First of a two-part series

Sitting on a fence is a pleasant way to spend the day. But it’s no way to impress your customers — at least in terms of your marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, while many organizations seem to understand the value of personalized customer experience, far fewer actually engage in it in a consistent, measurable and scalable way.

Do I Really Need to Embrace Personalization?

The short answer: Yes.

Personalization, used effectively, helps keep your customers and attract new ones. As Forrester recently noted, “consumers expect brands to leverage the data they exchange to deliver better experiences.”

Personalization can cut acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 15 to 20 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by as much as 30 percent.

Personalization Is a Business Imperative

According to customer experience advisory firm Watermark Consulting, public companies that deliver exceptional customer experience significantly outperform the S&P 500 stock index. Conversely, companies rated as “customer experience laggards” significantly trail the market in terms of stock performance.

In a report late last year, analysts at Gartner concluded personalization is now mainstream marketing technology. It’s maturing rapidly “as marketers look to create that one-to-one opportunity while balancing consumer concerns about privacy and security.”

Personalization has morphed from a novelty to a business imperative. Forrester now describes it as a high-priority tech investment.

Digitally Distracted?

Customers today want need to feel understood, valued and connected. That’s the currency by which you’ll win their trust, increase their engagement and, ultimately, get a chance to learn more about them as they engage with your brand.

You might be thinking, “but I don’t work for a company that competes with ‘high-touch’ brands in industries like retail, transportation, or hospitality.”

But even B2B manufacturing customers do business with the Amazons and Kimptons of the world in their leisure time. These and other hyper-engagement-oriented companies have pushed the bar up high and effectively changed consumer expectations, in general.

8-Seconds and Counting

cat looking at a goldfish

Personalized content helps you engage your customers.

Research by psychologist Dianne Dukette and physician David Cornish suggests the continuous attention span of the average adult may be as short as 8 seconds.

Whether or not that’s shorter than the attention span Microsoft famously attributed to a goldfish is open to debate. But the point is that, as marketers, we need to accept some important realities

  • People are busy
  • They’re easily distracted
  • Your company is always competing against lots of other brands – even “non-competitive” ones – because you’re vying for customers’ limited time and attention

Do Something

If you’re wondering if your organization is falling further behind the competition even in the short time it takes to read this article, relax. I’ll give you a bit of good news. Most companies, including some bigger brands in the B2C space, are still relatively unsophisticated in their strategies around technology-enabled personalization.

A recent study from IBM shows how current personalization efforts are lagging. According to the IBM 2017 Customer Experience Index (CEI) Study:

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed only provide generic marketing messages; 70 percent of respondents with a loyalty program don’t let the customer choose their preferred reward and 88 percent don’t provide online functionality for comparing products side-by-side. Surprisingly, 61 percent of brands don’t offer online chat options for customer service.

Customers Want Personalization

IBM found most customers want a more rewarding, personalized shopping experience.

However, 70 percent of CEI brands limit their customers’ abilities to manage personal data. Similarly, personalized recommendations could help boost customer conversion and spend, but just 17 percent of brands leverage customer preference data when making recommendations. Fifty-four percent only offer recommendations based on previous purchase history or other shoppers’ behavior. Twenty-six percent offer no personal recommendations at all.

While it may never be realistic for your company to match the level of personalized engagement Amazon serves up to its customers, you should still do something now to improve how you connect with target audiences to drive business key performance indicators (KPIs) and deliver trackable, predictable return-on-investment (ROI).

Remember, every time you miss an opportunity to engage a potential customer, you open the door for someone else, quite possibly a competitor, to grab your customers’ attention. Don’t let that happen.

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