What does it take for a business to be successful in 2019? At Hyper we believe that seamless and enjoyable customer experiences delivered through personal interactions are critical.
Adobe and Forrester agree, stating that delivering a compelling customer experience is a vital factor for success. This is no surprise, given their 2018 survey revealed that “(customer) experience-led businesses have higher brand awareness, higher customer retention and higher customer satisfaction rates, resulting in a 1.9 increase in return on spend” Read the article here.
Relevant, rich and rewarding experiences are synonymous with personalisation; recognising people as individuals and using what you know about them to tailor each interaction to meet their needs and satisfy their desires.
Acknowledging the need for a great customer experience is one thing, delivering it is something else entirely.
Seeing business through the customer lens
In order to gain insight as to how businesses can deliver great experience through personalisation, we spoke to Helen Fennell and Vicky Smith of lens, “a customer consultancy” in Helen’s words. “That means we help drive customer-led change, which is essentially about working with clients to help them see their business from the customer perspective, the outside-in, their customer lens (hence our name) and connecting all different sources of data and insight to give a holistic picture that helps them to make better decisions.”
“We do that in three different ways. Firstly, customer journey mapping. Secondly, customer experience strategy, what do they want to be, what do they want to stand for? Thirdly, customer insight.”
In this interview we uncovered some key insights and themes that businesses need to consider as they look to deliver against their personalisation strategy.
- Why businesses need to personalise and why now
- How personalisation can mean different things across the customer journey
- The emotional role of personalisation in driving brand value
- Goal centric personalisation and the value it brings
- The importance of data in personalising experiences as we move towards automation
The importance of personalisation
Helen is quick to point out that personalisation isn’t a new thing. “If we boil it down, really why people want personalised experiences is because it links to self-esteem and human ego. And it’s increasingly expected from a customer point of view – and customers are more likely to consider switching brands if they don’t get personalised experience. It’s a hot topic for businesses for two reasons. The first being that from various studies there’s proof that it works. It has an impact on the things that businesses care about, such as building stronger customer relationships, NPS, loyalty and customer acquisition. Secondly, it’s becoming increasingly possible for brands to personalise the experience. As things move online, there’s more data collected from digital experiences, so businesses learn more about customers and can use that data better. Also, advancements in technology and the ability to better join up channels mean it’s becoming more and more possible to personalise offline too.”
How personalisation differs across the customer journey
The very definition of personalisation causes much conjecture among consumers and the businesses seeking to serve them, so how does Vicky encapsulate it? “From a customer perspective it’s understanding their needs, behaviours and what must happen for the experience to actually feel relevant to them. And we have to understand that’s subjective; its different things to different people. Brands need to consider how the requirement for personalisation changes across the different points in a customer’s journey, or even a life cycle. For example, where does the customer experience need to be personalised, and on the flip side, where might it not need to be?”
This last point appears particularly relevant, as Vicky continues, “there’s so much hype around personalisation, but it’s about thinking of those moments that really matter and investing in them rather than taking a blanket approach to personalise everything across the journey.”
The need to avoid personalisation for the sake of it is further reinforced as Vicky advocates making sure it’s appropriate for your brand. “There needs to be an element of what’s right for your business and delivering on the brand promise. For instance, with Virgin Holidays, once a customer books their holiday, they introduce a countdown timer to personalise the experience, building excitement at this key part of the journey That’s okay for Virgin Holidays because it plays on their playful brand essence, but it might not be appropriate for all travel brands.”
Personalisation strategy is key across all aspects of the customer journey:
Personalisation to connect on an emotional level
Although personalisation is already at play in many businesses, we as consumers won’t always be aware of it. Drawing the distinction between implicit and explicit personalisation can therefore be helpful.
As Helen explains, “With implicit personalisation, where say a business is tailoring the online shopping experience and putting particular products in front of a customer because of their preferences and past behaviour, the customer doesn’t necessarily know that’s for them as an individual and it therefore doesn’t necessarily feel personalised. It might be personalised, but it doesn’t necessarily feel it. When the personalisation is more explicit, that’s where we see more of an emotional connection with the brand. The benefit of that on an emotional level is, I’m a person, not a number.””
Helen elaborates, “We’ve done a lot of work to unpick personalisation as a customer experience principle or pillar; something that’s driving satisfaction. And it always comes back to customers saying, “well, actually that made me feel really valued. It made me feel like a person. I’m not just a statistic, they care about me, they want my custom”. Which plays back into ego and self-esteem, which is what this is all rooted in. There’s that real emotional level, but on a functional level as well, it’s about relevance and saving people time. If you’re putting the right things in front of me, I don’t have to shop around as much, I don’t have to do as much of my own research, etc. There are functional and emotional benefits to personalisation.”
Understand customer goals to personalise the experience
Journey mapping has emerged as a key tool for brands to understand consumer behaviour and design compelling experiences, so what part does Helen feel it plays in personalisation?
“Firstly, a customer journey should be defined by a customer goal, and to be able to personalise the experience, first we need to know what goal the customer is trying to achieve. Secondly, how they go about trying to achieve it, so what their journey looks like and why. Does personalisation help them to achieve their goal in some way, and where in the journey does that need to happen? Once you understand what that journey looks like it should then become the framework for data collection and insight. Also, a framework to bring together different areas of the organisation, looking horizontally rather than vertically across that experience. If we really want to personalise all the different bits of a business we’ve got to be tied up and thinking about the experience in the right way, thinking about one customer throughout the experience not the customer in silos / ‘my part’ of the experience.”
Vicky has certainly seen a shift in the way businesses approach journey mapping. “It’s interesting some digital teams have started to reorganise themselves in terms of squads (cross-functional teams) across the customer journey. That’s useful because they’re all working around a common view of what that customer journey is. What tends to happen is that they segment themselves, so it might be browse, checkout, purchase, and then post purchase. And, whilst working in this way has lots of positives, businesses must take care not to create new silos within a customer journey.”
Personalisation for the masses
Companies often cited as personalisation exemplars, such as Amazon and Netflix, share the characteristic of being large corporations. To what extent do lens feel smaller companies compete on personalisation?
Helen notes, “If we assume, they’re smaller because they’re newer and they’re less established, the Challenger brands, they’re in a stronger position in some respects because they’ve often been built from a genuine need and customer problem in the first place. They’re smaller so they are closer to their customers, they can be more agile in their response to customer needs, and they can deliver on their promises around the human element of their experience. However, there’s a challenge in that as they scale up, how do they retain the customer closeness that can differentiate them versus those larger corporations?”
“In terms of how they compete, it’s first looking at what data they’re collecting, where they’re collecting it and how they’re collecting it. A customer journey approach can really help them with that. They won’t have as much data as more established companies, so they’re starting from a better place and we can put those metrics in place and make sure they’re collecting the right data at the right points.”
“Then, it’s having a resource plan, what do they do with that data once they’ve got it, how do they use it. And then thirdly, the smaller companies and the challenger brands will be doing some things in a manual way – they need to think about investing in automation as they grow, balancing that automation against retaining that human, personal touch that they are known for”.
Personalisation will become the norm
As personalisation starts to go mainstream, forward thinking companies and agencies are starting to consider how it will develop over the coming years. Vicky shared her view on where it’s heading. “A few years ago, personalisation was about tactical things such as recommendation engines and More about specific physical things that customers would see on a webpage, for example. Now businesses recognise that it needs to be more based on customer needs and behaviours and that personalisation needs to be embedded into the customer experience. Customers may not talk as explicitly about personalised experiences in the future because it’ll become the new normal.”
With thanks to Helen and Vicky for their time. What became clear to us during our discussion, was the importance of creating personal experiences across the customer journey to drive brand loyalty and retention. Connecting with customers on an emotional level can be achieved by leveraging data and research to understand their motives at each stage and respond to their needs accordingly.
If you want to find out more about how Hyper can help you leverage data and analytics to enhance the customer journey and deliver personal connections with your customers, click below to get in touch.
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