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89 Degrees has been enabling customer engagement since 1996, providing marketers with the strategic insights and critical technical services to drive higher customer acquisition, loyalty, and advocacy.
Toby Hawkes, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing Services and Rob Bousaleh, VP of Loyalty and CJM Solutions, sat down with Loyalty360 to discuss personalization as it relates to the market today.
How does 89 Degrees view personalization from an engagement standpoint?
We’re all familiar with the end goal of personalization – providing customers with the product/ service that is right for them. In the world of marketing, personalization often boils down to providing a customer or prospect with the right information, in the right channel at the right time.
In recent years there’s been an acceleration of brands and retailers building the capability to move their customer’s experience from generic, non-personalized engagements to a more personalized customer journey. By considering this as a “stages of excellence” or maturity model we look to help marketers move their engagement strategies from “1 to many” to “1 to few” and ultimately, “1 to 1” where this is preferable, feasible, and importantly, viable.
This is obviously a very exciting time for us as we get to utilize new technologies and test new approaches in order to move the needle for businesses and customers alike. And when we can design and implement customer journeys with a high degree of personalization, without the customer being aware we’re doing it, then we’ve achieved the success we expect from ourselves.
What are you hearing from clients/brands the most in terms of personalization?
The short answer is “Help!”
What we run into time and time again are clients who know they need to do a better job of delivering personalized customer experiences, but simply don’t have a framework for how to get it done. They want to know the nuts and bolts of doing it right. Who are the correct technology partners? How do they build out their marketing ecosystem to do it effectively? How do they collect, organize, manage, and use all of their customer data? What is a DMP? Where do I start? Where do I stop? It’s a classic drinking from a firehose scenario; lots of questions and no clear pathway to achievable, meaningful results.
When just starting the discovery process of working with a new client, we’ll bring the focus back to where the client is currently in terms of their capabilities and then identify the quick wins where they can make – and demonstrate - progress. We find that clients appreciate working with an experienced partner who can confidently apply the right approach to clarifying strategy – and turning that into executable plans.
Is any industry/brand immune to personalization these days?
Immune, no. Are some farther out front than others? Absolutely. But as customer expectations rise and take root with brands in one industry, those expectations will trickle into other aspects of their life, eventually impacting brands that haven’t prepared. Wherever there is competition, there will be motivation to deliver better customer experiences. Technology and the advances to come will continue to make it easier for organizations of all types to try new personalization strategies.
What’s a common challenge faced by all companies looking to improve personalization?
All organizations have their own unique challenges, but we’ve never come across a company that couldn’t do more with their customer-related data. You’ll notice that we use the phrase “customer-related” deliberately.
Most organizations are now doing a very good job of capturing customer data, i.e. name, address, demographics, transactions, online activity, and sentiment data, but then struggle with incorporating contextual and content data. Understanding customer needs and desires in a particular place and point in time and aligning that with an appropriate response is where real personalization becomes possible. Organizations frequently overlook the effort needed manage a company’s content data; curating the right blend of messages, products, and services requires that this data is available, accessible, accurate and current.
Putting all of this data to effective use, where data enrichment and in-market indicators are baked into their processes, is where we can significantly improve capabilities. We help provide that clear line-of-sight when it comes to customer lifecycle stages and interests, where the data can better inform and direct key points of engagement with personalized communications that pleasantly influence the customer journey. That’s where the action is for us, where we can integrate all of that data into a cohesive ecosystem, generating customer insights that are usable and free-flowing across the entire organization.
What are some of the keys to effective personalization in 2018?
For us it’s no different than what we saw in 2016 or 2017. It’s about making progress; where you can use more of your data to be more timely and relevant at critical moments.
Timeliness is really becoming more important and mostly what everyone expects these days. While you have the need for more effective real-time engagements – the kind where we can make use of beacons and mobile notifications for real-time, location based communications – you still need to be smart about future engagements. For example, recognizing the frequency of customer purchases, in addition to their preferred products and services, is going to dictate the best time to send follow up communications. Sending a coupon encouraging a repeat purchase to a customer a day after they just bought an item with a 12 month repeat cycle is probably not a good plan!
It’s also critical to never forget this is the customer’s data. This means in addition to maintaining good data security, we’re going to be respectful to the customer through our relevance to their needs and interests as well as our appropriate level of communication. These are cornerstones for every new project we initiate.
Where do you see technology taking personalization in the next five to ten years?
Evolving technology will enable marketers to focus more on delivering hyper-personalized experiences, not only through standard channels (e.g. email, mobile notifications), but with all interactions, from voice-activated virtual assistants to a private chef on the floor at your local Whole Foods who knows you like sushi while the next shopper prefers chips and salsa.
Again, all very exciting, but also one of those things that causes uncertainty, where marketers start asking where to stop. So, while the technology will improve and make some things easier, better, and cheaper, we’ll still be thinking about where we can add real value and the best way to achieve it. Just because you can personalize cool experiences for 20 million customers doesn’t mean there’s profit to be had in doing so.
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