Rethink experience curation not personalization
- Marketers might believe that implementing personalization will result in every customer having a unique experience, and that they will actually realize that their experience differs from the experiences of others.
- Many attempts at personalization often simply segment audiences into a small number of cohorts and then push different content or offers to each cohort.
- While it’s fine to segment customers and align content and offers accordingly, marketers must take the next step: create satisfactory experiences for the customer through a process of curation.
- Marketers that want to create an experience that will help customers feel recognized and engaged must think about audiences through a lens that extends from the first encounter well through to established customer and must constantly reflect changes in customer expectations and company offerings.
As 2020 finally draws to a close, and the massive shift by companies of all types to finally be “all in” on digital marketing briskly continues, there are opportunities emerging to go beyond the basics and really figure out how to get the most value from new online experiences. Everyone has a list of next steps, and for many personalization is right at the top. However, the term personalization can mean many things and that can be a limiting factor in getting the most value from the investment.
Names are not sufficient
So many marketing emails arrive every day with the most personal of openings, Dear Norman, as if the sender really knows us. Unfortunately, we are all keenly aware that the sender doesn’t know us at all, and the rest of the email content is generically the same for every recipient.
This is not personalization at all, but simply fields being adequately filled in (except for when the dreaded Dear <name> email arrives). Marketers should seriously consider dropping the use of names altogether unless there is an actual connection between the sender and recipient.
Names can have impact when used in a thoughtful manner, as the fashion site MR PORTER does after a customer logs in and the logo at the top of the page then rotates between MR PORTER and your name, in my case MR GUADAGNO. Subtle but impactful personalization at work!
Not always personal
One trap that snares many a marketer is the belief that implementing personalization will result in every customer having a unique experience, and that they will actually realize that their experience differs from the experiences of others.
The sad truth is that many attempts at personalization often simply segment audiences into a small number of cohorts and then push different content or offers to each cohort. Yes, there has been an attempt to create something unique for the customer, but it is less about being personal and more about being (potentially) relevant.
Customers today tend to be very sophisticated and they see through most of the basic techniques employed by marketers. It is fine to segment them and align content and offers accordingly, but marketers must take the next step.
The way to move beyond simplistic personalization is to stop thinking about it as something done to a customer and instead think about it as something done with a customer. Creating satisfactory experiences for the customer is a process of curation, and curation only occurs when the curator regularly interacts with their audience and adjusts accordingly.
The process of Experience Curation starts with a few core principles:
- Customers are more than the provided or inferred demographic, sociographic, and psychographic data associated with them.
- Customers’ needs and wants change across time and situations.
- Experiences can and should be more than just targeted offers and relevant content.
Marketers that want to create an experience that will help customers feel recognized and engaged should start with these principles and expand from there. It will require thinking about audiences through a lens that extends from the first encounter well through to established customer and must constantly reflect changes in customer expectations and company offerings.
This last point is particularly salient, as many companies either attempt to push new and improved offerings out to every customer or fail to notify customers at all of offerings that might be particularly relevant. Experience Curation requires active participation from both sides of the equation to continuously make small and large adjustments across every interaction.
Many of the next-generation personalization software solutions found in market use various forms of AI to help tailor offers to customers. These solutions are powerful, but they are not sufficient to build the competitive experiences required in the future. Marketing teams must make Experience Curation a key part of their overall strategy to attract and retain the best customers.
Personalization is ready to be reinvented, and now is the perfect time for every marketer to rethink exactly what it means and how to make it a powerful tool. Hopefully this will mean fewer Dear <name> emails in our inboxes and more experiences that make us feel truly known.
Norman Guadagno is Chief Marketing Officer at Acoustic, the largest independent marketing cloud, and a member of the ClickZ Advisory Board.
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