Really. It’s Time For Brands To Deliver Real-Time Personalization

What is the objective of your digital marketing strategy? Do you simply want to be seen? Do you want to reinforce brand values? Or do you want to exploit the extraordinary depth and breadth of consumer data now freely available to create a one-to-one personalized brand experience that attracts and retains customers for life.

If your objective is the latter, then it’s time to shape up. Today we see a growing disconnect between a customer’s expectation of how a brand will use the information provided and reality.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 76 percent of consumers will share personal information with a brand if they believe it will improve their experience and interaction. They understand the implicit promise that giving over their personal preferences and social activity will make for a higher quality experience.

Now the pressure is on for brands to deliver on their side of the bargain.

The Personalization Struggle
Far too many online experiences are poorly personalized. Many sites struggle to get their visitors’ gender correct, and offers rarely reflect people’s previous online activity, the stories they’ve read, or the goods they’ve browsed. Nor are brands geared to respond in real time to consumer behavior.

A complaint via Twitter might generate a response, but will the social media team instantly know the person who is complaining is a long-term loyal customer? Unlikely.

Customers want their experiences to be personalized and to be addressed quickly and accurately by the brands for whom they feel kinship. The winners in the next generation of marketing strategy will be those that use freely available customer data to achieve personalization that transforms customer engagement.

Consumers Are Willing To Share Data (Sometimes)
Most digital marketers have a handle on delivering personalized brand experiences to desktops or mobiles separately, but few have achieved the Holy Grail of uniting them across social sites and devices, including PC, tablet, mobile, and games consoles. Harnessing these multiple touch points creates unprecedented opportunities to collect customer information and knit together a sticky, shareable, and unified brand experience.

Research shows consumers are generally willing to share personal data if they believe they will receive tangible value in return. For example, BBC’s Channel 4 asks its viewers to share personal data to enable better programming. Viewers buy into it on the implicit deal that if they are better understood, advertising revenue can be driven that generates more money for developing quality shows.

They also respond positively when the experience is more relevant, which, in turn, drives both loyalty and advocacy. For example, recent Monetate research highlighted that 75 percent of consumers are happy for retailers to use personal information to improve the online shopping experience.

Identity Begets Engagement
This is really just the start. Consumers want brands to automatically recognize them as a top customer when they complain via Twitter, even if their Twitter identities bear no resemblance to the name used to place orders. They want a brand to reflect all interactions, from mobile to Facebook, in any offers. They want true real-time personalization.

To create a personal experience, a brand has to be able to stitch together multiple identities. The ability to create a single view of each customer–a unified customer profile–transforms a brand’s ability to drive personalization on a mass scale. This is how identity begets engagement.

The steps are straightforward: acquire customer information; leverage technology to create relevant, personal offers; and do so in real time.

Done well, this approach radically changes the consumer experience and quality of brand engagement. For example, many retailers feel threatened by showrooming, in which customers view goods in-store and then search online to look for lower prices. But research from New York University (PDF) reveals that showrooming customers are as likely to check out that retailer’s Web site as any other. By recognizing this person as she browses the site–as well as taking into consideration the customer’s previous behavior, activity, and social profile–the retailer can deliver an offer that provides an incentive for the person to buy now in the store.

Consumers Crave Personalization
As more and more brands begin to get this right, consumer expectations will continue to rise. Get it right, and the response from consumers will be dramatic. A high-quality personalized brand experience will be valued and shared in the social sphere. Get it wrong, and brands will quickly find many of their best customers jumping ship.

Customers crave personalization, and they are prepared to share data to enable it with their favorite brands. Brands that don’t work to transform their engagement strategies from the data freely shared by their customers are at risk of losing them to competitors. The technology is available today to unify identities and create personal brand experiences, and marketers should make it a top priority for keeping their customers and acquiring new ones.

About Jamie Beckland

Jamie Beckland is VP of marketing at Janrain. Prior to Janrain, Beckland led the emerging media practice at White Horse, and has worked as a marketer and technologist with clients including Coca-Cola, Financial Times, Samsung, Wells Fargo, L’Occitane, and The Brooking Institution.

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