Changes in consumer behaviour and the reality of the omnichannel customer are driving brands to gain ever deeper market and customer understanding. With multiple and diverse data sources and innovative analytics, organisations now have an unprecedented opportunity to transform every customer interaction. However, for marketing, the new customer dynamic is creating huge pressure to deliver not only personalisation, but real-time one-to-one personalisation.
According to the results of a recent research survey, almost half of all respondents (44%) are already doing some degree of real-time personalisation – a figure that is set to rise to 75% in the next two years.
However, to achieve truly effective, cross-channel, real-time personalisation there is one key requirement: detailed data. To realise the vision and benefits of real-time personalisation, organisations need step out of the aggregated data comfort zone.
Will 2014 be the year personalisation, indeed real-time personalisation, becomes a prerequisite? Over the past two years, organisations have tried to exploit traditional offline database marketing techniques, such as segmentation, to gain new insight about individual online customer behaviour. They have struggled, however, due to the lack of detailed data.
Yet according to a recent survey carried out by MyCustomer.com, over half (51%) of respondents say personalisation is either very important or critical to their efforts today. This rises to a phenomenal 80% in two years.
Typically, the personalisation of email dominates most organisations’ ‘personalised’ communications, primarily through the use of name, plus some historical or profile data. Organisations that are already dabbling with personalisation cite very significant benefits in areas such as improved conversion and response, better customer experience and customer retention.
In the future not only do companies plan to embrace website and mobile personalisation but over three quarters of respondents (78%) predict that they will be making use of data in real-time in the next two years.
But let’s get this clear: organisations need to take a radically different approach to data collection, storage and analysis to get anywhere near truly effective real-time one-to-one personalisation. To date, organisations have relied on aggregated data; and for good reasons. Aggregated data has provided essential insight into online behaviour that can be used to understand paths and journeys, build a better web site and engage senior management with all important reporting.
For example, the use of multi-variate testing is now standard to determine customer preferences about the look of content – such as a preference for a red or blue purchase button and its location; or whether the use of product reviews increases or decreases customer conversion.
However, aggregate data cannot reveal the individual customer journey or their needs and preferences. It cannot be used to understand how a specific customer arrived, browsed, searched or moved about the website. Essentially, without this level of individual customer activity information, how can a business achieve relevant, real-time one-to-one engagement?
Today, 25% of organisations are using individual level interaction data according to the survey results. These organisations are now able to undertake far more effective, personalised activity across multiple channels to drive better customer engagement and conversion. For example, knowing exactly which individuals browsed a specific product, such as slow-moving item, enables the creation of highly targeted multi-channel communications to help shift the excess stock.
Real-time website personalisation can also be enhanced by using basket affinity analysis. This method showcases which products are put into a basket at the same time and in what order to then present relevant offers during the online check-out process, increasing both cross-sell revenue and basket size.
Alternatively, insight into which products are most frequently bought together created using product affinity analysis can be used to drive targeted content within order confirmation or shipping notification emails.
It is real-time data that is also key to creating personalised offers and engagement that reflect the many diverse ways an individual interacts with a brand. From the different devices used at a particular time of day; to an individual’s preferences for online, telephone or in store engagement dependent upon product type or weekday versus weekend; even full-price versus sale, detailed multi-channel data is becoming crucial.
So how does this work in practice? A retailer combining online data with transactional, loyalty and social graph information to attain deep customer understanding can prioritise high value or very socially influential individuals if stock is limited – thus avoiding out of stock situations for the most valuable customers which could impact not just that sale but future purchases and brand perception.
Another example of omnichannel personalisation is an insurance company combining online channel information with call centre data to understand how customers interact through all channels.
By identifying individuals who have a received an insurance quote via the pricing calculator but not placed an order online or via the phone, the company is able to quickly re-target them with an offer from the call centre that has a high degree of likelihood to convert, before the customer opts for a competitor. Based on customer feedback this has also proven to have a positive benefit on the customer experience.
By harnessing real-time detailed data in this way, organisations can rapidly embark upon effective, omni-channel data-driven marketing activities – from embracing the top tier customer to maximising conversion and off-loading slow moving stock. Real-time data enables organisations to turn insight into action with highly personalised and timely interactions that enhance loyalty, customer experiences and sales.
Of course, web analytics based on aggregated data clearly still has a huge role to play in providing critical insight into overall business performance and strategic direction. But it is time to extend that data: technology for online data capture, storage and analytics can now deliver that essential segment of one that will be key to meeting escalating customer expectation and fast evolving cross-channel engagement. To achieve true one-to-one real-time personalisation across all channels, organisations need to go for detail.