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3 principles for increasing personalization in a social distancing era

  • Posted on May 27, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Having a personal encounter with a customer used to mean in-person, in-store, face-to-face.  Now our in-person interactions are socially-distanced and wrapped in latex gloves and masks. Our face-to-face interactions are intermediated by smartphones or laptop screens and don’t feel so personal anymore.  There's so much more noise online right now that standing out and sustaining loyalty have become monumental challenges. In a digital-first world, building personal connections with customers is still the smart way to earn attention and loyalty.  The bar for excellence in personalization, however, has been raised to a new high.  

Consider three core principles to use personalization most effectively as social distancing practices persist.  Ensure that your personalization efforts are informed by customer empathy and delivered with authentic concern for improving the customer’s well-being. Drive your personalization practices across all channels in which your customers and employees may interact. And, draw on a broader base of personal data to provide individualized content and solutions to each client in a seamless way.

Principle 1: Build trust one customer at a time
Personalized content communicates empathy and understanding to customers and builds trust and loyalty. It naturally implies that you are uniquely able to help them by providing the best-fit solution.  Using personalization to build trust, of course, is not technological trickery, but instead requires a genuine understanding of how business capabilities match customer circumstances and tailoring authentic, context-appropriate communications and solutions.
 
Principle 2: Prioritize omnichannel
Personalization in an overcrowded, fearful online marketplace demands an omnichannel approach.  It’s not enough to simply apply personalization to a single channel like email. Today’s customers interact at will, across multiple marketing channels, and expect their experiences to be seamless across interaction points. To get the maximum effect of personalization, you must first clarify the key moments along the customer journey that will be most impactful if personalized.  With that done, you can execute an integrated approach to personalization across channels: from website, chat and display advertising to direct mail and, when customers return to bricks-and-mortar, to the in-store environment, too.
 
Principle 3: Set personal data in motion
Collecting the right data isn’t the big barrier to personalization efforts.  Most companies collect plenty of customer information – who they are, what they do, what they buy and what pages they visit and more.  The hurdle is that most aren’t pushing past reporting that data to actually take action on it.  As a result, they’re getting perhaps 10% of the possible value which that data could provide.

Reconsider the data you are collecting from customers.  If you aren’t using that data to enrich customers’ immediate encounter with your brand, perhaps you shouldn’t be asking for it in that context. For example, if you ask for each customer’s name, address and email in one part of your website, you should carry that information over to all parts of their experience so they don’t need to re-submit that information. Remember that even if, on the backend of your business, there are different, disconnected departments, your customers see you as just one brand. If you knew who your customer was in context A, you should still know who that individual is in context B. Experiences that consistently demonstrate your knowledge of each customer’s unique needs make it a “no-brainer” for them to continue doing business with you and even to become a vocal advocate for your brand.  

The expectations of personalized experience don’t just happen in the B2C world; companies serving B2B customers must also utilize personalized customer data, as the individuals they are serving carry over their expectations of personalization from their personal lives. 
 
Personalized experience is everything
For the short term, many interactions have fallen from relational to transactional ones – primarily focused on product availability and price. Going forward, companies will have to move beyond cost and convenience and return to a focus on personalized customer experiences and relationship management.  

The best personal digital experiences provide content and moments-of-contact that are tailored to the topics, products and value propositions that fit each audience member.  If the individual customer is a tenured one, personalization should mean suggesting ideas and options based on that customer’s past behavior.  Suggestions such as – “You’ve bought this item and we know that others who bought that product also found this one of benefit” – are no longer solely the domain of Amazon.  No two users should have the same experience of their encounter with you though they should come away from each encounter with a similarly positive, consistent sense of your brand.  The best personalization experience is when it feels seamless, uncontrived and intuitive based on each customer’s unique situation and prior experience with the business.
 
Personalization matters more now than ever.  Marketers have an opportunity to bring a refreshing digital experience to customers.  Like a cool drink of water on a hot day – a personalized experience can feel refreshing to customers who are scorched by poor digital experiences. 

Contact us if you would like a friendly thought partner as you adapt your personalization experience to fit the times.

For more of Avanade’s advice on personalization read our whitepaper, Strategic personalization guide: Three key ways to speed up success with CX personalization.

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