Why Customer Context Matters for Marketers

A recent Forrester report on “The Power of Customer Context” suggests that when every retailer plans their marketing activities the same way (message, segment, deploy, measure), it’s difficult to develop a true competitive advantage.

So what can retailers do to be competitive? Instead of being locked into a generic cycle of targeting campaigns to existing segments, Forrester says that brands should seek to incorporate individual context into their marketing and personalization efforts.

Forrester classifies two types of marketing activities: 1) Before Context (e.g. before a shopper is identified); and 2) After Context (e.g. when retailers can respond to the individual’s context). Let’s take a closer look at how retailers can positively impact the customer experience by adding context:

Marketers Build Campaigns
A campaign focus limits how and when customers are treated differently on your site, with a predetermined experience.
Marketers Encourage Interactions
Interactions can adapt to a customer’s context by changing the site layout, offers, or content to maximize the opportunity for that individual.
Marketers Select Targets
Targets are selected by the marketer, determining which message will resonate the most with a customer group.
Marketers Engage Customers
Signals like device, location or behavior help retailers present the most engaging content that matches the customer’s unique intent.
Marketers Identify Segments
Segments treat large groups of customers exactly the same, leading to generic or introductory experience.
Marketers Recognize Customers
Analyzing an individual customer’s data collectively or in-session improves the retailer’s ability to personalize the experience.
Marketers Create Relevant Messages
Relevance is determined at the segment level, putting the common interest of many ahead of individual tastes.
Marketers Add Contextually Utility
Relevancy is important, but the addition of context (like location) further tailors the message and improves engagement.
Marketers Facilitate Transactions
Driving transactions or increasing conversion rate is the main focus, not extending the customer relationship.
Marketers Create Value Exchanges
A value exchange makes the customer feel connected to the retailer, and in turn more responsive to messages or content.


Ecommerce has entered an age of digital engagement, where it’s no longer just about pushing content, but about responding to the information available in real-time. Forrester calls this the “interaction cycle”, where every customer engagement is instantly learned from, with the intelligence feeding in the next shopper engagement. In order to shift from traditional broadcast messaging to large audiences, where engagement is delayed or immeasurable, towards unique customers and engagement, brands need to recognize and analyze individuals at the exact moment of interaction. Not only does this strengthen the connection to the individual customer, it also places the emphasis on context to identify real-time intent, anticipate interest, and proactively present the best possible experience that deliver optimal value in the moment.

Hillary Wilmoth

Hillary Wilmoth is the senior product marketing manager at Reflektion. Having worked in merchandising, consumer products, publishing, analytics and technology over the past 9 years, you might think she has ADD; but each marketing role was shopper-focused and research-driven. Hillary is a native of Baltimore, and, no, it’s not exactly like The Wire.