yields insights like ‘you’re likely to be influenced by family when making product purchases’ – something that, at scale, could be immeasurably useful for brands.
Similarly, Glade’s Cannes Lions winning ‘Museum of Feelings’ (pictured) was personalised by visitors’ emotions. Steel hand plates measured heart rate and skin salinity to determine a visitor’s mood – and change the colour and speed of the installation to match.
Looking backwards to move forwards
Of course, we still have a long way to go as an industry. Even the most sophisticated databases and journeys still lack the human understanding and sensitivities of the world we live in. It will always be tricky for AI to measure people’s fears, emotional journeys, goals, hopes and dreams. It’s near impossible for it to measure their understanding of subjects.
That’s why our first step should always be an old fashioned one – have a conversation with customers. Talk to them, ask them what content they want and need. Once this understanding is in place, we can begin to build in the kind of tech that can bring insight to life.
It’s exactly this thinking which is behind our Experience Lab – from one-to-one interviews to facilitated focus groups, we know that there’s no better way to get to know people than to talk directly to them.
And it’s that desire to move closer to ‘the personal’ that will continue to drive us as an industry. We are all trying to understand the person behind the ‘customer’, engage them as an individual and give them a frictionless experience.
But genericising won’t get us there. Instead, we need to use conversations, backed up by tech, to find that all important segment of one. Only then can we unlock the insight that can make a genuine difference to our customers as people.
Martin Nieri is the chief executive of Partners Andrews Aldridge
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