Head of Product @ Carbon by Clicksco, Graham Morley, provides insights into how you can create invisible, personalised customer journeys to better engage with your audience.
A radical rethinking of marketing basics revolutionised the industry in the mid-1990s when Don Peppers and Martha Rogers’ forward–thinking book, ‘The One to One Future’ hit the shelves, challenging the marketers of a different world to reach out to prospective and loyal customers. Back then the fax machine was king and the internet a novel toy, but 25 years later, the future described in the book has arrived. We can now reach our customers through any number of personalisations and today’s challenge for marketers has evolved from how to engage, to how to engage effectively, at scale. Graham Morley, Head of Product at Carbon by Clicksco, shares his insight
Personalisation is used in many ways, but the best customer experiences (CX) take a less expected form; they are invisible.
We’ve all experienced that pushy salesperson, who uses every trick in the book to get us to purchase. Whether we convert or not, the outcome often leaves a bad taste in our mouths as we unravel the techniques and ’one day only’ special offers that we’re peddled.
Now imagine the delicious aroma when popping into your favourite coffee shop. The space feels like home as you enter, playing music you enjoy. Then you’re welcomed with a familiar greeting from your barista, as your preferred beverage is prepared exactly to your liking before you even reach the checkout. Completing the visit with a payment choice that suits you – this is an experience, not just a transaction.
So how can this experience be replicated digitally? How do we provide invisible, personalised customer journeys when building online services?
Here are my five key points to consider:
1. Having more information about a customer might mean less
As the adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Knowing that someone visiting any page likes kittens, for instance, does not necessitate distastefully shoehorning an image of one onto their screen in a desperate bid to get their attention. If a pointless picture of a cat appears on a shopping cart page, it isn’t helpful to the customer.
Using data science and machine learning, it’s possible to understand user behaviour at a micro level. Meaningful data can be used to enhance the customer experience, rather than distract. Perhaps the cat fan has children and would prefer the shopping cart page to suggest relevant products or sites, such as family entertainment.
Rather than using the same strategy of pop up cats for every visitor with an interest in kittens, setting KPIs around user engagement opens the opportunity to only use the personalisations that an individual user responds to. Remember, people respond differently to different things and the same notion applies at each stage of the customer journey.
2. Treat each customer experience as a conversation
As martech experts, from CEOs to product developers like myself, it’s easy to think of how we want to talk to our customers. But what about planning how to listen?
Listening involves more than analysing customer feedback forms and survey responses. A far more insightful way to understand what customers want is through observing behaviour. By considering niche interests and behaviours, the complete customer journey can be optimised through personalisation, from acquisition through to engagement and conversion.
Does the customer visiting your page during lunchtime usually spend longer browsing than when compared to browsing in the evening? If so, make it easy for them to pick up their session later. This could be done by storing the data from earlier in the day in a quickly accessible way for them to pick up when they return, such as items in a basket or an effectively timed personalised email reminder.
Another important listening element is to observe the natural flow of a conversation. Does your entire customer journey feel like a conversation? Or does it feel forced with unexpected twists and turns? Removing friction will help customers in a way that truly benefits them. One example I always go back to, is to start the customer journey by first asking the customer’s name. In a transactional process, it’s politer to greet the customer first before asking for their payment details!
3. Put your customer first
A huge part of building customer loyalty comes from setting the right metrics as KPIs. Quite often values such as conversion rate or cart abandonment rate can become nothing more than myopic vanity statistics that distort a true view of growth.
By supplementing these stats with customer engagement metrics, we can understand in greater detail when the most loyal customers visit our properties and how to better serve them when they do. Engagement scores should be created unique to the business, based on actions such as activity time, visit frequency and core action completion. This will help to understand engagement as a whole and determine how to reach customers in the most effective way. Putting their preferences into practice will go a long way to building long-term customer relationships.
4. Rely on science, not assumption
Being able to test and validate everything we do with regards to personalisation is critical to a successful CX strategy. Artificial intelligence allows us to optimise each micro–interaction at scale and gain statistical significance more efficiently. For example, let’s say data tells us a customer with two children has recently purchased sunglasses and is on a travel insurance site. Over the past month, the customer has spent hours visiting several travel blogs about Majorca and predominantly shops online during the evening. This information can be used to determine personalisations to add value to the individual CX. What else might the customer need? Should they be directed to another travel insurance site or an advert for a half-price sale on swimwear? Rather than serving the same experience to randomly selected groups of users, we can serve experiences tailored to each individual and gain insight into how successful each optimisation is at a personal level.
5. Be transparent
Now, more than ever, customers are aware that the companies and services they use collect, utilise and share their data. Through policies like GDPR, data ownership lies more with the customer, meaning it’s more beneficial to be transparent with data and how it is used. To be transparent, customers should be made aware of what data is collected and what it is used for – it might be a name and email addresses for sending personalised order confirmation – not to sell on to third parties, as a suspicious customer may think.
The most important balance to find when deciding on a personalisation strategy as part of the CX is between providing value to the user and raising concerns over how their data is used. Services such as Netflix do this well when recommending a new show; explaining to individual customers that they might like it ‘because you watched X’. This removes the mystery from the user experience and demonstrates the positive side of a data sharing relationship between service and customer.
What we do know about the one-to-one future is that it is now and personalisation can go a long way to building solid customer relationships. By putting customers first and focusing on long-term value over short–term goal completion, implementing sensitive customer journey enhancements and being transparent about how customer data is used and managed, relationships can be built one customer at a time, at scale.