When historians write about this period of economic history, they will call it the age of the customer. The age of the customer is a term used to describe the age in which customers are now more empowered than ever before. Today, customers can get more information about more products at the touch of a button. Though it feels common place to most people, this is a truly revolutionary period in a very long history of commerce and trade.

Because customers have greater access to products and services than ever before, the competition for their business is also greater than it previously was. No longer limited geographically, it is easy for a customer in Texas to order from an artist in Hawaii. People from all over the world can discover new merchants with the click of a button. However, this also means that they can change their loyalty just as quickly.

To combat the huge fluctuations in customer turnover, businesses have turned to relationship marketing to build stronger relationships with their customers. One of the fastest growing strategies in relationship marketing is called personalization.

The Ultimate Guide to Personalization

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This guide will teach you on 1) what is personalization, 2) why customers want personalization, and 3) how to personalize your marketing.

WHAT IS PERSONALIZATION?

Personalization is a comprehensive strategy that requires a business to calibrate its strategy to be focused on the individual consumer. This is different than segmentation or re-segmentation of a market because even if a market segment is broken down into a smaller segment, it still requires a business to reach a group of people rather than an individual. Thus, when personalization strategists talk about the individual, they really do mean creating an experience that is customized for one individual.

Personalization is not about finding a software application to address each consumer individually in an email heading. Although there is something that consumers find comforting about seeing their names, personalization has transcended these simple greetings and has instead opted for a fully customizable experience in which every detail from greeting to format to timing is tailored directly to the customer.

To make this happen, marketers use the information gleaned from a meaningful customer relationship. When this relationship is used to generate data about an individual, marketers can use this data to create a unique experience for the individual customer.

This information might come from facts provided by the customer. The rise of detailed online profiles provides much of this information. For example, Marriott Rewards members can customize their online profiles to include all of their travel preferences right down to the type of pillows they prefer in their hotel room.

This information may also be based on the behaviors the customers exhibits or predictions based on the customer’s future needs. Marriott may look at a Marriott Reward’s member’s activity to see which brands they frequently search for. Marriott can see if a member is more interested in the Courtyard brand located in suburban areas or if they are interested in the high end JW Marriott Brand. This activity about past behaviors can not only provide predictions about what kind of hotels that member is interested in. It can help Marriott better sell those hotels by allowing Marriott to alert that member when there is a special offer from the brands and areas they are most interested in.

This kind of marketing may at first seem uncomfortable. However, upon further examination, it is easy to see why both customers and businesses find that it is worth the investment. For businesses, content personalization of this nature offers an ROI that is worth adopting. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing methods; yet, it generates almost triple the number of leads. The benefits for customers, however, are more psychological.

Find out about the 5 key personalization statistics you should know.

 

WHY CUSTOMERS WANT PERSONALIZATION

Like many marketing trends, personalization began as a luxury item. It was first available to visionaries and those with deep pockets. After all, it costs a lot of money for Marriott to learn about what kind of pillows its loyal customers prefer. The benefit of this kind of individual data was not immediately visible on a business level. When it is considered in the context of the customer, it is invaluable.

The value that personalized data offers businesses can no longer be ignored or overlooked. Personalization is now a necessity because the old methods of reaching customers are fizzling out. Old methods have fizzled so much that some marketers debated whether it was more likely that a customer would survive a plane crash than click on a segmented banner ad. This is a bold statement that is mostly false because there are still more people who, willfully or accidentally, click on advertisements than die in plane crashes.

But if you think about the last banner ad you saw, you often have one of two reactions. The first is that you do not even remember the content of the last banner ad you saw. The second reaction is that you did not find that ad remotely compelling enough to click on it.

The poor performance of banner ads is now being compounded by ad blocking software. Now that internet users are blocking ads on their computers and their mobile devices, the time that businesses have to adjust marketing strategies is growing shorter. If you want to reach customers, personalization is now one of the cheapest and most effect methods.

Personalization is not the result of a marketing trend made popular by big agencies with deep pockets. Customers today want real engagement. The more personal this engagement is, the more valued it is by customers. They want a business who wants to meet their needs. That business does not need to be a small, boutique business. It can be a huge brand that serves millions of customers.

The key is to make it easier for every customer to find what they want. Customers do not want to feel like they are being “sold”, especially if the pitch is regarding products or services that they have no interest in. Personalization works well here because the strategy feels less like an elevator pitch and more like a helpful hint. However, personalization transcends the sales process in two unique ways.

When an experience is tailored to an individual, that individual feels more in control. Even though you are still in control of the customer’s experience, the fact that they feel that they have more control over their outcome has a positive influence on their mindset. This is a huge distinction in the sales process for customers because one of the biggest roadblocks in sales and marketing is the customer’s innate fear of being sold something. Yes, customers want to buy. But they want that purchase to be their decision – not yours.

Secondly, customers are tired of being fed information they don’t want. Despite greater access to information, customers today have less time to make a purchasing decision. Even high-end purchases are rushed because this is an age where the next model is right around the corner.

When companies personalize information for a specific customer’s needs, that customer does not feel like they are being overloaded with information. Instead, the customer feels like they have all the information that they were looking for right in front of them. This relieves a second roadblock on the path to sales. It eliminates the customer’s fear that they will be sold something they never wanted in the first place.

Some great learnings from Netflix personalizing their offering.

 

HOW TO PERSONALIZE YOUR MARKETING

Now that you know more about what personalization is, it is easier to create a marketing plan that fits this structure. A personalization marketing plan will often be broken down into four distinct parts: targeting the customer, sending the message, executing the strategy and delivering the personalization.

Targeting the Customer

Personalization requires a wealth of customer data. Rather than focusing on market segments, it requires businesses to take on real, individual data. A rich user profile can help marketers achieve this insight.

User profiles should not be set up to provide you with basic data like names, income bracket or contact details.

Be sure to collect data from the customer that can help you learn more about the customer. This data should be relevant to your product and service as well as easy to collect. Avoid forcing the customer to type too much or push too many buttons. Instead, collect as much information as possible on one page without compromising the utility of the page.

For example, an airline would not collect only names and contact details when creating a user profile for customers. It would allow customers to enter details like meal preferences, seat preferences as well as any further interests that are applicable to the product.

This works because it masquerades itself under the guise of convenience. Customers will happily provide a small amount of relevant personal details if it means that their next flight will be enhanced or more convenient in some way.

Personalization should not just be informed by online behaviors. Retailers, in particular, should focus on offline behaviors, as well. Both sets of behaviors are required for greater insight and better advertising.

To do this, you need to create an ongoing one-on-one relationship between your business and your customer. Relationship marketing only works if a relationship is being fostered over time. This relationship needs to be long term and needs to anticipate customer needs today and tomorrow.

Sending the Right Message

The messages you send to customers must be relevant to the data that you have collected. From a customer point of view, there is nothing worse than providing details to a company only to be spammed about products that the customer is only vaguely interested in.

More than this, the language that you use to send the message needs to match the content. You do not want to send a message that sounds like you ran a customer’s data through a software program and came up with a result. Even though this is what happens behind the scenes, that will feel more intrusive to customers. It will also eat away at the personalization goals rather than contributing to them.

Furthermore, the tactics you use need to be genuine. Showing customers an ad for something they just viewed on your website is not personalized marketing. It needs to speak to the needs and habits of the individual consumer in a way that captivates them. The goal of your message should be to leave your customer wondering how you knew that they were interested in that product but still being grateful that you found out.

Executing the Strategy

Once you have your message, you need to think about execution and timing the message. The timing within which a customer receives the message is almost as important as the message itself.

Example: A customer returns to your site regularly to browse the cost of flights from New York to Los Angeles in April. To personalize their messages, you are sending them a personalized message letting them know about new, cheaper services between New York and similar destinations in California. However, you would want to make sure that this message is sent out with plenty of time for them to buy before their travel dates.

The key to great execution is to use the data you have to find the exact time that a customer will be most receptive to the message that you are sending. Most people need to take time off of work. They also want time to plan a trip. Offering a personalized ad for a last minute flight to a customer who has been looking at the same flight for six months will probably not result in a purchase.

You also want to mix up the timing of your strategies between an “act now” strategy and an informational message. This allows the customer to allow themselves to take advantage of flash sales occasionally but also allows them to put more planning into their purchase as well. Achieving a balance is a good plan for execution because it does not put too much pressure on the customer but still encourages them to make impulse purchase occasionally.

Delivering Personalization

Delivering the personalized message needs to take place in real-time across several channels. This kind of coordinated approach is necessary for driving interaction between the customer and the business.

Delivery is also an important part of executing the strategy. While it is easy to reach millions of people at once, it has simultaneously become harder to reach just one individual. A cross-channel delivery is one of the best ways to deliver personalized messages because it helps ensure that the customer receives the message. For example, you could send the airline customer an email and a notification in the airline’s mobile application to better increase the chances of the customer seeing the message and acting on it. The easier it is to find the message and act on it, the more success the message will have.

When you are delivering personalized messages, you should also be considering your follow up message delivery. The amount of follow up you do will depend on the number of messages you intend to send.

You want to find a balance between sending enough messages to remind customers about your first message. You want to keep the emails limited enough to make the offers feel exclusive; however, you want to offer reminders as well.

CONCLUSION

Personalization used to be the marketing strategy of the future, but today, it is a tactic that a business should be adopting sooner rather than later. Personalization offers customers all of the benefits that they love about small, local businesses. It allows them to learn about products that they are interested in without having to sift through mountains of information. It also allows them to do so in a sphere that feels more private to them than the traditional marketing experience.

A great personalized marketing experience should remind a customer of a visit to their local baker. There is nothing better than the baker rewarding your loyalty by setting aside your favorite pastry to make sure that you get one before they run out.

Big and small companies can replicate this experience by investing time and money into gathering essential and relevant data about their customers. Whether it is the type of pillows they prefer or the customer’s shoe size, a business of any size can recreate the feeling of getting the very last bear claw straight from the baker’s oven.

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