- What would you say is the shared definition of personalization in today’s digital ecosystem?
Leala Shah Crawford & Brittany Tin: Personalization has really become an overused word when talking about the customer experience. A lot of companies may think that they are already personalizing (79% think they are personalizing well, but only 37% of consumers agree), but today, personalization can be so much more than just addressing the customer by name in an email. Brands can and should utilize many different datapoints to help them obtain a truly multifaceted, human understanding of who they’re talking to. This is done by aggregating first- and third-party data in a unified view and leveraging analytics and machine learning to inform every interaction with your customer. This level of personalization goes far beyond demographics and results in more than just product recommendations—it’s about orchestrating and automating experiences by knowing your customers intuitively, predicting their behaviors, and reacting instantly to connect experiences and serve customers in the right moments. When personalization is done well, it can help customers feel connected to brands, celebrate the customers’ identities, and provide unified experiences.
- What does good personalization look like in action?
LC & BT: Good personalization is about engaging in intentional and meaningful experiences with a customer in an omnichannel way, and this looks different for every company. It starts with grounding the personalization strategy in what a customer wants out of their experience—customer expectations about a telecommunications provider are completely different than expectations about an auto retailer. After a company identifies its customers’ and prospective customers’ expectations, successful personalization entails orchestrating experiences to target the right person with the right message, content, and offers, through the appropriate channels at the right moment. This is what most brands are striving toward today; even better personalization would be to offer these kinds of experiences consistently, building trust and, ultimately, boosting the customer’s desire to engage.
- What are some examples of “off-target” personalization attempts, and how do they negatively impact the customer experience?
LC & BT: Personalization gone wrong can go really wrong. If a customer starts feeling creeped out by your company’s outreach, you know you’ve gone too far. Sometimes, the culprit is simple and obvious; a lack of real-time data can drive a terrible customer experience. For example, asking a customer to review a product that they already filed a complaint to customer service about, sending repeated alerts about restaurant recommendations for a city that a customer visited weeks ago, or sending a personalized offer for a subscription service that a customer has already subscribed to, are all mistakes that can really hurt a brand’s reputation and image. These interactions, though intended to build a relationship with the customer, can have a negative impact on how a customer feels about a brand. It takes many positive interactions to build trust, but it could take just one negative one to lose it.
- What is the “line” between a customer having a positive experience with personalization, versus feeling that privacy has been invaded?
LC & BT: There’s a fine line when it comes to overwhelming the customer. It really comes down to understanding how they are responding to previous engagement attempts and building trust through respecting their preferences. The “line” could be examples like auto-opting in a customer to receiving notifications, rather than asking them how they would like to be engaged, making it way too difficult or confusing to decline cookies, or not providing an option to decline or exit a survey. Beyond that, I think it’s about frequency, relevancy, and messaging. Should a customer have to unsubscribe if they’ve been delivered 20 emails in a row without opening any of them? Likewise, if a customer views a product once, they may not want to see that same product repeatedly as they’re scrolling social media.
- If an organization is having trouble embracing personalization as a strategy, what shifts do they need to make internally?
LC & BT: This is a really common theme that we’ve seen with companies. Personalization can be very overwhelming, and it often requires a lot of moving pieces. The foundation to embracing true personalization is spread across strategy, people, processes, data and technology. This means ensuring that each effort to personalize is grounded in a company’s purpose, personalization strategy, and the impacted metrics. Brands are set up for success when they equip themselves with the right collaborative teams and talent to execute personalization strategies. When thinking about data and technology, brands can look to capture and analyze data in a centralized place to inform data-driven strategies and integrate technology to automate personalized experiences across the customer journey.
- And finally, what are high-maturity brands doing now to prepare for the future of experience personalization? What can other companies learn from them?
LC & BT: High-maturity brands are able to provide a unified customer experience that reflects a customer’s journey, demonstrating a deep understanding of the customer’s needs. The most advanced companies in the personalization space strive to truly understand their customers as individuals by collecting the right first-party datapoints (especially in a cookieless future) to understand what types of experiences would be relevant for each. By integrating strategy and a test-and-learn mentality with data, analytics, and machine learning, these companies are grounded in a cycle of continuous optimization. In this way, they have set the foundation for driving ongoing learning and creating the most impactful personalized experiences. This could include advanced propensity modeling, automated decisioning (developing machine learning models to determine the next best action to increase conversions), advanced testing, and analytics for optimization. Lastly, what really sets the best apart from others is the ability to deliver hyper-personalized content at scale (and cost effectively!) across all channels through dynamic content and marketing automation. Most companies we see are not at this level of maturity, but we’re certainly seeing a trend toward advancing these capabilities as brands continue to compete in an experience economy and as personalization becomes the expectation from customers.
Leala Shah Crawford, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLC, leads the Data Sciences, Analytics and Personalization group. Leala has 15+ years of experience defining and implementing business strategies and technologies that drive growth.
Brittany Tin, consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLC, helps clients deliver impactful, relevant, and personalized experiences to their customers across channels, and turn their customer experience visions into reality.