The digital age has created both challenge and opportunities when it comes to businesses reaching customers. On one hand, the explosion of new channels has opened up exciting new ways to engage with audiences and amplify brand messages.
However, when every business has had the same idea, it’s increasingly hard to cut through the noise and stand out.
According to McKinsey, more than half of all customer interactions happen during a multi-event, multi-channel journey. Customers are in control of their engagement with businesses from start to finish and, although they are time-poor, they still want to make sure they’re choosing the right brands to be a part of their lives.
The way businesses engage with customers has come a long way. Let’s take a whistle-stop tour of this evolution and look ahead what will make brands stand out in the future.
The journey so far
In the 1980s and 1990s, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, or a company’s own database system, underpinned the way organisations stored and managed their customer data.
This technology was functional but lacked sophistication; it ensured that employees knew who they were talking to, and could access the necessary details of the person on the other end of the line.
Yesterday’s loyalty programmes were simply product and offer driven
Yesterday’s loyalty programmes were simply product and offer driven. Customers were rewarded based on purchases made and how long they’d used the company. Data was segmented to some degree, but there was no such thing as multi-channel delivery and personalisation was basic at best.
People today are tech-savvy and multi-connected, using a variety of devices and platforms to suit their needs. To succeed, businesses have had to evaluate and evolve the interactions they offer via every channel, so they can move towards a more sophisticated, intuitive and personalised relationship with their customers.
They now expect real-time responses with minimal effort, and access to relevant rewards and immersive experiences that have been personalised to a segment of one.
The path to hyper-personalisation
To say we live in a data-rich world would be an understatement. Businesses can aggregate customer data across multiple touch points and have unprecedented insight into their customers’ behaviour, wants and needs. But data is only valuable if it can be gathered and interpreted in the right way.
Brands need to use sophisticated data-driven marketing strategies to target consumers with relevant, engaging messages at opportune moments that are more likely to elicit conversion and interest than the blanket email communications of old.
data is only valuable if it can be gathered and interpreted in the right way
Generally, customers are responding well to personalisation. Accenture research found 49 per cent of shoppers would not object to having their buying behaviour tracked if it would result in relevant offers. The emphasis on relevancy shows this is a key to consumers – nobody likes to be inundated with spam.
Indeed, Taj Samal, Head of Digital Solutions at RBS, stated in the recent whitepaper Know Your Customer. Solve Their Problem: “Personalisation is vital in building trust and is a real differentiator. Over the next five years there’ll be a much greater emphasis on generating trust through real personalisation. For that you must truly understand what works for your customer.”
Who’s leading the way for hyper personalisation?
It’s impossible to talk about personalisation without thinking of Amazon. As a brand, it’s not just re-thought the customer experience but fundamentally transformed the world of ecommerce and is the envy of other industries.
Its “frequently brought together” and “customers who bought this item also bought” prompts are founded on intelligent data and incentivise customers to spend more. And it’s reaping rewards; a report by McKinsey estimates 35 per cent of Amazon’s consumer purchases come from product recommendations based on such algorithms.
next generation engagement is about non-monetary rewards and a seamless experience
Next generation engagement is about non-monetary rewards and a seamless experience that’s both on and offline. O2 has embraced and earned itself a reputation as a trailblazer for personalisation. The provider offers its customers targeted, exclusive offers and discounts to sporting/music events, restaurants and other lifestyle experiences via its Priority and Reward programmes.
Its social media campaign, #FollowTheRabbit, also encourages consumers to follow the brand to spot early offers and exclusive competitions.
The net effect is customers become social media ambassadors as they use and share the hashtag across their own channels – therefore maximising the brand reach of the provider. This level of advocacy from your own customers is invaluable in the age of peer-to-peer social communities.
Future-proofing customer engagement
At the heart of modern customer engagement lies personalisation. No longer is it enough to just know your customer’s birthday. The next stage for customer engagement is to know the ages of their children, their favourite sports teams, where they like to go on holiday, how active they are on social media. Only then can they offer rewards and experiences that are truly built for them.
With customers more empowered and autonomous than ever before, businesses need to not only meet their expectations, but anticipate and inspire their decisions, to truly become a valued part of their lives.