The Next Evolution of Personalization

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Eric Tobias, VP of Web products, ExactTarget
Eric Tobias, VP of Web products, ExactTarget

Retailers are leading the way in defining the next generation of customer experience with rich personalization, delivering more accurate and relevant customer communications and marketing. Recently, leaders across all industries have begun adapting proven retail best practices to market financial services, healthcare, travel and hospitality, and more. These companies are incorporating retail fundamentals, like optimizing customer interactions, building brand loyalty, and creating a unique customer profile to increase engagement and drive sales.

Today, marketers are taking personalization one step further to deliver one-to-one communications to customers based on real-time behavior, interests, preferences, and customer data. The technology that supports one-to-one marketing is not only here, it's pervasive.

Creating these personalized experiences throughout the marketing lifecycle is no longer limited by the demographics and purchase histories that drive generic, rules-based recommendations. Real-time data, advanced predicative analytics, and consumer connectivity have made it possible to bring new relevance to marketing.

In the past marketers had to apply broad macro-categories to customers, which weren't entirely accurate, to create customer segments for campaigns. Now, the explosive growth of customer interaction data from myriad of channels, sophisticated analytics, and a healthy dose of creativity has converged to make one-to-one marketing a reality. Any marketer, from any size organization, can create highly customized, relevant experiences.

No longer tied to if-then rules to determine what to promote to a customer, marketers can now define customers by thousands of attributes with fully automated analysis of every click and interaction. Based on observation and conversations with customers, brands can compile customer profiles with unique identifiers that can guide content, offers, interactions, and recommendations across every department of the brand.

Customer profiles like these are created using advanced, high-powered analytics. Each profile becomes richer as data is collected in real time from every interaction the customer has with the brand, adding as it learns each customer's wants, needs, and preferences.

Here are a couple ways your brand can use customer profiles:

  • Emulate a conversation with a product expert by asking a set of questions that reveal valuable insights for future marketing and immediate use in the form of personalized recommendations
  • Personalize your product recommendations by suggesting similar or complementary products in real-time based on observed behavior, previously purchased items, and more

Still want more? Here's an example of how to execute one-to-one marketing in your business:

Let's say I'm on a shoe website. My personal profile indicates that I have an affinity toward a particular men's shoe brand; I've purchased it in the past, and now I'm looking at similar brands and styles. The site will automatically recommend shoes that best fit my preferences, based on what I've purchased and what I'm looking at now. That's pretty standard.

Here's where the power of real time comes in. During the same shopping session, I browse away from men's shoes to women's shoes, shopping for my wife. With just a few products viewed, the site recognizes an affinity change and offers a quick three-question, guided selling experience to uncover even more of my interests. The customer intelligence engine running behind the site has gathered enough data and offers me relevant recommendations. I choose a pair of shoes for my wife and proceed to the checkout page.

Before I check out, the site's customer intelligence engine reminds me of my original pursuit. “Hey Eric,” it says, “you were looking at these men's shoes a few minutes ago. Should we add a size 10 in that style to your cart before you check out?” Using a combination of data, in real time, the customer intelligence engine was able to shift shopping gears as quickly as I did. 

When customers have this level of relevancy with a brand, they will not forget. Brands that deliver on this opportunity will be top of mind for future purchases, customers will tell friends about the experience, and chances are their engagement will continue to increase over time. One-to-one marketing applies to all industries, and is quickly becoming an expectation of customers in their interactions with brands on a daily basis. Highly personalized experiences keep customers loyal, engaged, and away from the competition.

Eric Tobias, VP of Web products, ExactTarget

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