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Making It Personal for Every Customer
While personalization for a small group of customers is simple, achieving personalization at scale requires a combination of strategy and technology
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More than two-thirds of companies today cite personalization as a top priority, according to a report by Forrester Research, and with good reason: When done well, personalization can enhance loyalty, increase revenue, lower costs, influence customer behavior, and evoke positive emotions in customers by engendering feelings of value, appreciation, and confidence, the research firm found.

In fact, personalization has been found to reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 5 percent to 15 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 percent to 30 percent, according to The Harvard Business Review.

Personalization, Forrester says, “uses customer data and understanding to frame, guide, extend, and enhance interactions based on that person’s history, preferences, context, and intent.” It is now something that consumers expect from companies, given how much data they share with those companies.

But while personalization for individuals and small groups of customers is simple, achieving personalization at scale is far more involved. The wider the audience, the harder it is to personalize the interaction for each individual within it.

And, especially with larger audiences, it’s neither possible nor cost-effective to tailor every single message to every single customer at every single moment on every single channel. That’s why companies need to look to increase their efforts around personalization at scale. But to do so, businesses will need to establish strategies to build out their personalization efforts while implementing the right technologies to see those efforts through.

The Forrester report singles out Starbucks and photography community platform EyeEm as examples of companies that have been successful with this kind of personalization. The coffee giant’s app and email personalization efforts have contributed to a 21 percent increase in spending from members of its loyalty program; EyeEm improved app retention by 67.3 percent after sending personalized notifications to groups of customers it identified as being at risk of churn based on key characteristics and their in-app behavior.

STRATEGY COMES FIRST

Experts agree that personalization is essential and that companies need to develop a well-defined strategy from the outset. “It’s more important than ever for brands to deliver tailored, personalized experiences to their customers no matter where they choose to interact,” says Drew Burns, principal product marketing manager for Adobe Target, a personalization platform offered as part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud. “Connected, engaging customer experiences across touch points should be the ultimate goal for brands.”

“The future of marketing is to get personal,” says Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence at SAS Institute, a customer analytics software provider. He notes that personalization “involves many things that create a meaningful dialogue between brands and their prospects or customers,” including relevant offers, product recommendations, in-store promotions, and e-commerce opportunities. “Every touch point along the customer journey is fair game for personalization,” he says.

To reach those levels, companies of all sizes should take a number of steps to initiate their personalization efforts, according to Brooke Niemiec, chief marketing officer at Elicit, a customer-centricity and marketing strategy consulting firm. The first and most critical of these is ensuring that all internal stakeholders are in agreement on the definition and objectives of the personalization initiative.

Different teams often have different personalization goals, so all of the possible use cases need to be documented before personalization efforts begin, Niemiec advises. Once these opportunities are defined, the next step is to determine the data necessary to support each type of personalization.

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