Personalisation still a challenge for many

It’s very easy to be glib about personalisation in 2015; we assume that every organisation has a well developed strategy as a matter of hygiene because it is simply expected by their customers. I often find this not to be the case. Many organisations still don’t have the right in-house expertise to make a personalised customer experience possible. As personalisation is an essential part of contemporary user-centric design, I’d like to break it apart for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t managed to establish their strategy quite yet.

Why personalisation matters to business

Very often, ‘personalisation’ is viewed as a way to increase conversion rates by surfacing improved product suggestions, with the understanding that this is likely to achieve bigger and more frequent orders. Additionally, the right tools will utilise ‘big data’ to enable the analysis of thousands of consumer actions through digital channels and combine them with results from television, radio, billboard, and print campaigns to tailor messages to each audience type. By seeing how much lift each data point provides for each ad in each channel, businesses can make better decisions about how to allocate advertising budgets and which targeted messages are the most effective.

Why there is pressure to be more ambitious in the long run

My experience has taught me that those who work to the higher goal of creating greater relevance for their customers tend to bring the far reaching success every company wants. They still think about the way in which they can make targeted product suggestions or the way in which they surface content, but they also invest in service design to streamline their services along every touchpoint, collecting their customers’ needs and preferences from every source possible. It is this activity that makes them more effective and future-proofs their customer relationships. This is because, with services becoming more personalised year-on-year, customers have come to expect a really meaningful service where none may have existed before. Additionally, ‘meaningful’ can mean ‘efficient’ for some and ‘engaging’ for others, which can usually only be delivered by having a single view of the customer.

The biggest challenge in creating a single view of the customer, is not only about adopting the right technology, but about reorganising a business to flex around the customer. How are you going to ensure that you think like an ecosystem, sharing customer intelligence across your organisation in order to deliver a personalised experience back to your customers?

Innovations within the service, product and digital space are setting the expectations for all customers and how they want their personal needs to be catered for. Customers are not just benchmarking against the market leaders in one industry, but all the services and brands that serve their needs. If, like most organisations, you are targeting a sophisticated millennial customer base, you should be aware of the rise of autonomy amongst young Australian consumers. This means that they are now setting their own expectations instead of relying on brands and institutions to tell them what is possible and current and upcoming trends are sure to influence their needs. To name a few :

  • With Netflix now (officially) launched in Australia, the way in which Australian audiences find and consume entertainment has changed. Users have the freedom to watch shows at their own pace on demand.
  • Drone delivery methods are being trialled by small retailers in Australia, making quick delivery available to online shoppers at their convenience, not the retailers. Google Express will push this expectation further if they expand beyond America.
  • The Apple Watch uses more personal data, such as biometric health information, in order to create a more meaningful ecosystem around each user.
  • With the Australian government currently researching the economic benefits of creating smart cities in Australia, by properly using ICTs to engage with citizens, personalisation is about to become truly ubiquitous. In this climate, how are you planning to create an experience that is personalised enough to make customers feel as if they own it? Are you also experimenting with Ambient Intelligence and do you know how and when to use it?

Aim high, start small

Before you start planning your own smart city and being overwhelmed by the implication of drone delivery, ask yourself the following basic questions:

  • What are your customers doing?
  • What do they need and why?
  • How should you speak to them?

If you haven’t already, you need to perform some research to find out; multiple methods can be suggested to you and run by a user experience professional. Once you have done that you can start collecting information and personalising content according to their needs. There are 3 ways you can do that by starting with your website:

  • Explicit personalisation, allowing users to make choices as to what they’d like to see.
  • Implicit personalisation uses online behaviour (clicks) to determine what content the user then receives.
  • Adaptive personalisation is created by a system learning how users behave and creating a model around that user type, predicting how to serve them.

Then you can think about how to use big data and whether you can. In essence, it relies on ‘the four Vs’ to work:

  • Volume is the scale of data. The more you have, the more personalised the user experience can be.
  • Velocity focuses on the analysis of streaming data, allowing real-time personalisation.
  • Variety of data makes for a richer understanding of your customer, taking it from as many different sources as possible.
  • Veracity of the data — or the quality or certainty of the facts — will make your personalisation less or more reliable.

If you know what your customers want, how you are going adapt information to meet those needs and how you are going to glean accurate information about them, you are well on your way to an effective personalisation strategy. From there you can start thinking about marketing automation and how to adapt your service — and even your product — to be more meaningful, firstly by developing a single view of the customer and then by innovating.

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