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Personalisation: getting to the consumer's heart

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."  Nelson Mandela These wise words set the tone of this blog article: Personalising the way to a consumer’s heart.

Personalisation – a hot topic

Personalisation has become a very trendy topic, especially in retail. Personalisation technologies have been developed that allows brands to try and differentiate the experience the consumer has on their websites. And differentiation is so important, especially in the UK retail climate.

Economic and Technological influences mean that it’s never been cheaper or easier to become a retailer (albeit online), or to create products or services to sell, either direct to the consumer or through these myriad retailers. This has led to the abundant supply in products and services and places that retail them.

From the consumer’s perspective it’s never been easier to go shopping. Smart devices facilitate this, anytime, anywhere. And as a nation we’re clearly in love with the web as we have highest proportion of internet users among G20 member states.

But what this means is that it’s never been harder for the consumer to choose what to buy and who to buy it from, given all this choice

That’s why differentiation is as important as ever. And Personalisation provides brands the opportunity to differentiate by providing a highly relevant consumer experience where other brands don’t.

How are brands approaching personalisation?

There are lots of examples of how brands approach personalisation.

MyMuesli.com allows consumers to create and order a custom blend of muesli online.  Here’s a company that allows the consumer to customise the product they buy.

My Moët allows a consumer to personalise their Imperial Moët bottle of champagne by adding a custom message created in Swarovski crystals. Here the packaging of the product becomes personalised.

At John Lewis you can buy online and choose to collect in your local Waitrose or Collect + outlet. Tesco has also been trialling click and collect in local libraries, sports centres and schools. Here we can see how consumer are able to personalise their pick-up.

Stylit, a fashion curator, provides consumers with personalised outfits based on consumer preferences and on-going data they gather about how you rate each outfit.

All these examples illustrate how brands are fighting for the consumer’s attention; keeping them engaged on their sites longer to increase the likelihood of a conversion. They are doing that by personalising the interaction they have with the consumer immediately before the conversion takes place.

Emerging technologies enable companies to engage with consumers and personalise pre-conversion interactions. For some businesses, this approach can be enough to differentiate themselves.

Personalising the way to the consumer's heart

We’d argue that this brands need to take personalisation a step further in order to truly differentiate, and get to a consumer’s heart.

Brands need to consider how to personalise each interaction with consumers at each touchpoint along the consumer journey.

So from the moment a consumer identifies that they need to buy something and moves into research mode, the interactions that occur at this point should be personalised. Then, when once the consumer knows what they're going to buy, how personal is that buying experience itself? This shouldn't just apply to the pre-sale experience, but the after sale experience too. All the possible interactions between the consumer and their purchased brand thereafter should also be personalised. No matter what the channel is, the aim should be to build a personal relationship with the consumer, which ensures the brand is the only trusted solution, when the consumer’s purchase need arises next.

Getting this right is hard, but if a brand can do it, it creates an enriched personalised experience, which has the ability to drive a significant point of difference vs. the competition.

How can brands personalise their way to the consumer's heart?

Here are some considerations:

The vision for Personalisation

The vision shouldn’t just be a mission statement, but a thoroughly thought through depiction of the consumer experience across all touch points. It is doesn't contain the right level of detail, the strategic plan for achieving the vision (see second point below) can be too conceptual or not really exist. This can then lead to the ‘knee-jerk’ procurement of technologies without consideration for how well they support the vision in its entirety.

When it comes to creating the vision, businesses also need to consider what each communication channel enables them to do and prevents them from doing, when communicating personally with consumers. Brands may not know how important individual consumers are who talk with them on social channels. But this doesn't mean that it's OK to use social media in an anti-social way; broadcasting offers and brand info in a robotic manner.

Translating the vision into a strategic plan

The plan needs to recognise the milestones to reach along the way and acknowledge the appropriate enablers required to reach those milestones. For example:

  • What data about the consumer is needed at what point to make the experience personal?
  • What Technology is needed to facilitate both the capture of data and the delivery of the experience itself?
  • What People and Processes are needed to deliver the plan and ensure the consumer experience is joined up?

Data collection and usage

It can be hard to get the necessary data at the right time, in the right place to deliver a message that’s personal to the audience receiving it. How often do businesses get your personal needs, desires, title or name correct when they contact you? Probably not that often!

Collecting data is one thing, but knowing what to do with it is a different matter. Getting the right parameters in place, which govern the analytical approach is key. For example, selecting too short a time period for analysis may not provide enough information needed to understand the consumer. But too long a period might hide consumer insights that get smoothed out.

Business Alignment

Aligning the business around the initiative is crucial to ensure the entire organisation understands it, supports it and becomes more consumer-centric and -empathetic in the way they operate? Setting up the right team structure to deliver personalisation is therefore very important.

 

So if you can find the right way to have relevant meaningful dialogue with consumers, you'll get to their hearts. If only there was a Nelson Mandela in all our Marketing departments!