A group of pigeon birds on a wire with one individual in the opposition - individualization personalization concept
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Organizations today can start to create long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with customers through the intelligent utilization of individualization, a more sophisticated form of traditional personalization.

By applying a combination of analytics and machine learning algorithms to data about prospective purchasers and existing customers, your organization can tap into the patterns and insights revealed within that information. You can then use that increased knowledge of what customers really want, to ensure your organization is delivering a customer experience which is fully tailored to the specific current and likely future needs of an individual buyer.

Personalization is the fourth major piece in the interdependent technology framework we are suggesting for organizations to put in place in order to realize true operational excellence. Like the three other interconnected pieces we have already addressed in previous articles — digital transformation, customer experience, and employee experience — the best way for your organization to approach personalization is as an evolving discipline and an ongoing journey.

Related Article: Why You Need to Combine Digital Transformation and Customer Experience

Your Customers Already Expect Personalized Experiences

Most customers, whether they’re engaging with a brand-new organization or continuing an existing relationship with an established partner, tend to assume that the organization will "know" them. According to Salesforce Research, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations throughout their entire customer journey, from initial discovery of your organization through to making their first purchase from you and beyond, including setting a high bar for your customer service.

What is particularly interesting is the current gap between customers’ expectations and the reality of what they encounter when it comes to personalized experiences. According to the Salesforce report, 62% of those polled expect organizations to adapt experiences based on the customers’ actions and behaviors. However, only 47% of survey respondents said that organizations are living up to those expectations of generally adapting experiences based on customers’ actions and behaviors.

Where organizations may be struggling is in serving up truly useful personalized experiences to customers. For instance, it’s not very helpful if a post-purchase experience prominently displays or recommends a product or service that the customer has only just purchased. It’s also highly frustrating for a customer if they feel as though every time they engage with your organization, the experience they’re getting is that of a brand-new buyer rather than an established client. This can be the case if your organization is requiring the customer to re-enter exactly the same information on every engagement. Another source of customer irritation can be a lack of consistency in the types of experiences your organization provides across different channels. For instance, perhaps the customer receives a highly targeted experience online via your organization’s website, but then, when visiting one of your stores, the experience there is markedly less personal and tailored to their needs.

Related Article: Why You Need to Combine Digital Transformation and Customer Experience

Embrace Personalization to Boost Revenue

Organizations, which are early adopters of the more sophisticated personalization, may gain competitive advantage over their peers in a particular industry by being able to offer optimal, targeted experiences when and how customers require them. For example, for every $100 billion in assets that a bank has, it can gain as much as $300 million in revenue growth by personalizing its customer interactions, according to estimates from management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

By using personalization, marketers have seen improvements across all aspects of the customer journey. For instance, in a Salesforce Research survey of marketing leaders, the majority of respondents reported personalization led to a major or moderate boost in brand building (92%), lead generation (86%), customer acquisition (84%), upselling (79%), customer retention (85%), and customer advocacy (82%).

Organizations therefore need to ensure that they have the right mix of new and existing technologies, business processes, and skilled staff in place so that they can take full advantage of personalization as it continues to morph and evolve. By 2023, market intelligence firm IDC predicts that 45% of Global 2000 B2B/B2C enterprises will exploit smart personalization for context-based customer engagement. Organizations will deliver contextually relevant personalization by deploying AI, Big Data, and conversational computing.

Build Customer Trust Through Increased Data Transparency

Your organization’s personalization effectiveness relies heavily on being able to collect and analyze accurate and up-to-date customer data. You want to establish or reinforce customer trust so customers confidently share and regularly revise the information with your organization.

In order to trust your organization, customers need you to openly share with them why, how, and when you are going to use their data as well as what you are doing to keep that information secure. Customers also want clarity from your organization on how you are complying and staying current with any relevant data privacy regulations. Additionally, they require the ability to opt in and out of data sharing with your organization as they choose and ideally seek some control over that information.

Different customers will have very different reactions to increasing personalization and how their data is used. This topic was recently explored by Accenture in a study of global financial services consumers, which identified four different personas — pioneers, pragmatists, skeptics, and traditionalists — with very different takes on their willingness to share data in return for personalized and convenient services. While 95% of pragmatists were willing to share data, only 55% of traditionalists would do so. It’s clear that organizations need to determine where use of personalization will be welcomed by customers and where it may not be well received.

Personalize Your Organization to Customers

At the same time, do think of data sharing as very much of a two-way street. Your organization may also be able to forge stronger bonds with your customers by providing them with more access to your own data. So, this may be giving customers deeper insight into your inventory data or your logistics information or that of your warehouse and shipping partners so that they can truly know exactly where their order is at any time.

Your customers may also want to "know" your organization better in terms of your corporate responsibilities. For instance, customers may want you to share with them how ‘green’ or sustainable your supply chain is or how much you donate to which charities. Increasingly, customers want to engage with organizations about which they have some sort of a feel-good sense.

Consider the different types of customer data you’re gathering — website, mobile, app, and in-store behavior supplemented by online customer survey responses and third-party demographics — and how you can combine all that information into a single unified profile for each individual customer. Make sure that all human or robot interactions with that customer can draw on and add to that full unified profile so your insights into that individual can continue to expand.

Construction materials manufacturer Benders is aware of the power of personalization. The Swedish company has been able to improve its relationships with both customers and suppliers by deploying OpenText Exstream to quickly tailor communications.

“The ease with which we can produce documents and personalize them helps us stand out from our competitors,” said Mathias Olsson, operations manager at Benders Sverige. “In today’s increasingly digital workplace, where personal contact with customers and suppliers is decreasing, OpenText Exstream provides a means for us to maintain a personal edge and closeness.”

Use Personalization Intelligently to Boost Customer Loyalty and Retention

As we have seen, in order to effectively target individuals, organizations must pay close attention to multiple facets of personalization. Your organization needs to ensure that you’re using the latest and most relevant customer data to create and then offer customized experiences which are an optimal fit for an individual customer. In order to foster trust, which is likely to result in customers increasing the amount of data they’re sharing, you must be transparent with your customers on how you plan to use their information and the steps you have taken in order to keep that data secure.

By intelligently targeting individual customers with engaging experiences, tailored content, and attractive deals, your organization will demonstrate how well it knows that buyer, boosting customer satisfaction. Your organization will be able to continue to expand customer loyalty and retention and therefore boost revenue.