How Hyper-Personalization Meets Customer Experience – by Efrat Vulfsons

By Efrat Vulfsons.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, brands need to look for better ways to improve customer experience. As this crisis forces most individuals to go through one of the most challenging periods in their lives, customers expect businesses to understand their needs and adapt swiftly in line with them. So, it is no longer enough to create personalized campaigns that group your customers by personas or segments.

Responding to changing customer needs and continually evolving market conditions requires using customer data to respond to individual needs with an emotional touch across all channels. Hyper-personalization, when compelled by data and technology, can help brands target customers with critical messages in real-time. Here are three ways that your brand can leverage hyper-personalization to meaningfully captivate your customers and enrich existing relationships or create new ones to better customer experience.

Allows You To Focus on Micro-Moments

Micro-moments refer to points that occur during a customer’s journey when they make decisions about learning, buying, or doing something through a mobile device. These moments can occur at any time as advances in technology have trained the customer to expect and want things right away.

For example, research by Think With Google shows that 82% of smartphone users browse products they want to buy, using their phone while in-store. However, one in 10 of these individuals then end up buying a different product to the one previously chosen on their phone. This shows that a customer’s needs change frequently. Businesses need to continue providing an exceptional experience that still meets their desired outcomes.

A traditional personalization or segmentation approach gathered a customer’s personal and transactional information such as organization, name, and purchase history to make specific assumptions about a customer. However, hyper-personalization goes further than customer segments or personas. As people and their habits change, so do their expectations for a quality customer experience. Hyper-personalization takes this into account by considering real-time and behavioral data of a customer, such as in-application and browsing behavior, as well as engagement data to interpret a customer’s intentions.

In this way, hyper-personalization can use these micro-moments to drive customer experience strategies so that businesses can recognize any changes early and make adjustments to their product or service. Emmanuel Obadia from Oracle talks about the importance of using micro-moments to make your brand stand out from the others. He says, “As we could all attest, starting with our own behavior, the buying journey is no longer linear but rather unpredictable. It solicits different brand departments from digital, marketing, sales, eCommerce, and customer service. Besides, micro-moments are sparkling all along, which makes supporting the customer lifecycle journey even more difficult.”

He continues to say, “Hyper-personalized interactions – the right context, on the suitable channel/device, at the right time, and in the context that is based on buyer behavior at the moment [is] critical to differentiate your brand. Hence, this is what I refer to as a B2ME experience, preferably real-time as per the micro-moments.

Similarly, Annie Mosbacher from Decoded Strategies states that your business shouldn’t only focus on demographics when approaching personalization. Instead, brands must think about the benefits they want to provide a customer with before hyper-personalizing their experience. She says, “Demographic-based personalization (name, geography, personal details) is helpful, but in most cases, this doesn’t really do the trick for further customization of the customer experience. If you only focus on [demographics], your engagement may alienate the customer thinking they’re just receiving the same old emails as everyone else, trying to push them to use the product more”.

Encourages Better Data Quality Which Continually Enhances Customer Experience

As new technology continues to advance and customers continue to find new ways to interact with these types of devices, the micro-moment behaviors that a mobile phone started will continue to increase. Soon, it won’t be enough for brands to only be present across several micro-moments. They will need to stay a step ahead of customers. In other words, brands will be required to know their customers even better than they know themselves.

To gain a deeper, more relevant understanding of a customer, businesses must build a data-driven strategy across all channels to help each individual buyer across their unique journeys. This is the case especially since research from Salesforce states that customers use an average of nine channels to browse products, seek advice, and eventually make a purchase. Technology can integrate and help your business interpret a variety of data sources from different channels and departments to gain a more holistic understanding of your customer in line with your business goals.

In addition, technology can also give customers a more connected experience as it creates insights that can be shared across teams. This is because a data-driven transformation must also encourage your teams to continually share insights from different departments so that continuity between channels can act as a differentiator for your brand. In this way, your brand can improve data quality by continually sourcing insights that help them deliver a relevant, engaging experience.

Sergio Frias from CX Hub explains how technology enables hyper-personalization for an improved customer experience. He says, “With the ever-growing number of customer profiles and variables to be considered on the process of personalization of solutions, regular humans would never be able to cope with the speed, smoothness, and end-to-end solutions required in the attempt to deliver a personalized experience in each and every customer.”

He carries on to say, “The technologies that can collect the needs and wants of customers coupled with Artificial Intelligence [AI] to sort and make sense of the data transforming those into insights, coupled with Industry 4.0 technologies that drive the production of the specific demands from customers, are revolutionizing the marketplace.”

Similarly, Angela Crawford from Thomas More University talks about how hyper-personalization can improve individual customer journeys across channels. She says, “Since we have very personal relationships with our phones (e.g., consider how you feel when you think you may have lost it), having hyper-personalized communications from companies right to our smartphones is particularly effective. Using data to know how and when the customer wants to receive information is critical.

She continues to explain that, “Designing your hyper-personalized communication strategy from a marketing and service perspective means carefully developing apps, ensuring your website is not only optimized for mobile but also personalized to your customers, and mapping every aspect of your customer’s journey from consideration to post-purchase satisfaction. As you are designing hyper-personalized communications, remember that customers want choice and they want to be in control. Always give them an option to opt-out or decide how and where they want to communicate with you.”

Like Angela Crawford, Sergio Frias also believes hyper-personalization only works if it matches what a customer finds valuable. He goes on to say that, “Although both older and younger consumers want customized solutions, the translation of this need to each one of them is different. The older consumers understand customization as personal delivery, i.e., delivered by a person, while customization to a younger consumer means personalized, not necessarily delivered by a person (actually not involving a person would be even better).

In both cases, though, the more you know about your customer’s habits, preferences, and behaviors, the higher the chance of being able to deliver something they truly like. Customization only makes sense if directly connected to the customer perception of value, i.e., what they truly like.”

Additionally, Daniel Liechtenstein from HyperCore also delves into how he is using AI to personalize his business’s onboarding experience for their B2B SaaS platform and predict a customer’s needs. He states, “Our approach is to streamline the entire data of our funnel and use AI-led services so that when a customer engages with our platform for the first time, it would seem to him as if we already spoke before about his needs and why our product might help him.”

He also says, “For example, while speaking with a customer via email, I can learn what interests him the most about our product. Automatically, I can change the platform’s guided tour so it will direct him to the relevant features and in that way personalize the first experience for him.”

Statistics from Think By Google show that marketers who prioritize an integrated data-driven strategy are 1.5 times more likely to have a clearer view of customer journeys across channels and devices. Melissa Drew from IBM supports this view. She says, “Hyper-personalization technology will facilitate a true 360-degree brand experience across all media channels where customers are spending their time the most. It will also reduce the marketing-to-sales cycle time and provide a tailored but engaging customer experience.”

Like Daniel Liechtenstein, Melissa Drew also believes that email, as a channel, in conjunction with AI technology, can be used to improve her brand’s customer experience. She reveals that “Email marketing will be one of the most impacted marketing channels as a result of hyper-personalization, and it will enable the expansion of the Brand’s engagement into a channel that hasn’t seen a lot of advancement due to technology limitations. The combination of AI and video-in-email will redefine the personal customer experience, while email provides the targeted mechanism to reach each customer.

As an example, let’s use the information about a customer who viewed a hiking backpack on several occasions but didn’t purchase it. With the next generation of hyper-personalization, the customer can open the email to see their (customer-selected) avatar, telling them the backpack, they previously viewed is now on sale, references a nearby hiking trail, and comments this weekend the weather offers a great opportunity to use this backpack or perhaps the customer opens the email to see a video about a nearby hiking trail frequented by the customer in the past, with textualize content about the backpack now on being on sale.”

Creates An Emotional Connection With Customers For A More Meaningful Customer Experience

There’s no doubt that many businesses know that connecting emotionally with a customer is essential to help them feel connected to a brand. However, while research shows that 80% of business executives believe that their brand is aware of their customers’ emotional desires and needs, only 15% agree.

Emmanuel Obadia agrees with this view as it explains why appealing to the emotion of B2B buyers, in particular, is difficult. He says, “This shift towards emotion has B2B buyers now wanting their B2C experiences. Buyers expect an experience that is tailored to their pains, priorities, and preferences at any specific point on their journey—a layer of complexity in its own right for a marketer when looking at an individual buyer. However, when we look at appealing to the emotion of different members within an account, the complexity for marketers becomes even greater.

A marketer is no longer trying to appeal to an individual; they are appealing to a group with individuals that each has their own perspectives, their own potential ways to solve an issue, turf their protecting -job security, anyone?-, views of disruptions, and varying levels of willingness to accept change.

This is why it is vital to appeal to the emotions of your buyers, leveraging hyper-personalization in your brand engagement. The more emotionally committed your buyers are, the harder they’ll work at the logic needed to validate the choice to change by buying your solution.”

Likewise, Michael Hinshaw from McorpCX also supports this view as he states that brands still have a way to go when connecting with customers on an emotional level. He says,” As important as it is to customers, it’s rare that organizations actually listen to them, make an effort to understand what they want and why, and personalize based on both emotional and functional needs.

Considering hyper-personalization [within] the context of customer experience requires organizations to not only deeply understand their customers but to have that understanding baked into their data and their technology in ways that allow hyper-personalization to be more than just a way to increase purchases and away to better connect with and meet the needs of customers.”

So, which emotions can you focus on to go beyond simply pushing a purchase of a product? Research from Capgemini demonstrates that you can build customer loyalty by focusing on the top three emotions of honesty, trust, and integrity. This research also highlighted that seven in ten customers with a higher emotional engagement spend up to two times or more on brands that they are loyal to.

Angela Crawford from Thomas More University highlights the importance of co-creation in appealing to the emotions of honesty and integrity. She says,” If you are going to hyper-personalized, you need to find ways to co-create with your customers. Getting customers involved through co-creation during product or service design processes and sharing their ideas and thoughts about their experiences helps deepen our understanding of the unique needs of individuals.

Co-creation gives customers a vested interest in your products or services, allows for internal and external stakeholders to understand experiences at a deeper level, and provides new value through innovation, which is required for hyper-personalization.”

Similarly, Joel Goobich from Vestorly explains why trust is an important emotion to focus on when using hyper-personalized content to improve the customer experience. He states,” Consumers don’t want to purchase from faceless brands. People buy from people! Buyers want to know they are being taken care of by the brand and can trust them with their decision. Tailoring specific content to meet the needs and desires of individual customers builds a trusting relationship between consumers and a brand. This trust is then transformed into brand loyalty.”

Following the pandemic, customers have set a higher bar of brands earning their trust. Figures from Salesforce show a 7% increase in consumers stating that it is difficult for a brand to earn this trust compared to a year ago. In addition, this research also shows that while 68% of customers expect businesses to demonstrate empathy, only 39% of these individuals believe that brands demonstrate empathy.

Likewise, Aarthi Murali from M&T Bank also emphasizes the importance of empathy, especially after the pandemic. She says, “Customers want to be treated as individuals and feel that ‘personal touch’ along their journey. As we’ve learned in the past year, predictive analytics that relies on historical patterns and behaviors to offer hyper-personalized experiences have met their match in this pandemic. That’s why the algorithms need to be paired with empathy and applied within the context of a human-centered ecosystem to be truly effective.”

Key Points

Hyper-personalization leads to a better customer experience by creating seamless customer journeys regardless of the channel, which is filled with relevant offerings and content that indicate to a customer that you value their time and needs.

In addition, hyper-personalization also allows your brand to shift from static to dynamic real-time moments so that you can focus on making adjustments to your product in line with a customer’s ever-changing preferences. Lastly, your business will also be encouraged to organize and make your high-quality data more accessible so it can be interpreted to provide a more meaningful customer experience.

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