18/02/2015

By Chris Averill, CEO of we are experience


A recent statistic from analyst firm Gartner revealed that by 2016 89% of marketers expect to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience their brand, product and service delivers to the client or the consumer. I’m not surprised by this stat given that a truly personalised user experience can make a customer feel highly valued, which is almost impossible to achieve through print or billboard adverts. If organisations use consumer data in a smart way, they can ensure that the information they share is always relevant to the recipient and as a result build a relationship with the customer based on trust, loyalty, and above all offer products or services that they know the customer will like. On the other hand, if personalisation is executed poorly then clearly it can have the opposite effect.

Poor personalisation means that customers become inundated with offers that are completely irrelevant, leaving them irritated, frustrated and in some cases disenchanted with the brand. Imagine a person making a purchase from the computer of a friend or family member. Odds are the owner of the computer will have very different requirements and interests to the person who made the purchase, yet following that one purchase they are then flooded with targeted advertising that was never meant for them.

A person could also be pestered with offers that while relevant might be undesirable. For example, they might have made a one off purchase that is related to their age, sex or weight. This doesn’t mean that they are interested in every product that claims to be the next miracle cure for wrinkles. This could then actually contribute to a negative relationship if the consumer associates the product with their own insecurities and begins to see the brand as an unhelpful reminder of a weight problem or the fact that they are growing older.

Offers could also be made to a customer that were once relevant, but are now out of date. A mother who once bought a bottle for her baby could be offered a discount on a pram two years later. Hardly helpful or relevant to that mother today.

So what can brands do to utilise the power of positive personalisation? Thinking about the following points might be a good place to start:

Personalisation requires a human touch and technology is no substitute. For example, when monitoring and evaluating a campaign you need someone to manually remove users from the database if they are not responding well to personalised marketing attempts. Automated systems can make this process much easier by highlighting the users that are not responding but it requires that human interaction to offer an alternative instead of just removing them.

Concentrate on analysing recent purchases made by a customer rather than examining data that could be well out of date. Does a customer who once bought dog food still buy it today? If not, do they really want offers on the latest chew toys or could these just serve as a painful reminder of a lost family pet?

Look at how often a customer purchases a certain type of product. Do they regularly buy aftershave but once bought perfume? This could have been a present for somebody and it is unlikely that the customer will want to hear about offers on other products that they don’t plan to buy all the time.

Think about the advantages that mobile can provide. In fact, I believe that mobility will be so important in the future that desktops will cease to be a focus at all. According to JiWire’s Mobile Audience Insights Report, more than 50% of respondents indicated that they wanted location-specific advertising or coupons. By using intelligent analysis, brands can target those who would be interested in their brand and who are in close proximity to one of their stores via mobile.

Analyse what can be done to help customers in their day to day life. Services like Google Now that know where a customer is, what they are doing and what device they are using are slowly proving themselves as invaluable for early adopters. For example, the ability to alert a customer early when the trains are delayed to ensure that they make a meeting on time is a killer feature.

Ask for feedback. Whether a customer rates a product or hates it, listen to them. The last thing a customer wants is constant reminders of a product they really disliked, which may even encourage public criticism. The only way to find out what a customer really wants is to ask them on a regular basis and to pay close attention to what they say.

Clearly, it is essential to use customer data in an intelligent way to create a positive user experience. It is not enough to leave targeted advertising and marketing to chance. Personalisation that makes customers feel valued requires a human touch. It is people, not machines alone, who should be analysing customer data and thinking about the most effective way to utilise their findings. It is also essential to engage directly and regularly with customers in order to obtain a level of constant feedback that can help to refine and improve the techniques behind positive personalisation. Believe me, you can’t ask for feedback frequently enough and those that do will have a much more positive relationship with their customers.