Marketers need to determine the relationship they want with customers and how to craft it at scale. That sets the stage for a personalization strategy.

Liad Agmon, CEO, Dynamic Yield

Liad Agmon, CEO, Dynamic Yield

For 10 years, I began every workday with a trip to the same coffee shop. Over time, the owner and his entire staff came to know every one of my idiosyncrasies. They knew me as a renegade bachelor, a proud soon to-be husband and newly minted dad and always served up quality advice with bigger and bigger portions of caffeine.

Here’s the rub: Shiny new coffee shops with better brew kept popping up nearby, but I returned religiously because I love a place “where everybody knows my name.”

Across the retail industry, brands spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising annually  to get me to “enter” the coffee shop. However, most retailers badly underinvest in giving me a reason to stay. Both the online and in-store experiences are impersonal and often indistinguishable from competitors, greatly devaluing the brand.

Crafting personalized experiences is a marketer’s core means of differentiating in an increasingly commoditized world.

The delicate job of ensuring that an emotional connection is made between a consumer and a brand falls directly on the highest level of leadership at a company. Steve Job’s genius wasn’t just in developing world-class products and scaling a business—his trickier and less tangible brilliance was making me feel something each time I see that familiar bitten fruit. This is the essence of personalization.

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In an era of decreasing brand affinity, personalization is far more than just a tactic to boost top-line growth. Crafting personalized experiences is a marketer’s core means of differentiating in an increasingly commoditized world.

Rebuilding the customer experience

Once upon a time, if you wanted to know what was going on in the world, you had little choice but to read a newspaper. It served as the medium that filtered world events and presented them to you in a concise manner. For decades, retail functioned in much the same way. If you wanted a decent pair of jeans, you hopped in the car and drove to the closest store where your options were only as good as the store’s merchandiser’s decisions.

Furthermore, midmarket and enterprise retailers around the world grew accustomed to having an ironclad grip on the medium in which the customer shopped. Customer journeys were perfectly linear, defined by the retailer based on the layout of the store.

Today, all those decades of optimization are for naught as mid-market brands have lost control of the customer experience.  Access to online resources has fundamentally changed consumer expectations and allowed consumers to define the buyer journey on their own terms. Retailers now compete with hip artists selling through Etsy and a gargantuan who can ship your wildest dreams to your door via drone.

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As Amazon continues to build its leviathan, retailers of all sizes are being drawn into battles they cannot win, losing badly in operational efficiency, breadth of products and price. With no means to battle economies of scale, retailers can only hope to win by delivering a superior customer experience.

Marketers need to ask one fundamental question: what is the relationship we want with our customers and how do we craft it at scale? Once the former question is answered, the stage is set for personalization.

Personalization in Action

In order to deliver a uniquely enjoyable customer experience, the first step is knowing your customer. Thus, the key is having infrastructure that allows for data from your website, mobile app, CRM, third-party sources and in-store behavior residing in one platform.

Once all of your data is unified, marketing becomes far less of a guessing game. Rather than inundating your users with thousands of options, you can be a digital concierge, curating product recommendations based on the shopper’s activity across all channels on your site, the device she is shopping on and the current weather.  You can start to know your users in the same way as my barista.

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Let’s now a look at a common use case: leveraging CRM records to serve personalized experiences based on past purchases. Obviously, this is a successful way to increase conversion rates and top line by immediately creating a web page or app tailored around products that I’ve already bought. What’s less obvious is how this simple data integration can be a bridge to connecting with a consumer.

Since a retailer knows that I have purchased, they can easily deploy a “Welcome Back Liad” overlay as soon as I arrive on the website, perhaps with items that complement to my previous purchases. In doing so, the retailer will not only increase the chance I buy, they’ll make me smile for a moment and form an instant positive association in my mind.

Marketers have long appreciated how deploying a successful personalization strategy can greatly boost revenue and drive conversions. Despite this, few marketers really understand the effect that speaking 1:1 to consumers online can have in establishing a brand’s identity. Personalization is far more than a small piece of your marketing stack—it is the single most important element of building your brand online.

Dynamic Yield says its technology enables personalization, recommendations, automated optimization and behavioral messaging from a single platform.

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