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4 ways to personalize the customer experience

Personalization is now an expectation of the customer experience.

If mass production dominated the early part of the 20th century and branding was the primary driver of the latter half, many believe that personalization has emerged as the defining characteristic of the modern retail era.   

In fact, each year the Digital Marketing Trends report asks companies to indicate the single most exciting opportunity for their organization. For the third year in a row, customer experience emerged as the top trend.

Brands aren’t the only ones excited about providing more personalized customer experiences. A study of 3,000 adult consumers in the US and UK by digital marketing agency AgilOne found that 70 per cent expect a personalized service from the brands they interact with. The study also found that a majority of consumers expected ecommerce sites to remember their past purchases, send personalized emails offering discounts on products they’ve previously viewed, provide alerts when products they like are on sale and offer some form of customer loyalty rewards program.

With personalization becoming an expectation both online and in-store, organizations can better connect with their customers by following these four steps.

1. Personalize communications

As the AgilOne study suggests, consumers are appreciative of communications that are directly relevant to their interests and shopping habits. Such positive brand communications can help build customer loyalty (although, generic or “spam” communications can serve to have the opposite effect). 

In fact, personalized emails have a 29 per cent higher open-rate and a 41 per cent better click through rate than non-personalized emails, according to a recent study by Experian Marketing Services. Overall, personalized communications deliver six times greater transaction rates.

2. Reward loyalty

Perhaps one of the best ways to connect with customers is by rewarding their loyalty. Not only does it help establish a relationship with the brand, it also provides deep insights into their shopping habits.

Furthermore, tracking customers’ shopping habits via a loyalty rewards program can significantly improve an organization’s ability to offer more personalized services, as you can promote items similar to their previous purchases. Not all loyalty programs are created equal, however, according to Canadian ecommerce giant Shopify.

“Instead of creating a one-size-fits-all loyalty program for your customers, try to personalize your offerings based on the wants and needs of your most loyal customers,” advises blogger Lindsey Peacock. “Whether that takes form as customized promotions, unique experience in your store, or a tailored email marketing campaign, retailers can get a little more personal with their brand VIPs.”

3. Get on every channel

In today’s retail environment, brands are expected to provide a seamless omnichannel experience. That allows shoppers to move from platform to platform and even from digital to brick and mortar without any disruption to their shopping experience.

According to a study by Aberdeen Group, companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 per cent of their customers, compared with only 33 per cent of companies with weak omnichannel strategies.

     READ RELATED: Learn more about omnichannel strategies.           

Whether on a laptop, smartphone, tablet or in-store, consumers expect their brand experience to follow along with their journey, according to the Canadian Total Retail 2016 report. “By ignoring any particular channel, retailers are missing the potential that channel offers within a customer’s unique shopping journey,” researchers wrote. “More importantly, a disconnect within one channel can create customer confusion and potentially alienate customers before they get to the purchasing stage of their journey.”

4. Go beyond mass production

Even products that are designed to be perfectly consistent, no matter when and where they are purchased, leave room for personalization. This can help brands stand out, though it can require a bit of added creativity.

For example, every bottle of Coca-Cola sold around the world looks identical, at least on the inside, but the company’s recent Share a Coke campaign found a way to personalize each bottle from the outside. By printing names on plastic bottle labels, and inviting consumers to customize their own, the brand was able to successfully personalize a mass-produced product. That added touch of personalization helped the company grow sales by two per cent in the months following the campaign’s launch, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The prospect of personalizing every product for every individual can seem daunting. But following these tips will add a touch of personalization that will go a long way in establishing a genuine connection with your consumers.

Up Next: See how an 'on-demand' economy is changing consumers' expectations.

Are we ready for an ‘on-demand’ economy?

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.

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