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16 January 2019

Marketing for an audience of one: how to create personalized customer experiences

Technology is fundamentally changing the behavior of consumers, and with it the way customers expect to interact with companies. How can brands break through the virtual noise given the limited time they have? Creating personalized customer experiences is a major opportunity to do so.

Personalization is becoming a top priority for businesses, but most struggle to do it right

“Personalization” can be interpreted broadly, ranging from basic to advanced personalization efforts. For some companies, personalization equals addressing clients by their first name or sending them a birthday email. For other companies, personalization amounts to advanced one-to-one communication using distinct content, transaction history and specific recommendations.

Without a doubt personalization is a key part of the customer experience. Intelligent use of personal, behavioral and transactional data allows companies to hold the attention of customers. This increases the chances of conversion, engagement, loyalty and more – ultimately benefiting business results.

That is why personalization is becoming a top priority for businesses. Within the retail sector, more than 90 percent of companies say personalization is a top priority. But only 15% of them believe they are doing a good job.[1] Looking at the customer side, only 22% of shoppers say they are satisfied with the current level of personalization they receive.[2] This means that many personalization efforts fail to do the job. Anyone who has been stalked by that one item they browsed but didn’t purchase, would agree.

Marketing for the audience of one: how to create personalized customer experiences?

Take things to the next level by creating personalized customer experiences

Customers don’t just want personalized communication – they are looking for more. Today, experience is the new currency. Creating a personalized customer experience is a major opportunity for companies to capitalize on their personalization efforts. To create this kind of experience, they need to use customer data to create added value, as opposed to just pushing out messages. It’s all about creating a unique, relevant experience for the individual.

The following companies get the message:

  • On top of its streaming services, Spotify offers its users the Daily Mix, a set of spot-on personalized playlists. The platform uses a clustering technology to identify distinct subgroups within their users’ listening patterns and then builds recommendations around those, mixing appropriate new suggestions with favorites. Because, so Spotify believes, “Your music listening experience should be exactly that – yours”.
  • Japanese fashion retailer Zozo aims at creating a size-free world by offering custom-fit clothes. Today, they use the Zozosuit, a polka dot bodysuit allowing customers to capture a 3D measurement of their unique body at home. These measures ensure a perfect fit for the clothes they order at Zozotown, the retailer’s online clothing shop with over 6,400 unique brands. As of March, Zozo will no longer be using the Zozosuit. They claim to be at a stage where they can estimate the ideal clothes based on height and weight only.
  • Care/of offers personalized daily vitamin packs. Customers are invited to answer a series of questions on their goals, lifestyle and values. Care/of then provides a personalized recommendation of daily vitamins and water-soluble supplements, which it then delivers to their doorstep.

In the meantime, other companies are looking to do the same as customers expect similar experiences from all types of businesses they are interacting with. But how to get started?

Customer-centric innovation: focus on the jobs to get done

The solution lies in the combination of Artificial Intelligence, creativity and empathy. Creativity and empathy allow product or service designers and sales staff to put themselves in the shoes of customers – to be customer-centric.

Meaningful customer-centricity is based on the customer’s jobs to be done. To understand customers’ wants and needs, companies should stop focusing solely on their product or customer, but instead start focusing on the underlying “job” the customer is trying to get done. The key to a successful product or service is to solve a problem for which only inadequate or no solutions exist. In other words, to be innovative. This requires both creativity and empathy. Spotify, Zozo and Care/of all have that one thing in common: their personalized customer experience does the job. Spotify saves its users the trouble of finding new music to their taste. Zozo solves the (online) fashion industry’s sizing problem. Care/of takes away the burden of composing a fitting set of vitamins.

To find these jobs to be done, companies should embed customer-centric innovation throughout their organization. This challenge has marketers written all over it. The skills and mindset to master customer-centricity are inherent to marketers. In this context, customer-centric innovation is marketing’s responsibility. Marketers can apply personas, customer journey mapping, empathy mapping, business design thinking and customer co-creation (to name a few) to facilitate this shift towards a customer-centric culture.

These methods ensure that businesses always have customers and their jobs to be done top of mind. Once these jobs to be done are uncovered, companies are certain to benefit from (re)designing their offerings and internal processes accordingly. In doing so, they will be able to create personalized customer experiences that resonate with customers, which will enable them to grow through innovation.

How are you taking on the challenge of becoming a more customer-centric marketer? Have you already set foot in the brave new world of Artificial Intelligence? If not, we happily lend you a hand to get started! 

[1] McKinsey & Company 
[2] BI Intelligence