5 Ways Brands Can Get More Personal with Their Customers

Personalization is the new norm in marketing. Here are five simple ways your brand can customize user experience by getting to know your customers.

In digital marketing, personalization has quickly evolved from a novel tactic to a vital component of business strategy. Consumers don’t just want a personalized brand experience. They expect it. According to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, they value personalization because of its relevant recommendations at a time when shopping is top of mind; reminders about products they might be interested in; and seamless omnichannel communications. Individually customized messages to users boost brand trust, loyalty, and sales.

Applying customer data makes it possible to achieve this level of personalization. Increasingly, brands are leveraging that data-along with machine learning and artificial intelligence-to better connect with consumers.

After acquiring data analytics company Zodiac and tech company Invertex in 2018, Nike launched a new app that’s built around personalization and even recognizes shoppers when they arrive at a Nike retail store. Late last year, fast food chain Dunkin’ announced that it’s testing ordering technology that can suggest orders to customers based on their gender, age, and mood.

5 Ways Brands Can Get More Personal with Their Customers

“Consumers do expect a level of personalization,” says Paul Warner, VP of CX Strategy at customer experience management company InMoment, “but only to the extent that it can enhance their own experience and not simply benefit the brand. In other words,” he explains, “personalization is perceived as favorable when it reduces effort, streamlines the buying process, or helps the consumer make purchasing decisions.”

With that in mind, here are five ways businesses can leverage personalization in order to deliver more helpful and engaging experiences to customers.

Give customers control over their marketing experience

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) last year, along with the forthcoming California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), means consumers now have more clarity about how and where their personal data is used. Now companies must adopt a more transparent approach to data management by reconsidering their relationship with third-party data. But, they must post an unambiguous privacy statement on their website. They also have to give their customers every opportunity to decide how their data is used.

“When a customer is interacting with a brand, they want an appropriate level of control over how those brands interact with them,” says Warner. ” This control translates into an opt-in approach to how and when consumers share their information, and how and when they want brands to reciprocate with a personalized experience.” As a marketer or business owner, you may be confident that using customer data will create a better experience compared with the less customized messaging your customers would otherwise receive. But, it’s important that you give consumers that choice.

Don’t be creepy

By now virtually every internet user has had at last one unsettling experience with personalization. According to customer experience management company InMoment’s 2018 CX Trends Report, 75% of consumers consider personalized brand experiences at least somewhat creepy.

“Any information about the consumer that’s perceived as obtained outside of one’s consent creates the creepiness factor, and if customers ask ‘how did they know that about me?’ brands have crossed the line,” Warner says. Using data analytics and AI can help marketers predict what type of marketing message will garner their audience’s attention. It can even predict future behavior. But, Warner notes, “It’s imperative to be transparent around data privacy and personalization practices up front, and to give customers an opt-in or opt-out option when personalizing the experience.

Don’t deliver personalized ads too soon

One of the problems consumers sometimes have with personalization is that it hits too close to home. If they search Google for a product and immediately start seeing ads for it on other sites they visit, they’re likely to be turned off. Jed Dougherty, data scientist with New York-based software company Dataiku, advises marketers to be a less eager.  “A customer will often be classified as searching for something or being within a target demo based on a very recent activity of theirs,” he says, “but giving people a little space between the action they performed and the ad itself can feel less invasive. Let it fade from their mind a bit,” he adds, “rather than hitting them right away.”

Turn your ad into content

Faced with a barrage of marketing messages, consumers have learned to distinguish between editorial content and ads. This makes it harder for advertisers to capture their attention. Dougherty also suggests personalizing the ad for the user while also matching it to the site on which it appears.

Instagram and Facebook both work with brands to create ads that look like the content itself. Doughtery says this results in both a more consistent social media feed and a better user experience. Combine this with AI, and you can test and optimize that creative. “With a CPG company, we would have our software hooked up to their ad spend along with Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads API so we understand who’s seeing their ads. This allows marketing companies to understand very quickly what’s working and what’s not,” Dougherty says.

Don’t expect to convert everyone

After investing in AI, or even a less sophisticated personalized campaign, you’ll want to see some tangible results. But Dougherty cautions marketers to be realistic about their outcomes. “The idea with AI and machine learning isn’t to get it right for every person,” he says, “but enough people that you’re successful. It’s not about perfection, but increasing accuracy.” Over time, you can apply your insights in new ways and to additional campaigns, bringing even more value to the table.

It pays to get more personal with consumers, and brands big and small are embracing this marketing strategy. “The demand for consumers’ attention is a hyper-competitive playing field where personalization can become a secret weapon,” Warner says.

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