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Personalization: You Know it's Important, but do You Know What it Means?

3/25/14

By Neil Hamilton

In a relentlessly competitive marketplace, knowing what your customers want and promoting your products in the right way, with the right context, and at the right time has never been so important. Most of today’s marketers already recognize the importance of personalization, but only 72 percent know how to implement a personalization strategy, according to eConsultancy’s Multichannel Retail Survey. Let’s take a closer look at what true personalization means in today’s marketing landscape. 

Personalization is about creating unique experiences for each and every customer.

Personalization that truly impacts ROI and engagement is more than just customizing a promotional email or newsletter with each customer’s first name. It’s more than creating a segment that consists of your highest value customers by location. And it’s certainly not just cross-selling a product to a customer because ‘people who bought the same product also bought related products’. While these elements are important in their own right, true personalization that attracts and keeps customers coming back for your business encompasses these elements, and much more.

Personalization is holistic and combines demographics, preferences, past behaviors and real-time behaviors.

Together, all four of these types of data – demographics, preferences, past behaviors and real-time behaviors – enable your marketing to be relevant and far more likely to engage each customer with the right content, for the right reason at the right time. That’s true personalization.

Demographics (such as gender, age or location) remain an important marketing element, but on its own is just static information about your customer.

Preferences are explicit pieces of information that your customer has shared with you. This may include topics or categories they are interested in or their preferred frequency of communication.

Past behavior relates to transactions or interactions that customers have had with your business previously. This could be products they have browsed or purchased.

The use of real-time behavior provides that crucial understanding about what your customers are doing right now. It acknowledges that each customer is a continually moving target and this data enables you to continually adapt your marketing accordingly.

Combine all four areas together and marketers will have a more well-rounded view of their customers. Using this data, they will be able to provide their customers with a unique and relevant shopping experience.

Personalization means staying personal across multiple channels.

Consumers continue to find experiences with brands frustratingly inconsistent when interacting across different channels. For example, imagine a customer receives a personalized offer via email, and then clicks through that email to open a window to the retailer’s website. The website should then build on the message and experience they have been promoting. When retailers do not develop their interactions on the journey or the preferences they know about their customers— real-time and past behavior, preferences and demographics – they are spending money starting the same conversations, but never taking them beyond a “hello.”

There’s also a high consumer demand for multi-channel experiences. We know that 40 percent of consumers state it is very important to be able to purchase from a retailer via different channels, while another 50 percent said it would be useful, according to eConsultancy.

To regain control of the customer experience and become truly multi-channel, marketers must focus on building an on-going relationship across channels by utilizing data to understand what each customer wants.

Now more than ever, customers expect relevant and consistent experiences. In fact, more than 90 percent of marketers say personalization is critical to their future success to drive sales, according to eConsultancy. To succeed, businesses need to implement multi-channel personalization strategies for the long-term with the aim that each customer feels was designed personally for them.

By promoting products and offers to the right customer, marketers who harness the power of personalization see a significant return-on-investment. Businesses that truly personalize their marketing interactions will not only benefit from increased sales and revenue – they will create stronger customer relationships and build long-term loyalty.

Neil Hamilton is the director of personalization for SmartFocus, a provider of cloud marketing, where he helps clients create personalized customer experiences. Previously, he was the co-founder and CEO of PredictiveIntent.

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