Making It Personal for Every Customer

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This is also the time to inventory customer information, such as contact details, channel preferences, shopping behaviors, marketing responses, interaction histories, and personal information, she says.

Finally, when companies have determined which areas to personalize and what data they need to support those efforts, they can review personalization capabilities at each customer touch point.

“A general benefit of this process is that any gaps in customer knowledge or system functionality tend to be quite obvious,” Niemiec says.

While rolling out personalization with current customer data and technology, “you can also work in parallel on a customer data capture strategy and a technology upgrade plan so your personalization gets more sophisticated and scalable over time,” she says. “So as not to get overwhelmed by the possibilities, partner with the analytics and IT teams to prioritize opportunities based on the reach, the potential benefit due to personalization, and the cost of implementing personalization at each touch point.”

Niemiec says that personalization can and should be conceptualized as a spectrum that ranges from mass to one-to-one, and that personalization matters most in highly interactive moments.

Burns proposes a similar approach, saying that marketers “need to start their personalization efforts with a good foundation.” With this in mind, he says that the first step is building a business case for personalization. Although it’s no surprise to marketers that personalization is essential to a successful marketing strategy, other teams might need more convincing, especially when personalization efforts are competing with other ROI-generating initiatives, he notes.

Burns also cites data assembly as a crucial initial step, saying that “personalization efforts are only as good as the data used to craft the right customer experience,” and that unified data spanning online and offline channels is key, as it enables marketers to fully evaluate how customers are responding to their personalization efforts and quickly adjust. Once these two steps have been taken, both quantitative feedback, such as that provided by analytics, and qualitative feedback, such as that provided by focus groups, can yield “low-hanging fruit” opportunities with which to initiate the personalization effort, he says.

For Raj, data is “the fuel for personalizing the customer experience and sequencing the customer journey in an optimal way.” He notes that historically, companies have used structured customer data, such as demographic, transactional, and event data, for this purpose; but that today, semi-structured or unstructured data, such as social media, geolocation, and sensor data, can help companies develop a better understanding of customers’ journeys and which points within that journey are most significant. “All this boosts the level of personalization to the customer,” he says.

To ensure that marketing messages are relevant to larger groups of customers, it’s a good idea to logically segment customers so that messages can be tailored to all—or most—of them in that group. Start with the customer journey because different customers have different wants, needs, and expectations at different steps in that journey. Then further segment customers based on their demographics or behavioral data.

All of this data can be used to create customer personas that can then be targeted with specific messages at scale. And as you go along this process, you can develop as many customer segments and personas as necessary to properly tailor the right messages to the right audiences.

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