Unifying the Customer Experience with Data-driven Personalization

This past Tuesday, we hosted a webinar with one of our favorite analysts at Forrester, Brendan Witcher. The webinar, “Unifying the Customer Experience with Data-driven Personalization,” explored how retailers can unify the customer experience using data and insights to ensure each interaction is contextually relevant to each individual customer. We’ll be making the slides and a full recording of the webinar available in the coming week, but given the high attendance and overwhelmingly positive response, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of the key points discussed.

We’re Living in the “Age of the Customer”

Today’s empowered customers expect consistent, personal, high-value experiences with your brand – regardless of where these interactions occur. Customers don’t care if creating these experiences is hard or requires a complex, multi-disciplined approach from your business. They want immediate value and will find it somewhere else if you can’t provide it. And their expectations for what constitutes a great customer experience increase with each positive experience they have. Brendan provided some pretty compelling statistics to help illustrate the importance of experience among today’s shoppers:

  • 68% of shoppers won’t return if the brand’s site doesn’t provide a satisfactory experience
  • 77% of of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.
  • 73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use their information to make experiences more efficient

The Individualization Imperative: Evolving basic segmentation and personalization

Retail and eCommerce brands have recognized their customers rising expectations and have made personalization a top business imperative. However, many are only scratching the surface – relying on rules-based or segmentation models in attempt to make shopping experiences more relevant for broad groups of customers that may appear similar on the surface. However, leading retailers are recognizing that this basic segmentation approach is creating an ever-widening gap between them and their customers. Creating an averaged customer journey targeting overly broad segments actually creates no one’s journey. To truly personalize the experience you need to speak to your customers at an individual level. This individualization is only accomplished by engaging each of your customers as a segment of one, in real-time.

“Personalization based on segmentation provides the wrong experience for most of your customers” – Brendan Witcher, Principal Analyst, Forrester

Brendan advised today’s eCommerce leaders that they must help their organizations prepare for the next evolution of personalization, which will rely more on data-driven individualization rather than models of segmentation. He also provided the following graphic which nicely encapsulates how personalization is evolving into individualization.

The evolving definition of ecommerce personalization. Hint: it's moving toward individualization.

Understand Your Data; Know Your Customer

Brands can only truly create individual experience for the customers they recognize. Fortunately, with consumers’ expanding digital footprint, an abundance of data is now available to brands. The challenge lies in the ability of these brands to use this data in a way that improves the overall customer experience while also respecting their personal boundaries and avoiding the dreaded “creep factor.” Witcher cautions brands to “be overt with the collection of customer data, but covert about communicating what you know about them. The best experiences should feel natural and non-intrusive to the customer; taking into account everything you know about them.

Reflektion CMO, Kurt Heinemann echoed this sentiment, noting how data is the key to unifying customer engagement. Unifying customer data at a segment or averaged level is of no use to someone looking to engage customers individually. In order to accomplish this, brands need a centralized database, with data that is real-time, responsive and always available. They also require a smart combination of predictive analytics and strategic controls to effectively unify engagement across every relevant customer touch point. Admittedly, this is no small feat. Every brand and every customer is unique – the key is to start early, learn often and constantly stay ahead of your competitors.

Ultimately, the question isn’t when is your space going to have a great unified customer experience, it’s who is going to execute it first. Because once your customer experiences it first hand, it will set the bar for them in all future brand interactions. Are you ready?

Matt Helmke

Matt is the senior director of communications and content at Reflektion. He’s led global communications, content and brand strategy programs for high-profile, culture-shifting Fortune 500 business divisions, as well as innovative, early-stage startups. The common thread running through his career is a passion for disruptive technologies focused on improving and redefining end-user experiences. Outside of technology, his passions include his family, music, bourbon, craft beers, fishing and swimming… but not all at once.