An ideal behavioral targeting strategy incorporates data from all interactions with a customer to craft a single seamless user journey for each individual. With the help of a machine-learning solution that learns from every customer interaction, a brand can weave multi-source data into a unique symphony of delightful moments, cultivating rewarding relationships that last.

James Glover, co-founder and CEO, Coherent Path

James Glover, co-founder and CEO, Coherent Path

Every marketer knows that personalization is crucial to an effective campaign. But what does “personalization” really mean in today’s rapidly evolving digital world—and more importantly, what does it mean in your customers’ minds?

An email with a personalized subject line and greeting might’ve felt delightfully personal back in 2010 or so—but today, your subscribers know you’ve got access to automated tools that make this surface-level personalization as simple as clicking a button. In fact, even personalized recommendations based on previous purchases are starting to feel pretty stale—as everyone who’s scrolled past Amazon’s “You Might Also Like…” section knows firsthand.

Products that were relevant on yesterday’s shopping trip aren’t necessarily going to be relevant today.

Today’s customers expect more than automated first-name greetings. They’re unengaged with product recommendations that just rehash their existing taste. They want to know you’re investing time and effort in understanding their desires and aspirations—in short, that you “get” them, and want to help them build the life they dream of.

These might sound like lofty goals—but the truth is, they’re well within reach for any organization that understands how to foster a relationship over time. Here’s how it works.

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Today’s individualized personalization isn’t just contextual—it’s behavioral.

Many retailers are already familiar with contextual personalization: creating customer personas based on a person’s age, gender, past purchases, and other demographic data. But while this level of personalization can be useful for broad campaign planning, it falls short when a brand seeks to reach out beyond segmented targeting, and connect with each customer individually.

This is where behavioral personalization really delivers its value. Unlike contextual personalization (which is driven primarily by demographic research), behavioral targeting is driven by ongoing real-world interactions with every subscriber. Those interactions may take place on a brand’s website, on third-party sites that share a brand’s blog posts or display purchased ads—or even in-store, at customer assistance stations and points of sale.

In fact, an ideal behavioral targeting strategy incorporates data from all these touchpoints to craft a single seamless user journey for each customer. With the help of a machine-learning solution that learns from every customer interaction, a brand can weave multi-source data into a unique symphony of delightful moments, cultivating rewarding relationships that last.

Relevance is great—but it’s just one component of proactive relationship-building.

The concept of relevance comes up at every marketing conference these days—yet surprisingly few retailers carry the idea through to its logical conclusion. Products that were relevant on yesterday’s shopping trip aren’t necessarily going to be relevant today: A customer who’s just bought a toaster doesn’t want to see recommendations for more toasters.

In other words, relevance isn’t a static trait—it’s determined by an ever-evolving set of associations in a customer’s life. To the summer tourist who’s just bought a swimsuit, for instance, sandals and sunglasses are now far more relevant than they were a moment ago.

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And in many cases, the most relevant content may not be a product recommendation at all. For the outdoorsman who’s just stocked up on non-perishable dog food and a pet poncho, an email about America’s most dog-friendly hiking trails will spark far greater delight than a “personalized” message recommending more dog-related accessories.

Anticipate your customers’ aspirations, and you’ll help shape their lifelong obsessions.

The core reason nine out of 10 email campaigns fail is simply that marketers misunderstand their true purpose. Email’s real value isn’t as a tool for promoting products—it’s as a point of connection that fosters ongoing dialogue with your customers, driving lifelong obsession that delivers increasing value over time.

The reason far too many email campaigns fall flat is that they’re driven by an organization’s internal benchmarks—CTRs, stock levels, sales quotas and so on—when they should be driven by customers’ goals and aspirations. Not every customer wants to buy what you’re selling today. But if you connect with those customers through content that matters to them, you can prevent them from unsubscribing—and maybe make those sales tomorrow, or next week.

In other words, cultivating customer relationships takes time, patience, and an ability to anticipate your subscribers’ desires and goals before they’re even able to articulate them. This would be a tall order if you tried to handle it manually—but it’s precisely what personalized automation solutions are designed to do: nurture ongoing obsession that delivers ever-increasing value throughout each customer’s lifetime.

As crucial as relevant recommendations are, they’re just one piece in the complex clockwork of a lifelong customer relationship—and in order to deliver value, those recommendations have to be shared at exactly the right moments, in precisely the right contexts.

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Listen to your customers. Learn from them. Show them the bright futures they haven’t even dreamed of yet. In return, they’ll come to see you as a trusted friend—and when it’s time to make a purchase, you’ll be the first place they think to look.

Coherent Path provides predictive analytics software designed to surface products and categories that meet consumers’ evolving needs over time.

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