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Too often, customers are being inundated with messages from the companies they do business with. Marketing messaging was anticipated to increase 40% last year, and there are no signs of slowing down. But too often we’re seeing quantity take precedence over quality, and that’s not sustainable. In today’s environment, less than more.
Customers want information that’s relevant to them and that’s customized for their unique needs even as those rapidly change from day to day. Think about how Netflix provides recommendations of what to watch next based on what you’ve already viewed or the way Amazon provides suggested items to buy based on your prior searches and purchases. Their algorithms are continuously learning and serving up new recommendations based on your behaviors — not just shoving random information at you. These are forms of hyper-personalization, in which AI and real-time data are used to deliver more relevant content, product and service information to each customer. That’s what customers want — 80% say they prefer to patronize brands that offer personalized experiences.
Personalization has proven to yield 20% higher customer satisfaction rates and a 10% to 15% boost in sales conversion rates in retail, and according to HubSpot, personalized calls to action have a 202% better conversation rate than default or standard calls to action.
These findings speak volumes. The old, static transactional nature of customer engagement won’t suffice any longer — and it shouldn’t.
Making customer engagement hyper-personalized
When you truly personalize your communications for each customer, messages are more likely to resonate with the customer’s unique and evolving needs to create a consistently positive brand experience. That goes a long way toward improving customer experience, and as a result, loyalty and retention.
Hyper-personalization is more than simple customization like including a customer’s name in an email or text — that type of generalized personalization helps grab attention but it’s not enough. It needs to be based on not just customer preferences, but customer habits. And it needs to be done in a rapid, continuous fashion because customer needs and attention spans change quickly — you have to be able to adapt to those changes just as speedily.
Looking at things such as whether they respond better in the morning or evening, on weekdays or weekends, and if they respond better to email or text messages are just the starting point.
Other areas to focus on can include:
- Behavior: Is the customer responding better to messages that convey urgency or those that convey empathy?
- Offer: How is the offer framed based on the customer’s motivations? For example, are they more concerned about their long-term financial wellness or about the ability to immediately complete a task?
- User experience: Is the action they need to take something that is stressful? This would make it important to simplify the experience to make the activity easier for the customer.
Using multiple aspects of personalization can create a multiplier effect – optimizing your interactions further and further. All of this takes a continuous approach. Hyper-personalization is refined by identifying and validating patterns in behavior and continuously testing and adjusting the next interaction based on what was learned from the last interaction with that customer. For effective digital engagement, you need to be able to continuously learn and rapidly apply your findings. Adaptation is the name of the game.
But many organizations have struggled with this; many of the available tools only offer a solution for one piece of the puzzle. Some will help you with the actual sending of messages to customers. Others are more of a service, where they might help you customize a campaign for your marketing plan or whatever engagement projects you want to do. But there aren’t many solutions that bring these elements together to enable you to do all of this in a much more systematic and continuous way.
Customers’ needs, wants and desires, sentiment and expectations are changing almost constantly. You need a solution that will enable you to continuously adapt and iterate in response to these changes. Hyper-personalization is not “one and done.”
To work effectively, hyper-personalization needs to be interactive and dynamic. As an example, let’s say you have two customers — Sarah and Sam — to whom you want to promote a new auto-loan product. You send them both the same message initially. Sam is intrigued, opens the message and is then considering a new vehicle purchase. But Sarah ignores it; the message doesn’t resonate with her. From there, you must tweak the approach — what works for Sam isn’t going to work for Sarah — and you must do this quickly to find the best way to engage. That requires trial and error.
Getting started while avoiding the gotchas
With COVID-19 and the rapid changes it brought, many companies are struggling with finding enough time to really learn about their customers from scratch. McKinsey found that organizations that use technology to revamp customer experience can increase customer satisfaction by 15 to 20%.
At the same time, organizations are also grappling with the rise of digital fatigue — customer attention spans are decreasing, so you need to be able to rapidly iterate. In a Symend survey conducted last year, 49% of respondents said they were experiencing digital fatigue. And digital fatigue is amplified by what’s called habituation — resulting in a weakened response from repeated exposure to a company’s messages. If a consumer receives repetitive communications from their provider, they’re likely to “habituate” to them and therefore be less likely to read or act on those messages. This means you can’t wait weeks or months to make changes or corrections based on an initial interaction.
Time is of the essence and you can’t rely on static, outdated data to help you make those changes as quickly as they need to be made. It’s critically important for a business to truly understand their users in real time and offer them the best solution for their needs — while also recognizing that real-time data alone isn’t enough; the rule sets and algorithms must also be dynamic.
What organizations need is a solution that’s already been tested, that has made the mistakes and can give them what they need now – one that allows for frequent tweaks to get the desired outcome. It’s less about adding new ways of engaging and more about using the same method in new or different ways to really make things personalized to each individual user. Even a little hyper-customization can go a long way.
Fewer communications, greater personalization
Quantity over quality won’t win the game. Customers don’t want to be hit with message after message that’s not relevant to them. They want engagement that’s personalized for them — in terms of content and how it’s framed, tone, timing and delivery method. That’s the heart of hyper-personalization. Work with a technology solution that enables you to send fewer but more relevant messages to deliver real customer engagement that improves customer experience — and, ultimately, your bottom line.
PehKeong Teh is chief product officer of Symend.
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