Digital Essays 2023: Designing tomorrow’s experiences today

The road to achieving personalisation at scale is fraught with challenges, says Merkle MENA’s Andreas Skopal


We live in a world where customer expectations continue to accelerate and the task for brands moving beyond a general idea of CX and getting to the heart of how to ignite a feeling, solve a problem, evoke an emotional response, or make customers’ lives tangibly better is easier said than done.

And that is exactly what a successful customer experience strategy should deliver. 

In today’s landscape, delivering personalised, compelling experiences is no longer a nice to have, it’s an imperative — with 30 per cent of CMOs in dentsu’s latest CMO survey agreeing that their main concern for 2023 and looking forward is ‘owning the customer relationship’.  

Experiences equal value, and value commands a premium. Over 30 years since the term Experience Economy was coined, most brands now understand that their success is directly connected to the customer. 

However, there is a real and persistent gap between the experiences that brands believe they are delivering for their customers and the experiences that customers believe they are receiving from brands.

The solution to closing this experience gap isn’t to blindly invest in more technology, more people, or more marketing. It’s about investing smartly as part of a larger plan. 

Personalisation at scale

Personalisation at scale has evolved to become the strategic priority of the C-suite. The implications stretch far and wide, driving brand differentiation, guiding investment and innovations, and even aligning overarching business strategies. 

87 per cent of CMOs agree that brands today are built through experiences, while 88 per cent believe that every aspect of this experience should match up to the brand promise. 

One might wonder, given the importance, why brands are still missing the mark? It’s not due to a lack of intent. In fact, CMOs rank “delivering personalised experiences in real-time” as their top priority, even ahead of advancements like connected devices and AI.

Challenges on the Horizon

Despite these advancements and the vast array of tools available, the road to achieving personalisation at scale is fraught with challenges:

Identity Resolution: In an era where customer privacy is sacrosanct, recognising individual customers across platforms has become a Herculean task. Brands find themselves navigating a labyrinth of privacy legislations, trying to deliver personalised content without overstepping boundaries.

Data Silos: The modern brand’s data ecosystem often resembles a patchwork quilt—disparate datasets scattered across various platforms, each serving its own niche purpose. This fragmented approach hinders the delivery of cohesive experiences.

Infrastructure Bottlenecks: Real-time responses, an expectation in today’s digital world, are often stymied by outdated storage and computer platforms. Brands are often grappling with brittle architectures that slow down access to crucial analytics.

Harnessing AI Effectively: While AI and Machine Learning promise to revolutionize CX, many brands stumble when it comes to actual implementation. The sheer volume and complexity of customer data often outpaces the capabilities of legacy systems.

Omnichannel Activation: In the pursuit of perfecting individual touchpoints, the bigger picture sometimes gets lost. Personalisation needs to transcend channels and create a consistent experience,
whether a customer interacts with a brand online, offline, or through customer service.

Aligning your Organisation for CX Success 

To close the experience gap and scale your programs effectively, the key is to prioritise CX alignment across your entire organisation. This foundational step sets the stage for everything that follows. 

When asked what makes a great customer experience, 43 per cent of CMOs felt it was “intelligent personalisation to surprise and delight,” while 48 per cent answered, “technology that enhances the brand idea.”

Achieving this involves synchronising your investments in data, technology, and people around a well-defined customer experience vision championed from the top and articulated across the
whole business. 

In this context, the crucial factor isn’t just pouring in more resources but rather developing a sound data strategy. Engage with your customers actively, seek their preferences, and customise experiences to foster loyalty and build enduring relationships over time.

The pace of innovation has accelerated, propelling customer expectations towards seamless, comprehensive, and always-available experiences. Failing to meet these heightened expectations has become all the more evident and detrimental to your brand.

Customers can easily discern siloed and repetitive experiences, and their patience for such encounters is limited. It’s essential that all your content and channels work cohesively to drive engagement, and not solely at the point of transaction.

Lastly, remember that transformation is an ongoing journey, not a destination. If you don’t grasp this, you risk investing in the wrong areas or conveying the wrong message.

Strive for simplicity by eliminating elements that create friction or cloud your relationships with customers. This approach allows your brand to function as a dynamic entity, capable of empathy, and poised to create a profound impact in people’s lives.

By Andreas Skopal, Managing Director – Merkle MENA