5 Essential Ingredients to make “Personalization” count

Retailers know all too well that “Personalization” is mandatory for winning customers and forging life-long loyalty. But what many don’t realize is that their efforts aren’t always having the desired effect with consumers. The techniques retailers once used to broadcast their brand to a wide audience are no longer relevant.

Shoppers are on-the-go and often time-challenged. With the number and variety of products online,  they truly value when a retailer shows its familiarity with their individual personal preferences, current interests and purchase history to present them with products they are mostly likely to be interested in and want to purchase.

Still the facts paint a different picture. 83% of retail marketers think they do a satisfactory job in personalizing experiences for consumers, according to research from Adobe. The same survey indicates that only 29% of consumers feel retailers effectively offer them personalized content or offers.

So what does it take to make personalization count?

  1. Put the “Person” first in personalization94% of businesses say downloadpersonalization is critical to their engagement efforts, but only 25% of companies are using their data ‘to a great extent’ to do it effectively, according to a poll from Accenture. In the effort to target the masses, retailers forget to understand the context needed to create a truly engaging personalized experience. It is essential for them to understand that in order to be successful , they need to connect with customer at a personal level.
  1. Understand the journey all the way– It is now imiginsurancemperative that retailers show they recognize and understand consumers at each stage of the buying process. Analyzing the signals that a consumer shares through past purchases, both online and in person like the items they added to their cart, conversations held with customer service, special offers redeemed, store visits or branded app interactions can provide all the information required about customers without even asking them
  1. Be relevant to be desirable – AcknowleBook-Sketch-1-Give-the-Gift-of-Relevant-Contentedging that while personalized offers of discounts are probably more effective than generic ones, it is also true that customers still expect more than overt pitches to grab at their wallets. They want something meaningful and truly helpful. Meaningful relevance emerges when content meets context. It’s a powerful alliance, for sure, and one that signals to the customer that you’re right there with her, in step and in the know.
  1. Be agile and up to speed – Speed matters.stpsystems Shoppers will be most responsive to real time offers when they are on the retail website, or at the physical store. Serving up relevant information or offers in a timely fashion matters to making the personalized experience count. Machine learning software, made easier by cloud-based development modules, can help retailers meet the speed requirement.
  1. Transparency is the key– There is a thin line between being “cool” and being “creepy”. Being personal doesn’t meimagesan you need to invade the customers’ privacy and turn them off. It’s about providing enough value that they will trade it for their customer data. The best way is to be open and get their permission to interact. Maintain goodwill by keeping their personal information safe using robust security processes and controls.

The battle to win customers and customer loyalty has never been fiercer. In this hyper digital world, consumers want more than just deals and coupons and express delivery offers. They want retailers to listen to their unique needs and preferences, and deliver products that are relevant to them as individuals.

The bottom line is – whether its greeting customers as they enter your store, sending personalized emails, tailoring deals based on previous purchase behaviour or a “recommended products” section – personalization promotes customer loyalty. The real challenge is that it’s going to take consistent experience-creation and real-time relevance to not only grab customers but also keep them coming back to you again and again.

And we all know that loyalty is just as valuable (if not more) as attracting new customers.

Photo credits- marketo.com, miginsurance, stpsystems

-Ankita Asthana (Product Manager)

Ma Foi Analytics

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“Want a Powerful Customer Experience? Then Listen up!”

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At a time when it’s never been easier to reach out to consumers with information, it has conversely become harder than ever to engage them. Today’s consumer is well informed, technically savvy and extremely experienced when it comes to shopping in traditional and virtual channels. Constantly connected, he is sophisticated and has high expectations around service, value, offers and choice. The power has definitely shifted into his hands and it’s now up to companies to deliver superior customer experience to meet the rising expectations at each and every touchpoint.

It is not that companies do not want to engage better but they constantly struggle to understand what their customers really want. They devise complex algorithms and predictive modelling techniques to churn tones of customer data for insights but most of them fail to make an impact.

So, we are back to the million dollar question – What does a customer really want? Here is a simple checklist of what “I” as a customer expect from retailers-

Recognize and remember me– Its simple – I know your brand and what you promise to offer but do you know me? If I have interacted with you earlier, why do I need to provide the same information time and again. I don’t want to be asked about my account number five times by five different people in a bank!  Try to reduce the frustration and make it easier for me to reach out.Personalize

Anticipate my preferences and take action- Don’t treat me like another data point on your sheet. Take time to understand my preferences and anticipate what I would like or not like. Help me in my buying journey be it in-store or online. Empower your sales staff to treat me well. Be personal: Surprise and delight me with offers meant just for me!

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Communicate with me consistently through all the devices and methods I use- Know my preferred communication channel and take my permission to follow me without being creepy! Don’t confuse me. Make sure all your communications are pleasant and easy to comprehend. Share relevant content that conveys value for me without going overboard.

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Use what you learn about me to help me with all my needs- Pick up signals that I leave while I am in store or online. Whether it’s in your merchandising, staff friendliness & knowledge or in store promotions, you need to offer me something that will force me to keep coming back. Enrich your understanding of my present and future needs and find out new ways to engage with me.

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Be there when I need you, in real time– I live in the “now” and expect immediate results. I don’t want to spend my time rummaging through your various channels to register my concerns. Take action on what bothers me and intervene instantly when it actually matters.

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Is all of this that difficult? Not really. Thanks to advances in information technology, data gathering techniques and analytics. Using increasingly granular data, from detailed demographics and psychographics to consumers’ clickstreams on the web, businesses have everything they need to know about customers. The only thing to do is to make the insights actionable and use it intelligently to get the best returns.

Customers know what they want. Are you listening??

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Photo credits – wordpress, Wikipedia, adobe.com,noobpreneur.com

Virtual Assistants to Virtual Data Brokers…

“Ok Google!! What next?”

The way the Virtual assistant world is shaping up, at least in the consumer space, I wonder how dependencies will shape up as we learn and unlearn new ways of life. Google Now is a god send for sure, half of the time as I unlock my phone for one reason or another (most of the time it’s just habit!!), I inadvertently look at the google now page and smile – as it tells me that I should be all set for my upcoming trip to Delhi in two days and that it’s damn hot as always). The other half is…what who wants to read this and why should I listen to this song. You are left for more and I wonder why Google can’t pull it off with the army of great engineers at their disposal.

Challenge accepted, however it’s not an easy problem to crack. After all of us are dissimilar at so many levels that building an engine which learns me and responds/ interacts with me in a totally personalized way is still a dream.

Having said that, how about the enterprise world. Let’s look at an organization. Although there are different stakeholders and departments, the processes that define the organization, the language, the interpretation of numbers, the implicit and explicit understanding has a lot of similarity and hence makes it a good candidate to model. To build a system like this – what should be the starting point? Most of the enterprises have internal insights group that becomes the one department working with research vendors, internal stakeholders in answering business queries and helping businesses with insights. Most of the time the challenge with the insights group is that they spend a lot of time in administrative work – working with vendors, ensuring research is done in time, is of quality and then working on business queries that come to them at unpredictable rate.

Imagine a situation, where the insights team & the business teams have a data insights assistant at their call.

“Ok Doodle!!” “What is the screen size preference of segment A in China”

“Ok Doodle” “Forecast our current sales performance for the rest of the year”

This will not only free up a lot of time, it will also help the insights group in focusing on more complex studies. Mind you – the backbone of building a model like this will be the learnings that the machine will infer from the general behavior of the insights team. In my mind solving this has a larger purpose for organizations and will open up the next frontier of battle royale. Till that time –

“Ok Google” “Make me Sleep now”

Ashish Rishi, AVP Analytics

Follow: @rishilost

Appscape

Every now and then a trend picks up steam and starts to become a go to solution within a vertical and sometimes across verticals as well. Example: Hot these days (or may be dying already!!) is the 360 degree view of the customer. The ability of an organization to be able to see all customer data points in a simple connected framework.

The advantages of a comprehensive view are obvious, reminds me of the perennial problem we face in India, where without any centralized view all government departments do their bit in pieces – so a fresh road is laid today ( possibly because election dates are coming !!!) and the same road is dug out the very next day for laying fibre optic cables. (a la focus on connectivity is a must!!).

A customer service rep not aware of the loyalty status of the customer, using a hard tactic to upsell where the customer doesn’t ever make a purchase in that department. A lot of these dots can be connected and improved upon if – information is made available to all, made relevant and contextual. Which is achieved keeping customer at the centre and creating a 360 degree view of him.

I think the current mobile operating systems are designed to work in silos, that’s purely because the way the app ecosystem is designed, app developers view their own apps in singularity. Meaning the customer interaction with the app and the need that the app is solving for is an end to itself, which is not really the case. What was the last time you unlocked your phone and given the context did not interact with more than one app. Think about it?? Ever or never.

The current operating systems have this flaw. Although the systems are intelligent, they are so only within their own app universe. So a Google now (I love Google…wait a sec…Alphabet!!) makes me smile every now and then, But then it’s app integration is miles away (atleast I haven’t yet felt the moment). For me this integration today is limited to Feedly (for the stuff I read ) and Wynk (for the stuff I listen to) this could be just me!!.

The mobile OS of the next iteration will have to create an open App platform, sort of like a 360 degree view of the app data exchange. This to me is the next frontier. To create a completely intelligent system that is able to interact with me with a complete context will have to listen to data exchange at all times.

More like a appograhic profile of a customer!!!

Ashish Rishi, AVP Analytics

Follow: @rishilost

Attention is a gift!!!

The title of a recent @briansolis blog caught my attention, well and for a surprisingly longer time than I would have liked, reading the blog and then the LinkedIn e-book associated with it “Attention is Currency”, made me realize how much of an anomaly that was. Brian goes on dramatically elucidate that our attention spans are down to 8 secs…(there is a house-fly joke there somewhere, but I meander …and in the process validate the hypothesis…though I think it’s more of an established theory now…and there I go again)

Trying hard to come back to the topic it, made me realize is that really what we have become? I mean one hears of phrases like ‘instant gratification’ generation thrown around almost all day, but what does that really mean. We know the most obvious references to dating or the lack of it when it comes to lifestyle preferences of the generation but what does it mean to a marketer.

How do you be the ‘heartthrob’ for a generation that would have moved on to the next “flavor of the month, scratch that …of the second”. How does a marketer keep the customer’s attention for longer than the now scientifically proven 8 secs? While there are 4.6 Billion (yes with a B, pieces of content being created every day) to fight you for that 8 seconds of attention.

Well I can’t begin to fathom the genius of my 8th grade English teacher who saw this coming all those years ago and tried so hard to cement “Succinct, Succinct, Succinct” (it’s a funny word right! and said three times still makes me giggle, just the words, not if I hear them in her tone of voice) into our writing style. I apologize Mrs.M, I am still trying, I promise to cut a few runny sentences from this piece as well.

Not to mention that this validates, someone who definitely doesn’t need my validation, the master attention grabber himself, Steve Jobs, he had it nailed down pat and I don’t mean with his bare minimum text on slides, (which in itself is commendable) but in his messaging recall about the “Think Different” campaign way back in 1997. Simple black and white headshots and two words…he knew for sure what was coming. The true genius of the man though is not the succinct (someone listened to you Mrs. M) copy – two words on the page, but the clearly identifiable powerful story behind the visual.

That is a universal and time-tested truth that marketers can take solace in, no matter how much the medium changes (140 characters, 6 sec of video) the crux to grabbing attention will always be the same, a powerful story – a story one can relate to, identify with, how you tell it is now entirely up to you. (but yes…preferably in 8 seconds)

Rachit Ahuja, AVP Global Marketing
@racahuja