How To Have Individual Conversations With A Million Customers
Personalisation at scale is trickier to implement than one would expect. Five steps such as mapping out the customer’s journey and connecting the data will create the required framework.
How do you have a conversation with one million people at once? Bear in mind that this is a million people who, on average, have 7.4 connected devices, according to YouGov.
Even a conversation with 10 friends at once can be challenging. This experience is amplified for marketers. One campaign may reach the masses, but how do brands carry on speaking individually to millions of people?
Personalisation at scale is the answer. A simple concept, but hard to execute. Research from data platform Tealium earlier this year found that 70% of marketers believe personalisation is important to the customer experience, but 50% are constrained by budget and technology, and only 40% are unifying data across all the platforms they use.
With the right framework in place, marketers can address these challenges to execute personalisation as a strategy rather than a one-off tactic that delivers meaningful ROI. Here are five steps to creating that framework:
Map Out The Customer’s Journey
Before proceeding with personalisation, marketers need to:
- Identify crucial points in the customer journey—such as the first inbound landing point, for example a web page or the first time an app is opened.
- Understand how customers shift across channels—they may receive an SMS that prompts them to open a brand’s mobile app.
- Consider how customers are identified—are they signed in, will it be a cookie or mobile-device ID?
Service-based messaging should also be included within the customer journey map, such as all receipt emails, delivery text messages, and registration communications. These are critical points for marketers to ensure improved tracking and better message delivery and consistency.
With the journey mapped out, marketers can then consider how personalisation rules using campaign assets and customer behaviour parameters can be applied. These rules can then be altered in line with specific campaigns.
At CACI we recommend marketers create a personalisation “playbook,” which could include segments and rules, creative guidelines, and overall governance and responsibilities. Chelsea Football Club, for example, has now created one that is being used as a bespoke tool to encompass the specific platforms it is using.
Thinking Inbound And Outbound
Across both inbound and outbound channels there will need to be elements of personalisation that are consistent with the playbook rules. However, the nature of the channel may mean the rules have to be altered.
Inbound channels, such as a brand’s website, app, or social media channel, may need to take into account the anonymous nature of visitors. Outbound channels, such as emails or SMS, will likely have more data on the person and can be personalised more accurately. Ideally, the customer will move from an outbound channel interaction to an inbound one.
Once they note the connection between inbound and outbound communications, marketers now, most importantly, need to connect the data.
Connect The Data
Ideally all customer demographic and behavioural data will be collected into a central database, often called the single customer view (SCV). Marketers are also now being enticed by the promises of data management platforms (DMPs) that offer similar features. Marketers with a SCV and DMP can still face challenges connecting data from multiple websites, channels, and customer databases—even within the integrated marketing clouds that are meant to solve these problems.
The challenge is to connect multiple identifiers across devices and channels.
The advantage of connecting these identifiers is twofold. First, marketers will be able to utilise the full breadth of available data from all of the systems that customers interact with. Second, brands can personalise consistently in each of the channels.
Unfortunately, connecting each identifier to a customer is more difficult than it should be. An individual customer will be made up of multiple identifiers that range from cookie IDs to email address. For instance, a retailer may send an SMS with an order delivery update. By putting a personalised link in the SMS, they can link the mobile number and customer ID with a mobile cookie ID. A Web personalisation tool can then utilise a full 360 view of the customer’s data to serve a personalised offer. By connecting identifiers across channels, marketers can do far more to encourage conversion, engagement, and repeat visits.
CMOs may not need to get into the detail of this issue, but by working with the right marketing technology specialists, they can ensure their vision for the personalised customer journey is executed effectively.
Hack The Marketing Technology Stack
Marketers shouldn’t be turned off by the word “hack.” It doesn’t mean illegally accessing data, breaching security, or breaking systems, but making what you’ve got work effectively in an inventive, clever, original way.
No organisation’s marketing technology is perfect. There are always gaps in functionality or data. Confusingly, there can even be overlaps in functionality. Often the first port of call for personalisation is to buy new technology (Adobe, Selligent, Oracle, etc). This is great for vendors, but often the technology alone does little to move things forward.
What is needed is the ability to come up with creative marketing ideas using the tools marketers already have, to prove that personalisation works, and build the investment case for new technology.
The following should help refine the thinking around marketing technology:
- Can you send emails, SMS, or push messages with personalised content in?
- Can you trigger an email, SMS, or push message based on a customer event?
- Can you personalise the website to an individual customer?
- Can your call centres personalise their script/offer to the individual customer?
- Can you personalise elements of your mobile application for the individual customer?
U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 and national lottery operator Camelot, for example, have invested in fit-for-purpose technology platforms and essential strategic data partners, as well as savvy senior team members, with the grand plan of more efficiently leveraging the customer data they already have to improve personalised targeting.
They are demonstrating the commitment required to embed personalisation as not just a marketing strategy but also a business one.
Start Small To Make A Big Change
Tackling a large challenge like personalisation may feel impossible for many marketers.
The first step is to apply the concepts of persistent and campaign-based personalisation to the end-to-end customer journey. This will then enable marketers to move forward by connecting data, leveraging their existing technology, and executing personalised journeys across all channels.
The process doesn’t have to be a single programme of change. Marketers simply need to start small and focus on the key journey points that will make the biggest difference for their customers.