Personalising the customer experience (part 2)

In part 1, I talked about why businesses need to provide a personalised customer experience and how we need to keep the customer experience relevant to them. It's now proven and widely recognised as a key factor in increasing conversions, brand loyalty and repeat business.

Remind me again - what is personalisation?

Personalisation is all about providing users with tailored content, functionality and communications, dependent on any number of factors that differentiate them from other users.

There are many possible sources of data. Some of this data is provided by the user, and some is collected by the system:

  • Profile data – what users have told you about themselves
  • Search data – what users have looked for
  • Transactional data – what users have bought
  • Omni-channel data from other touchpoints – email, phone, social media, in-store etc.
  • Contextual data – what situation users are in (device, location, time)
  • Social data – what users like and what their friends like

These are then interpreted via certain predefined parameters such as customer segments, demographic data and business rules on what to serve to whom.

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

Recent example

I recently worked with a well-known UK company on personalisation plans for their website and app. Through our research, we developed a solid understanding of user needs and behaviours and built use-cases in order to prioritise the products we know particular audiences are more likely to be interested in. We also determined parameters around those products that we can use as defaults to save time checking out.

What's a use-case? For example, take a weather app, you can choose to show today's weather or tomorrow's as a default. Studying the most popular use cases allows us to provide the information that most people are likely to need.

When we do this we are taking a calculated risk and making assumptions that could be incorrect, so it's necessary to allow users to amend the site options if they want to and also allow those settings to be remembered for them.

Personalised content

One of the company's objectives was to grow their international audience. With that in mind, we took the step to detect users' country to default to their local language.

We will also use imagery that fits the expectations of that market. From our research we also know the types of products that international customers favour, so we can promote those from popular entrance pages and increase the visibility of relevant offers.

Personalised functionality

Further on into our research, we could see that customers could be split into two main groups: frequent buyers and occasional buyers. Differences in online purchasing behavior between the two allowed us to personalise some of the functions to optimise them for the prevalent use-cases for each group.

Because we had detailed data on the purchase patterns and expectations of frequent buyers, we designed functionality to allow them to take 'shortcuts' through the product-selection and purchase process. Small additional changes like setting default values and pre-filling forms (e.g. when users had already provided information) further optimised the experience.

We also know that the device being used has a bearing on user needs, so we adjusted defaults and pre-sets to change, depending on whether the user is on mobile, tablet or laptop.

Tailored communications

Communications tend to present a big challenge when it comes to personalisation. While marketers might be delighted at all the channels available to reach out to customers – with the ability to send emails, SMS messages and push notifications to users' devices – there is a real risk of devaluing communications and therefore the business brand, if customers are swamped with speculative spam.

In our research, many participants said they welcomed marketing messages with offers and discounts, but they caveated this by saying that timing was important and that these communications must be relevant to them.

For me it seems like a no-brainer to allow account holders to select what types of offers they are interested in hearing about. This can be set in account settings and there are ways of prompting users to select these proactively – rather than passively waiting for them to navigate to the right page and act.

Ongoing monitoring of performance through analytics, regular usability testing and design optimisation all allow fine tuning of these initiatives to maximise the chances of achieving business objectives.

In this way, the benefits we see from personalisation won't only be increased sales for the business – but customers will also realise value in time savings, relevancy and convenience and we can increase satisfaction and loyalty for the future.

In part 3 I'm going to talk about personalisation and content strategy. 

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