Beyond personal: the power of individualisation

Brands must move beyond personalisation in order to achieve CX success

Consumer expectations have evolved. Meeting customer needs today therefore means adopting more mature solutions to create the kind of individualised journeys that sit at heart of true customer-centricity.

We know that budgets aren’t currently the main barrier when it comes to delivering an improved customer experience (CX) – at least they weren’t until the entire economy was hit by Covid-19. That much was demonstrated in Gartner’s 2019 Customer Experience Management Survey, which found that 74 per cent of CX leaders were planning budget increases this year, compared to 47 per cent in the previous survey.

Instead, the real reason that businesses are likely to struggle to realise the full value of customer experience is cultural – there needs to be major shifts in the overall approach to CX, and that starts with understanding the move to individualisation.

The power of individualisation

The key to brands unlocking the power of CX is to move beyond dated notions of personalisation and instead focus on individualisation.

The importance of the distinction between the two shouldn’t be underestimated, with Forrester dubbing individualisation “Personalisation 2.0” and noting customers “expect and will reward…individualised experiences”.

Personalisation means treating customers as targets to be aimed at with precision. While moderately effective when done well, this still involves treating customers as members of broad demographic groups and pushing out brand-centric messages and offers.

Individualisation marks an evolution of this approach, with brands interacting with customers as individuals, creating contextually relevant conversations that build true value and trust.

This process extends far beyond a ‘spray and pray’ approach where success means reaching ever-smaller target groups. Instead, by engaging with each customer as an individual, and treating them as an equal partner to the brand, it creates new levels of trust.

Where segmentation aims to drive desirable behaviours, individualisation aims to create a truly improved experience. And, where segmentation might drive modest uplifts in response and conversion rates, it’s individualisation that truly improves overall customer acquisition, retention, satisfaction and advocacy.

As welcome as increased CX budgets are, it is when they are underpinned by a cultural shift that prioritises trust that they can truly transform business success. Focusing on a better approach to data, engagement and understanding of the customer journey is invaluable.

Embedding individualisation

Realising the benefits of individualisation requires a business-wide effort, with everyone from marketing, CX and technology teams pulling together to ensure every touchpoint is analysed to create individualised and worthwhile experiences.

This process should also be used to identify any gaps in data – ensuring there is a truly comprehensive view of customer behaviour – and to increase the rate at which this data can be analysed and activated in real-time.

Data, trust, consent

As with any customer-facing area of business, trust is key to realising the benefits of individualisation.

Even though businesses now know more about their customers than ever before, successful indidvidualisation requires more real-time behavioural data. Crucial to earning a licence to operate is being trusted to gain access to this data transparently, to use it as advertised and to ensure it is kept secure.

When brands meet this challenge and demonstrate their commitment to behaving ethically, seeking and obtaining consent correctly and committing to always using data in a relevant way, they gain the opportunity to drive meaningful engagement.

Some would say legislation – whether GDPR or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States – means data security will inevitably climb up the agenda. While that may be the case, serious breaches – and penalties – have already been incurred by large businesses. Brands shouldn’t require the threat of legal action to take data protection seriously, but hefty fines are an added incentive.

The key point here is that data security should be viewed as an opportunity to earn trust and build relationships with customers. Getting this right will prove central to ensuring that increased CX investment actually delivers for businesses, by creating a foundation of trust on which to build truly individualised and valuable experiences.

Context is everything

While customer data is vital, it can only be properly used to create individualised experiences when context and relevance is understood.

In today’s world, that means being able to interpret important signals across all channels and touchpoints, understanding customer intent and ensuring each interaction is accounted for and informs each future interaction.

This becomes the essence of true individualisation, in which all the information brands have on customers is used to inform ever-evolving profiles of the individual. In turn, this profile is then employed to foster ongoing conversations with the customer, across all the touchpoints they have with the business.

Doing this successfully will require rethinking the rulebook. It’s with this focus that businesses can realise the true potential of increased CX budgets, turbocharging ROI and truly transforming the customer experience.

It’s time to explore how the new wave of customer journey analytics and orchestration technology can help drive your business through transformation towards individualisation as the norm.