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A Guide to Personalization: Tips Shared by Industry Experts and Leaders

“The cult of the individual.” I first came across this phrase while reading about Cold War Russia. However, whether we consider it an irony or not, the term perfectly explains the present-day business world, which is driven by the concept of personalization. Already back in 2006, Time Magazine named “You” as its Person of The Year; today, personalization has become one of the key factors to achieve success in the marketing sphere.

Technological advancement, access to critical data, and analytical capabilities allow marketers to create more personal and human experiences. The exciting part is that these experiences are no longer caged within the walls of moments, channels, or buying stages; rather, brands harness each factor to boost the offerings and improve their customer experience at every level. The credit perhaps goes to the digitization of physical spaces, empathic approach towards consumer-behaviors, and consideration of an ecosystem. Today, we see brands moving toward hyper-personalization.

Thanks to new-age personalization leaders, some businesses are doing an excellent job with their personalization strategies. That’s what we are going to follow today in this article. Let’s hear out the best tips shared by industry experts and leaders at CXBuzz that can help businesses with their personalization strategies:

Lessons Learned from First-Hand Experience

When I was in my teens, my mother always taught me two things. First, if something is fashionable, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will suit you. Second, before purchasing anything, ask yourself: Why do you want to spend your money on that? Honestly, back then, these pieces of advice seemed unsolicited; but today, her words really make sense to me.

Businesses also need to follow some basic life lessons when it comes to personalization. At CXBuzz, I got to learn that from Colm O’shea, Global Strategy Advisor & Consultant at Forrester, and Nick Bush, Director Centre for Management Consulting, Excellence.

While O’shea reminds us that buzzwords have not been always followed:

“Be clear in what your main aims are as regards personalization and why you are embarking on a personalization program. Reacting to personalization as a buzzword that should be added to your overall CX strategy is not the approach to take. A good way to start personalization is to focus on customer journeys and to match personas against these journeys with three or so variations for each case. Monitor the tweaks you make as part of the personalization process rather than implement them all at once. The personalization testing and fine-tuning should be measured over a given period of time, be it weeks or a few months.”

Bush explained the significance of investing wisely in personalization by understanding how much of it your business needs:

My starting point is: “Why do you need a personalization strategy?” It’s still possible to run a very simple operating model where you don’t need to invest in personalization. There’s nothing wrong with a “one size fits all” approach if – and this is critical – you have a sufficiently large target market for whom that’s going to work.

I think that, now that it’s become easier to personalize the experience, companies will head off down that road without asking that fundamental question. However, let’s assume that you do need to personalize and again it comes down to working out what your target market actually wants – I’d express it as what outcomes they are seeking from your company (or as Clayton Christensen puts it, the job to be done for the customer).

To make it more relatable, Bush shares a personal example:

“Let’s take banking as an example: I have an account with one of the newer online banks that I use for low-cost purchases that pre-pandemic I would have mainly done in cash. From my point of view, I don’t need a personalized service but the bank will be able to harvest data from my and other customers’ transactions that will tell them about spending behavior which could enable them to develop targeted offers. They haven’t targeted me with any so far and I think it may be a while before we see that becoming commonplace.

The Next Step: Lending a Human Touch

Once you understand that personalization suits your business, you next need to understand the factors that primarily govern the personalization aspects. Most of the time, we assume it is just technology churning the wheels. However, it is the human traits that tell you how to offer an enhanced customer experience. Technology is merely a tool that allows us to leverage our understanding of human behaviors and implement them for the betterment of the business. To do that, businesses must be transparent and open with their customers, shares Rick Adams, Founder & CEO, Practical CSM.

Get your customers involved in your design and development processes as much as you can and as early on in the processes as you can. Open up what you are doing, tell the world what you are up to, and invite comments, criticisms, and suggestions. Turn product development into a public-facing activity – even an “entertainment” if possible – and as much as possible provide access for consumers to try out your new ideas and provide their feedback as to what they like and what they don’t like as early on in the development cycle as possible.

By doing the above, you will begin to understand individual consumer needs and desires more deeply. This should give you more start points for thinking about personalization options. Essentially I guess what I am saying is not to just provide personalization options because it “sounds good.” Instead, go to the data you have been collecting and find real instances where different customers ask for different things with legitimate reasons behind those different requirements and build your personalization strategy around these things.

A similar thought process is shared by Somraj Choudhary, Partner, Retail and Distribution at Wipro Ltd.

Understand your customer and empathize with them if you want to improve your personalization strategy. While technology is an important part of the journey, it often treats people as a uniform entity. It is necessary to go into creating some micro-experiences (point in time experiences) to understand their needs. Personalization strategies are getting into more specific targeting based on emotional state, time of day or year, and environmental factors like a place/ company. In a way, companies do a much better job of personalization when they are small and have limited technology. As they become larger, they look more at segments and micro-segments and start calling it personalization.

But thats not all from Choudhary. Along with empathy, marketing strategy and CX strategy also need to be aligned to get the best out for personalization strategy.

It is also important to have a consistent and up-to-date marketing strategy that defines clear outcomes. Personalization strategy should be aligned to the overall marketing strategy and KPIs to have a multiplier effect.

Last but not the least, invest in the right set of technology platforms and solutions. Take a long-term view of your CX strategy as you prioritize your investments.

In Conclusion

There was a time when emotions had no place in the corporate world, and all the decisions taken depended totally on the monetary and repo returns. Luckily, that has changed.

Just like our personal lives, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but an act of business maturity. Keeping human traits above the materialistic gains has become the new success mantra and last but not least, rather than depending upon the technology, we are leveraging it for boosting the customer and employee experience. If that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what else will be. 

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below!

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