Today, consumers are bored by the end of this sentence, says the NRF’s 2019 “About” landing page. Later it declares that retail today isn’t an establishment, but an experience, and the more you impact people, the more you impact perception, and ultimately profit. Amazon introduced product personalization into an online experience a decade ago, but personalization isn't just for Amazon anymore. So, what is personalization and how is it related to consumer experiences?
What do we mean when we say personalization?
At Antuit, we think of personalization as a means to effectively and efficiently meet and exceed consumers expectations. The result is increased consumer satisfaction, which in turn increases consumer engagement, and ultimately consumer lifetime value. At the end of the day, when personalization is done right, it is a key business differentiator that drives top and bottom line growth. In fact, Gartner estimates that companies that fully invest in personalization by the end of the year will drive 30% more sales than companies that don’t.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Consumers like you and me have more options than we’ve ever had before; we have more product options, more ways of finding information about those products, more ways of learning about competitive options, and more ways of ordering and getting our products. The consumer decision process is no longer a funnel, but rather a loop where any competitor or any company can insert themselves at any point in the journey. If you’re not communicating with your consumers in the most relevant, natural and engaging way, then you aren’t going to build the business you want and sustain sales, much less drive profitable growth.
Doesn’t everyone do personalization today?
Personalization solutions aren’t new but from my experience and feedback from leading clients across multiple industries, the majority miss the mark by a country mile. Most personalization solutions empower marketers to manually build campaigns, define audiences, create content or offers and then match them before activating them on various channels. They do not empower the marketer to continuously engage each consumer with the right message, offer, or content on the right channel, at the right time, in the right sequence, and in a data-driven way that drives profitable growth, while working within the engagement stage that a consumer has with a company.
Hundreds of millions of decisions need to be made every day to achieve the type of personalization described above at scale, and no human or team of humans, even with the most complex rules-based decision engines, could do it. However, machine learning and artificial intelligence make it possible for brands of all sizes to deliver a unique experience for you that is completely different from the unique experience they deliver to me (and millions of other consumers) in a scalable and cost-effective manner.
Does it really need to be this complicated?
Yes. Your competitors want your consumers and will do almost anything to win them. To keep your consumers (and ideally increase their value) you have to engage with them on their terms in a relevant and valuable way. With constantly changing intents, motivations, and behaviors that can get tricky. It gets even trickier when you realize that no two consumers are identical in how best to engage them.
The only solution is one that factors in every consumer pulse point (everything from a transaction, to an open, click, check-in or download) to identify where, when, and how to best engage each consumer. Predictive intelligence based on proprietary and purpose-built machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms (such as those developed by Antuit) make this possible.
The ability to identify when a consumer should get an iced coffee vs. a hot coffee offer, what the offer amount should be, whether they should get that offer on Monday or Thursday, and whether they should get it delivered to their email or mobile device may seem trivial but the ability to do that across millions of customers is what has enabled Antuit to help its clients drive upwards of $100MM in incremental sales per year.
What does the right solution look like?
To personalize content and experiences across channels at the individual consumer level, companies need expertise and integration in a few different areas. The first is data inputs; identifying what’s the right data they need to use, putting it together and making sense of it. That leads into data management; having it organized in the right way and having it transformed so that it can be used by the algorithms delivering personalization experiences. So, data inputs, data management and only then the algorithms.
When the algorithms are ready, they need to be seamlessly integrated into marketing automation platforms, ecommerce platforms and other experience platforms. There also needs to be seamless integration with content creation and management applications because if you don’t have integration between the algorithms and their content, you won’t know what to deliver to each consumer at any point in their interaction.
Finally, there needs to be a measurement loop that plugs into the algorithms and each of the activation and experience platforms for continuous improvement. When you bring all of that together, you can have personalization at scale that drives significant bottom line impact for your company.
Where do I start (or how do I get back on track)?
For companies that want to get the most out of their personalization investment, we’ve seen our clients succeed when they focus on the following:
- Test and Build: Don’t build a monolithic platform that’s going to take multiple millions of dollars and multiple years to implement. Start small – focus on one channel and a subset of consumers. Quickly run one or multiple tests (over weeks, not months), prove success and build from there. The program will fund itself and the incremental sales generated will grow over time.
- Understand the Scope: As mentioned previously, personalization at scale is so much more than a fancy algorithm. Data strategy, data infrastructure, algorithms, content platforms, activation platforms, and experience platforms, along with measurement, all need to work together seamlessly. Personalization is a strategic and cross-functional initiative, not a siloed marketing project.
- Recognize That Your Business Is Unique: Your business is different from every other business in one way or another. It doesn’t make sense to think that you can achieve a sustainable advantage by picking up an off the shelf platform. A superior experience requires working with partners (such as Antuit) who can bring proven solutions that are custom fit to your business needs.
Personalization at scale requires expertise and integrated execution in every single one of the domains highlighted above. When a company builds these elements into the foundation of their personalization strategy and execution, they’re on track to move faster and cheaper than their competitors to capture more consumers, increase retention rates, and grow consumer lifetime value.
If you’re at the NRF and would like to learn more about how Antuit enables omnichannel customer-level personalization at scale today for leading companies across multiple industries, stop by booth 948 for a chat. We’d love to see you!