The “honor system” for customer personalization

Making omnichannel personalization a reality creates a new set of challenges for marketing leaders, thanks to the proliferation of customer touchpoints and increased customer expectations. PwC and Forrester Research recently found that 79% of marketers consider customer personalization very important to meeting business goals. Yet only 38% think they have the capabilities in place to deliver real-time offers and campaigns across all touchpoints.

Our own research provides some additional insight into why this gap exists. In the fall of 2015, Mindtree surveyed 900 buyers from the retail and consumer goods, travel and hospitality, media and entertainment, and banking and insurance industries. We also surveyed 6,000 consumers using products or services from the above industries. While 58% of company decision makers identified themselves as pioneers in digital, less than a third confirmed that their organizations are investing in personalization to improve the online purchasing experience.

In her post on CMO.com, Andrea Fishman stresses that true personalization hinges on one important factor: context. She writes:

Context is a combination of what customers have done, where they’ve done it, and with whom they have done it. Triangulating the actions, locations and relationships of customers can provide marketers with the customized information they need to craft truly targeted messages and establish meaningful customer connections.

We agree that understanding context is vital to enabling one-to-one marketing. Today’s consumers are willing to share contact details, information about their purchase history, their preferences and even their precise location—all in exchange for a more rewarding and convenient shopping experience.

At Mindtree, we talk about two cornerstones to personalization: relevance and trust. Relevance is the foundation of successful one-to-one digital marketing. To stay relevant, sellers need to embed themselves in the ongoing physical and digital lives of consumers and earn the right to be part of a continuous stream of engagement. This includes using data from past interactions with customers to glean insights about their interests and preferences.

Trust is also essential. Consumers expect companies to be good data stewards. That means being transparent about how customer data is used, and allowing more consumer control over what data is used for what purpose. You must also protect customer data like the precious resource it is. By following strong data security and privacy policies, you enable customers to be comfortable doing business with you for the long term. These policies can also prevent unpleasant surprises, such as consumers receiving push notifications from your shopping app in one of your stores, even though they did not opt in to such offers.

As Fishman notes, marketers face the unique challenge of extending helpful, one-to-one communication without being perceived as intrusive, even “creepy.” She writes:

Using too much customer information or information a customer doesn’t expect a company to have can create a very off-putting experience. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents say managing customer privacy concerns is a challenge to achieving personalization success.

When done right, personalization provides a huge opportunity for marketers. Research from HubSpot* found that personalized calls to action result in a 42% higher conversion rate. Companies that use automated product recommendations see a higher average order value, and those that provide personalization across multiple channels have increased sales by more than 6%. Understanding context is essential in delivering the kinds of experiences consumers expect. In addition, marketers need to think about relevance and trust as the foundation for any successful, scalable personalization initiative.

Learn more about the Mindtree approach to personalization by downloading our e-book Get Personal to Make Digital Real.

* “Personalized Calls-to-Action Convert 42% Better,” HubSpot (2013): http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/personalized-calls-to-action-convert-better-data

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