Personalising the customer experience (part 1)

Big data

"By 2018 organisations that have fully invested in all types of online personalisation will outsell companies that have not by more than 30%"

- Gartner

It's said that 90% of the world's data has been generated in the last 2 years. Mind-boggling volumes of the stuff is being generated every second – 24/7, thanks to the internet, social media, mobile devices, worldwide press, sensors and transactions.

It's hardly surprising that it's making more and more sense to be served tailored information, products and social content that we're actually interested in, as we don't have time to curate the vast amount of data or browse endlessly for products by ourselves.

At Webcredible, we're seeing a more customised experience online as standard, and most of our projects contain some element of personalisation nowadays. Indeed, the 'single customer view' is a part of every digital strategy I've been involved with over the past couple of years. I believe this will amplify sharply in the next few years and beyond.

Consumer willingness

In some recent customer research we conducted for two well known UK brands, I was not surprised at how receptive the consumers we interviewed were to the concept of receiving tailored content online – but what did surprise me was how comfortable they were with the idea of giving away their data, preferences and behavior in return for it.

Some participants were still adamant they want to guard their privacy online and hide as much as they can from prying eyes, but when questioned more closely, a few admitted that they would like to see information or offers relevant to them.

Interestingly, they often caveat that they've already experienced attempts at this that fell short of true relevancy. For example, we've all seen online ads for stuff we just bought yesterday.

Clearly there's a level of sophistication missing in many attempts at marketing and it's easy to see how it might be hard to plot behaviour patterns for customers without some seriously intelligent algorithms and then some.

Indeed, the 'single customer view' is a part of every digital strategy I've been involved with over the past couple of years.

New user expectations

However, big data is here to stay, it's our ability to collect and interpret it now that is the challenge. Privacy and security ethics must also be an significant factor to consider, the Silicon Valley giants have a stranglehold on us and we're addicted to their products – Google, Facebook, YouTube and so on, which I believe inures us to other organisations collecting data on us more covertly. That doesn't make what they do right, however I won't go into that particular debate here.

Younger consumers and those in developing economies care much less about privacy than those who are older and in Western countries: "almost two thirds of consumers aged between 18 and 34 'don't care about privacy' "(UK Research by Coleman Parkes)

"The creepy factor of brands knowing too much about me is gone. Now we say, 'Why doesn't this company know more about me? Why are they sending me irrelevant offers? Why can't they service me better?'"

- Jim Davidson, President of Farelogix

Suffice to say, within a legal framework, all businesses must address this user expectation. In order to do this we must win customers' trust and tell them how they will benefit from this transaction of personal data.

In this way we can move towards ensuring that we provide the right content, in the right format and at the right time, which will allow us to keep our customers happy and stay relevant in the market.

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In part 2 I'll go in to more detail and look at some examples. In part 3, I'll look at the implication for a business's content strategy.

 

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