As part of the afternoon workshop and breakout sessions during the first day of the 2018 Customer Expo conference, Michael Testa, North American Retail & Loyalty Vertical Lead at FICO, and John Koltonowski, FICO’s Retail Practice Leader, led a presentation on the connection between personalization and deeper customer relationships. The presentation offered insights on a number of issues, but its main focus was on trust within the email marketing space.
Testa said, “The Oxford English Dictionary defines trust as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. When customers come back to you for a second time, it’s because you’ve earned their trust. You provided a service, and they rely on you.”
Koltonowski added, “One of the things we notice in this space is that it takes years to build trust, but only seconds to break, and forever to repair.”
Both FICO representatives expressed wariness about overcommunicating with the customer through email, which can damage trust. Testa said, “We are all inundated with emails. On average, everyone gets 121 emails a day. Think about that. If you spent one minute on every email, that’s two hours a day.”
He continued, “On top of this, that’s an average. My mother, for example, is retired and doesn’t work, which means she doesn’t get all those work emails. She’s probably getting 20 to 25, maybe 50 on a real busy day. For us who are in a work environment, we have all of our work emails, all of our personal emails, marketing emails—we’re getting more than the average. So, we’re getting inundated in this space.” This kind of email overload causes fatigue, which irritates customers. In turn, they lose trust in overcommunicating brands.
Koltonowski summed the problem up precisely. He said, “The digital technology that has given us the ability to market through a variety of channels has also given the customer complete control over what they see and hear and do.” Because of this control, customers have become impatient with irrelevant communication.
Testa added, “Your customer has options all the time. In your store, they can actually look up your competitor in real time. If you are a grocer, and your customer calls in and says, ‘You know what? I don’t want any more meat offers. I’m turning vegan.’ Then they open up their app, and they start getting meat offers, there’s a disconnect, and because customers are used to being in control, they don’t give you too many options. They’re quickly going to disassociate you.”
Improving personalization efforts to make relevant offers is the solution to this conundrum. Instead of casting an extremely wide marketing net, the FICO representatives argue, brands need to target customers based on data such as purchase history and demographics. Otherwise, they say, brands will get left behind, just as the old one-way push advertising strategy has become obsolete.

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