Marketers Make Customer Experience More Personal

Marketers this year will ramp up their efforts at personalization, getting a 360-degree view of customers and improving the customer experience, and they will leverage multiple strategies, tools and solutions to do so, a study released Tuesday by theCMO Council found.

Deploying digital analytics and life cycle management tools will take the lead, followed by personalization platforms that help deliver more cross-channel, data-driven experiences; customer journey mapping solutions; and predictive analytics engines.

Marketers will seek a better grasp of customer data, intelligence, and how this information can shape the way content and experiences reach customers, according to the study, which was conducted jointly by Microsoft and the CMO Council.

They have to build “a rich, repeatable and loyal lifetime relationship between the customer and the brand,” said the report, titled “Making Personalization Possible.”

While machine learning is touted highly — Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 will incorporate it, for instance — only 16 percent of the 179 senior marketers surveyed for the study planned to go in that direction this year.

Data Details

Only 26 percent of respondents were totally confident about personalization, another 49 percent were “hopefully optimistic,” 17 percent were waiting to see, and 8 percent were not expecting a miracle.

A single view of the customer was the most critical criterion for success in personalization, 37 percent of respondents said. Twenty-nine percent favored an omnichannel approach, 22 percent sought flexible tools to enable engagement, and 12 percent considered predictive analysis essential.

The metrics for measuring customer experience are shifting from clicks, views and open rates — favored by 59 percent of the respondents — to improvements in acquisition and retention rates, as well as other business metrics such as revenue per transaction increases, customer lifetime value, and upsell and cross-sell engagements. Customer satisfaction surveys were still high on the list of metrics for 52 percent of respondents.

Getting to Know You

“Personalization is nothing new,” said Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing at the CMO Council. “Neither is having a desire to have a 360-degree view of the customer. We’ve been trying to get there since we figured out how to automate a personalized letter.”

The difference today is that “the customer-defined economy is demanding that we engage in a highly personalized and relevant manner,” she told CRM Buyer.

However, “this doesn’t have to be a full 360-degree view; it just needs to be a single version of truth that the entire organization taps into,” Miller elaborated.

Creepy Connotations

Personalization involves “looking at past and real-time behaviors to predict a customer’s next action in order to serve them with communications and offers that are valuable to them,” remarked Mary Anne Hensley, director of content for the CMO Council.

“If you’re not analyzing the data, how can you market it?” asked Laura DiDio, a research director atStrategy Analytics. “From my own survey, only 8 percent of organizations are using predictive analytics and big data analytics on a regular basis.”

However, customers may be concerned about an invasion of their privacy, or they may become annoyed when they’re served up ads that aren’t relevant to their immediate needs.

“There’s always the risk that analysis could become onerous and intrusive,” DiDio told CRM Buyer. “On the other hand, anybody who isn’t tracking and analyzing and trying to interpret their data is going to leave money on the table and fall behind the competition.”

This “is quite a concern for marketers and touches on an issue that we like to call ‘crossing the creepy line,’ ” Hensley told CRM Buyer. “Bottom line: When a customer asks, ‘How could they possibly know that about me?’ the creepy line has likely been crossed.”

Still, customers often are willing to share information with a brand if they know it will improve their experience, she pointed out.

That said, relying fully on machines and data analysis “gets us really bad retargeting,” the CMO Council’s Miller cautioned. Campaigns “are single moments in time” that marketers need to tie together into an experience.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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