Four ways to personalise your customer buying journey
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Four ways to personalise your customer buying journey

Every marketer wants to make the customer buying journey a more personal experience. But few have the resources to do it in-house. What are the options?

Marketers everywhere are getting personal with their customers. According to a recent study published by Experian in 2015, the vast majority of UK brands – 86% – personalise their communications in one way or another. And a 2013 survey found that 94% of businesses said personalisation was “critical to current and future success”.

The natural home of personalisation is in the digital sphere, but the trend is gaining traction in the bricks-and-mortar world too, thanks to the flexibility of digital printing, which has enabled high-profile campaigns from brands including Coca-Cola, Nutella and Marmite.

But for the majority of brands, personalisation still doesn’t go much further than using people’s names in emails, according to Experian’s study. The top reason for this was a lack of internal resource – followed closely by lack of technology and inadequate data.

So how can you take personalisation further in your business? Here are the key questions you’ll need to answer:

  • How much more could you be doing? 61% of brands in the UK are using data like first names to personalise communication, while 42% are also tapping behavioural data such as past purchases. Only around 10% have got as far as using data on preferences or attitudes, based on survey responses or demographic information – but the figure is rising fast. The more sophisticated your personalisation, the more you can tailor the customer buying journey.
  • How good is your data? If you’re personalising your communications based on details of customers registering on a website, then you’re off to a good start – but registered users are only one section of your audience. If you’re buying the data in from outside, relying on browsing data or making generalisations based on demographic information, you’re in choppier waters. Remember, getting personalisation wrong is worse than not doing it at all. Be confident in your data before doing anything.
  • Can you make effective recommendations? Personalisation isn’t just about making customers feel loved, it’s also about having the power to nudge them towards a purchase. To do this, you’ll not only need to understand something about them, you also need an effective real-time recommendation engine. Which brings us to…
  • Do you need help? If you’re struggling with in-house resource, consider outsourcing. Data on potential customers is one thing an external provider can offer you, helping widen the net of your personal communications. Online recommendations is something else you’re likely to need external help with. Building a recommendation engine from scratch in-house, or even hiring a developer to do it for you, is a big ask. Specialist providers have the experience, technology and economies of scale to do it for you. When Netflix wanted to improve its algorithm to predict what films viewers would enjoy based on their past ratings, it launched an open competition and eventually awarded a US$1 million prize to the winning team. If a multibillion-dollar company’s in-house team still looks outside for recommendations expertise, maybe you should too.
Robert Bain Freelance Writer and Editor CPL
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