Personalising the customer experience (part 3)

In part 1 and part 2 I talked about why businesses need to provide a personalised customer experience and how we need to keep it relevant to them. In part 3, I'm going to show how personalisation needs to be a part of your content and omnichannel strategies.

Personalisation, also known as 'adaptive content' has become a proven and widely recognised as a key factor in increasing conversions, repeat business and brand loyalty. We've also seen how there are pitfalls and that there is a real risk of acting on incomplete data or making the wrong assumptions about what users need or want.

The omnichannel experience across all business touchpoints, has also become a key driver towards adaptive content.

Do your research

All assumptions should be based on solid user research. Any assumptions or opinions you have about customer goals, attitudes and behaviour should be backed up and triangulated using qualitative and quantitative methods, including interviews and analytics.

Once you have made your hypotheses, these must be tested using proposition research and prototype stimuli. You will then acquire the evidence you need to prove or disprove if your product adaptations work.

Act on omnichannel challenges & opportunities

The omnichannel experience across all business touchpoints, has also become a key driver towards adaptive content. For example, many customers expect to check competitor prices, offers and reviews in store while shopping, and store-relevant messaging & products can be highlighted if we know they are in the store at that point.

Most retailers are now offering in-store tablet applications to assist customers in buying products. Examples of the single customer view in action might be to look at past contact with any other touchpoints, which allows us to show customers products they've previously looked at and highlight similar ones, as well as showing things like outfit combinations and accessories.

Think platform-less

In it's ideal state, content should be platform agnostic, meaning that you can share your products and services via more channels. This entails chunking your content so that it is broken down into more parts, so it's easily re-usable. You will also be able to take advantage of opportunities around syndication and aggregation with third party systems and social media.

Another benefit to this approach is that it will also serve to future-proof your content, and enable the business to serve it to customers on as yet un-invented platforms and devices.

Parameters

Three of the most unambiguous parameters we can use to adapt content are location, time and device, and the great thing about these is that we don't need users to log in or provide any personal information.

Location

This is a very powerful way of adjusting content since the system usually knows pretty much where a user is - for desktop/laptop users almost certainly we'll know which country in the world, and probably near which city. For device users we'll likely know where they are within a few feet.

For international customers abroad, we can serve them their native language by default, or segment them into the relevant user group - e.g. business or leisure customers. For device users, very accurate geo-location detection and proximity technologies such as iBeacons offer exciting opportunities, particularly for industries such as retail, hospitality and leisure.

Time

Time is an interesting parameter when we consider the inferences we can make about what people are doing when accessing your service. Day of the week combined with time of day can tell us if someone is likely to be at work or at leisure, and through analytics, we can also build up knowledge around behaviour patterns for consumption and purchasing time hotspots. In this way we can also alter default views to save users time & show them the options most likely to be useful to them.

Device

Knowing what device customers are using can help us decide which content to serve, e.g. we may well omit supplemental page content for smartphone users or provide some in-store incentives to buy, adapt the messaging and include offers or prompts about products relevant to different customer types.

... and the individual user

In addition, if users are logged in or for example if they have an account on Google+ and are browsing using Chrome, we'll probably know at the very least some basic demographic data such as age and gender which will enable us to provide even more targeted content.

Often we will combine all the above to infer our customers' goals, predict their behaviour and maximise relevancy.

So how do I get started?

1. Choose which content should be adaptive

You should start from a position of having lots of rich, research-based insights about your users and their goals and behaviours. It's essential to understand your user types and the differences between their goals.

Be familiar with the journeys they take through your product or service. Understanding users' choice drivers will allow you to identify key points where a different messaging or products can be shown to increase click-throughs and conversion.

2. Choose your parameters

Select one or two relevant contextual factors such as time of the week or device - as described above.

3. Define the business rules for triggers

There should be a set of business rules that defines what rules trigger the parameters & content.

Your data and the implementation of the business rules around what content we serve, to whom, when, and where, need very careful consideration. The content we choose to serve users should always be reversible by them, so that if we get our assumptions wrong then users can choose other options.

Essentially you're creating an algorithm that can be refined and developed in time. Happily, implementation of personalisation is getting easier as dedicated functionality is becoming an integral part of several the latest CMS platforms and need little or no development time.

How much is too much?

Every other user experience (UX) practitioner I've spoken to on this subject, has warned of the dangers of trying to do too much too soon.

It's common for businesses to have increasingly large volumes of customer data, often spread across multiple repositories. However they are often challenged in their capability to analyse it all and gain relevant, actionable insights. Therefore, our recommendation to businesses who are new to personalisation is to start small and progress incrementally, testing and measuring the impact all the way, and adjusting accordingly.

Iterate

Iteration really is the name of the game here. It used to be the case that new websites were redesigned and launched after months or years of design & development to a big bang and fanfare, but now most organisations are approaching web deployment in a more continuous manner, making iterative changes successively.

This represents less risk for the business, and smoother transitions between changes for users. There is a sound precept around launching updates and campaigns that are 'good enough today' rather than 'perfect tomorrow', providing you measure and test and be prepared to refine. Following a principle of "failing fast forward", businesses must start somewhere and learn along the way to reap dividends in the fast moving tech sector.

What does this mean for my business?

All this involves time, effort and expertise which is a challenge to resource. Also, the return on investment may not always be realised up front, so to a certain extent it is an investment in the future which can be hard to justify.

The good news is that you will become part of the club of businesses and organisations who have the edge over competitors. McKinsey states that adaptive marketing content converts 3 to 10x more click-throughs and conversions than average.

I recommend appointing dedicated resource where possible for ongoing adaptive content management, although your business may require help from specialists to get you started and provide ongoing consultancy. At Webcredible we have helped numerous clients with all aspects of content, omnichannel, and personalisation from data reporting and analysis to design and strategy.

Feel free to contact us to discuss your needs today!

 

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