Modern Commerce Is About Getting Personal At Scale

Getting personal at scale seems like today’s most pressing oxymoron. Historically, the idea of getting personal took an extreme amount of effort and investment in gaining knowledge and understanding of your desired target’s thoughts, feelings, movements, and habits. With the advent of machine learning, AI, data transactions, and science and unprecedented processing speeds, personalization at scale is not only possible but a mandatory initiative for organizational leaders to create and execute a strategy around.

As with all things retail these days, no company has leveraged data governance and sense making into enterprise value better than Amazon. The chart below shows the impact that getting personal at scale (or failing to do so rapidly enough) has had on major retailers.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Your customer is now always online, increasingly more impatient with, and intolerant of, friction, they’re more informed (and potentially more confused by an overwhelm of information), and less trusting than ever (see Edelman’s Global Trust Barometer 2017).

So what is a brand to do? Focus on these core value initiatives to deliver personalization at scale and design a technology stack and culture that is humanized and still scales.

  1. Personal is the new “black”
  2. Engagement vs exposure
  3. Relevance is paramount

Personal is the new “black”
For those readers from a pre-digital age, you remember how Audrey Hepburn made the little black dress iconic in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961). The new ‘black’ is personalization and the path to achievement begins with your universal data governance and architecture. There is no lack of best-in-breed options across the technology landscape. But if you are building a digital transformation from the ground up and want flexibility as you move forward without having to rewrite your baseline nomenclature, I would suggest taking a look at a broadly integrated, yet agnostic, data hub layer like Tealium. By tagging and logging your data governance into a central hub that can be efficiently shared across the operational silos, you will be foundationally sound to begin executing a personalized strategy across the customer journey and in all of your front-end marketing and nurturing efforts.

Engagement vs. exposure
How many followers you have is less relevant than how often the followers you have are engaging with your brand and content. The reality of today’s marketplace is that none of us need one more thing to view or read in the course of our busy and inundated days. Our feeds are full of mostly garbage, but they are full and time consuming nonetheless. The key to driving engagement is empathy.

Empathy is found by putting yourself in the shoes of your customer across various use-cases along the customer journey. For instance, when you are searching for a local solution, what do you type into Google or ask Siri to find? When the results come back and you click on a listing that doesn’t have a mobile responsive site what do you think, feel, say and do?

Empathy is understanding the thoughts, feelings, words and actions used and taken by the individual at key touch points in the journey that become moments of truth when they anchor those emotions with your brand — for better or for worse. The more you can use your data layers and your intuition to act on the insights gained and anticipate the needs of your customer, the more engaging and personal you will feel to them. More exposure can harm you more than it helps you if you haven’t built empathy into your model. Focus on engagement first.

Relevance is paramount
In modern commerce, your customer has reconciled with themselves that in order to enjoy the benefits of their mobile device every second of every day, they are trading some level of privacy and data for that privilege. This means that they expect that you are using that data for their benefit and they will be even more annoyed when your business is not set up to anticipate their needs or send them only relevant material to their inbox or social media feed based on their activity with you previously.

Remarketing the same ad on their page long after they bought or abandoned that item is offensive at worst, and annoying and wasteful at best. Emailing existing customers an offer meant for new customers only that they cannot take advantage of, just reminds them they are being generically watched and that you have no real interest in getting to know them, or recognize them for their loyalty. Continuing this activity will fast forward your brand to the irrelevant column and open the door for your competition to steal them away.

Relevance is the way to getting personal in an effective way with your customers, and engagement is the proof. Measure and focus on these two metrics with all your content and build your data governance architecture to facilitate it across your entire relationship and customer journey. Failure to do so will be catastrophic in the coming years.

This post originally appeared on on July 18th, 2017.