With you all the way, by Emakina’s Victor Madueno

Digital maturity comes with personalisation at scale, writes Emakina’s client service director, Victor Madueno.

Digitalisation has revolutionised businesses across the world. Within that, real-time customer engagement will be the key focus point for the majority of CMOs.

In fact, we’re now facing a ‘personalise or perish’ kind of world, where we expect brands to tailor their content to us at all times. According to SmarterHQ, 72 per cent of consumers say they now only engage with marketing messages that are personalised and tailored to their interests. The same report highlights that 80 per cent of those who classify themselves as frequent shoppers say they only shop with brands that personalise their customer experiences. And to top it off, 70 per cent of the pickiest segment of them all, millennials, say they are increasingly frustrated with brands sending them irrelevant and impersonal marketing content.

Consumers have spoken – and it is pretty clear that personalisation dramatically influences sales and brand loyalty. Data-led, individualised experiences are therefore key to driving long-term growth.

But what exactly is personalisation at scale?

Simply put, it’s the ability to speak to a million customers, one at a time. Using data, AI and machine learning, brands can engage with their audiences on a personal level by delivering tailor-made experiences, messages and offers across their entire customer journey. Even better, thanks to data, brands can start predicting and foreseeing customer needs.

We’ve always talked about ‘good marketing’ being a campaign that is delivered at the ‘right place, right time’. With the rise of data and customer data platforms (CDPs), brands are now geared up to take this ‘right place, right time’ to extremes through personalised content. As a brand personalises its customers’ journeys, it leads to growth and improvement in the customer experience.

From campaign-focus to customer-focus

Long gone are the days when marketers could rely solely on campaigns. Today, the traditional roles of customer engagement have to change in order for brands to reap the benefits of hyper-personalisation. A campaign-centric approach will only ever address the ‘right here, right now’ relationship between a brand and a consumer. Additionally, campaigns are more often than not time-sensitive and are used at specific moments throughout the year, like the holiday season for example. A customer-centric approach will serve a much longer purpose and will often be ‘always on’. With personalisation comes the understanding of the lifetime value of a customer, where she sits within the journey, and what next best actions the brand can take to enrich the customer’s experience – and this is throughout the full 365 days of the year.

With multiple touchpoints for customer engagement in today’s omnichannel retail world, and with enormous volumes of data at our disposal, how both are leveraged to redefine the customer experience makes all the difference.

The power of data, decision and distribution

The first step for any brand to start the personalisation process is to draw on the power of its data to gain real insights on itd customer preferences, aspirations, interests and needs. But this is by no means a simple task, since many organisations’ data continues to sit in department silos that operate totally independently. Proper use of data suggests having an integrated approach, with a unified model of data analytics and CEOs, CTOs and CIOs working in unison.

This requires brands to invest in robust CDPs that can store, analyse and track all of the transactional, behavioural and aspirational data reeling in. A CDP must be agile and part of the brand’s larger digital ecosystem in order to drive individual customer targeting and personalisation.

The second step is to have automated decision-making protocols, which will help track customer insights in real-time and drive action. It is crucial for companies today to realise that the marketing function is a ‘live entity’, as opposed to one that must operate within the rigid structures of a year-end plan.

The third important step is to ensure you have a content distribution system that is primed to be always-on and responsive, providing hyper-personalised content across all the different channels of customer engagement.

A robust personalisation-at-scale strategy

In short, an organisation needs a personalisation-at-scale strategy that can draw on multiple data points simultaneously, an organisational culture that works seamlessly as one entity, and a creative, digital-first content approach that is focused on what is relevant to their customers.

Robotic content that instantly comes through as chat-bot-driven will hardly add to the customers’ experience and low-quality content will drive them further away. The content must therefore be tested regularly, its tonality redefined to engage your customers in a manner that builds trust and loyalty. All this means organisations must invest in a strong personalisation strategy that takes into consideration the business prospects both short-term and long-term.

In an intensely competitive environment, with customers that have multiple choices to explore, you only get one opportunity to win them over. And if you can do that through a clearly structured personalisation approach, you also stand to retain them and build loyalty.

Let’s remove all awkward moments with our customers; don’t let your business meet your customer for the first time every time.