In everyday transactions, brands stand to gain much more than just profit. They can increase their understanding of the consumer through personalized engagement, jr1-(1).jpg but it’s a tough line to toe. As digital offers and advertisements flood the consumer, brands struggle to truly engage and remain relevant amidst the massive amount of content being pushed. 

Loyalty360 recognized this dilemma and talked with some of the top names in the loyalty marketing sector, ultimately asking two vendors with a plethora of experience and insight to shed light on the best practices to utilize for success.                                                                                    

Kobie Marketing’s J.R. Slubowski is Assistant Vice President of Strategic Consulting, and Keith Brody is Vice President of Marketing for Evolving Systems, and both worked to help brands understand how to stand out and remain relevant in a world of “sameness” via personalization and data.     


Being Personal Without Intruding

Both Slubowski and Brody offer similar advice when asked how financial brands can develop real-time personalization interactions without intruding on the customer. 

Slubowski suggests the key to establishing personalized interactions with customers is honesty. 
“[Be] transparent and honest about your data policy,” says Slubowski. “Include some explanation of what you intend to use customer data for, [and this] can eliminate the intrusive feeling that customers get when they interact with a brand.”

Further expanding on data discussion, he notes that Kobie has found that most consumers are willing to exchange their private data if a brand’s interactions are more relevant and personalized beyond transactions. Knowing this is something multiple brands have struggled to break, Slubowski highlights the areas to focus on to foster a deeper connection.

“[Look] at a holistic combination of transactional, behavioral, and emotional data,” he says. “In doing this, brands can create a long-lasting, trusting relationship with customers that nurtures an emotional connection.”

Brody sees data as an asset waiting to be fully realized.

“You must invest in enabling technology to manage and mine the data and then build the use cases,” he says. By utilizing real-time data via technology, Brody believes brands now have a golden opportunity to appeal to their customers.

However, he warns about the different attempts at engagement that he has seen.

“If I randomly offer you a loan — that’s not personalization, even if the offer is superficially personalized,” explains Brody. “If I know from mining, processing, and understanding my data that you’ve been searching for loans, and I make you an offer that corresponds with what you’ve been looking for, then I’ve offered you what you want when you want it.”

This technique is likely not intrusive, he says. Since data was used to prove the desire for the product/service, it is personalization and only serves to help the customer. 
Data is important to both Slubowski and Brody, who highlight how much it serves brands in providing irrefutable data and trends all about their customers. 


Maintaining Relevancy with Consumers

Slubowski and Kobie say the key to maintaining relevancy in financial brands’ communication lies in their ability to track customer interactions. In doing this, brands will be able to understand how customers are emotionally motivated and driven via simple segmentation approaches or advanced models. 

“What's important is to align the complexity with the return,” Slubowski says. “Make it as simple as it can be and as complex as it needs to be.”

His point is clear: regardless of the method you use, find out how customers are motivated, and you will become a mainstay in their minds. 

Brands unlock a valuable opportunity when they go beyond a transactional relationship to understand what motivates a customer, Slubowski says. They can do a number of things, such as design an effective value proposition, set a data-driven foundation for segmentation, create campaigns, and more. 

Programs with the most usage have thrived by forging connections with customers on an emotional level like never before, and as a result, Slubowski urges brands to push relationships deeper for the chance at success. 

Evolving System echoes the sentiment: “Personalization [is] driven by knowledge of customers, what they’re doing, what they want, when, etc.,” says Brody. “If you can answer those questions in real-time, then your communications will be relevant and more likely to be effective.” 

Brands need to invest in personalization, but how do they do this? By solving the real-time data issue, if there is one, and then building use cases that data indicates will lead to success in the context of customers’ needs. To put it succinctly, financial brands must have the data crunching and use case enabling technologies to ensure ongoing relevance. 

Personalization gives way to countless possibilities for brands, including relevancy, something often desired but never obtained. By heeding the advice provided by Slubowski and Brody, brands can start their journey to developing deeper relationships with customers, and in turn, being the company customers go to first. 


Best Practices for Personalization

Failure is the first step to success, says Slubowski and Kobie Marketing. 

“Trying to drive personalization at scale can seem daunting, but it’s important for brands to start somewhere and then test and learn through a deliberate learning agenda,” Slubowski says. “They can build the knowledge they need to get even better at personalization.”

Likening the process to a marathon, Slubowski emphasizes the long journey is strides ahead of what it used to be. In the past, financial brands have relied heavily on transactional and behavioral indicators to personalize messages. As the pandemic has deeply impacted every sector of business, financial institutions have also felt the effects. As a result, Slubowski says institutions must evolve their thinking around customer data and try to break the norms of the past. 

In fact, he offers a framework for curious brands to use as a basis for their improvements: Kobie’s Triple Play Data. This system provides brands with a holistic view of their customer, bringing together behavioral, transactional, and emotional data, allowing them to better understand customer motivation and improve their overall targeting and engagement efforts.

Similarly, Evolving System and Brody believe that brands must be willing to go outside of the traditional program box. To do this, Brody has several insightful suggestions. First, brands must process data effectively in real-time. From there, they must look to utilize multi-dimensional engagement programs, incorporating elements such as tiers, reward components, gamification, partnerships, and more. 

Another practice to consider is an emerging favorite, commonly referred to as “structured creativity.” The structure, according to Brody, is the data and informed guidance one can mine from it. The creativity is found in what you do with the information, such as transforming it from raw information to use cases designed to make the customer engage.


Data Is Key to Personalization Success

If one thing should be clear from Kobie’s and Evolving Systems' beliefs, it is that proper personalization is instrumental in crafting targeted messaging that effectively gets consumers’ attention. Therefore, data management must be a top priority, and from there, metrics and analytics need to be used to fully understand the customer. 

Above all else, Slubowski and Brody recognize that among brands’ variety of advertisements and messaging, you must think of the consumer as a person and not just a value in order to stand out. 
“Leveraging emotional data as an input is the best way to create the relationship a brand needs,” Slubowski says.

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