Suraj Gupta is the VP & Head of Customer Experience Services at Brillio. He has been building and growing the customer experience business at Brillio across US, Europe, and India. He works with global leaders to drive customer engagement transformation by leveraging digital platforms, design thinking, and intelligence. Prior to Brillio, Suraj worked at Mindtree and Infosys Technologies.
Personalization has been a buzzword for over a decade. However, what has changed is the extent to which the customers desire relevant and unique personal experiences, and the loyalty enterprises can command by delivering them. Personalization is not an end but the means to an end.
The scenario is stemming primarily from the fact that customers are willing to pay a premium for brands and services that deliver unique personal experiences. According to a report by Salesforce, 84% of customers say being treated as a person is very important for companies to earn their business. As a result, CX programs not only just deal with challenges in breadth to personalize but also work on delivering high-quality experiences keeping in mind how the customer feels. It stands as the key differentiating factor to help businesses connect to their customers at an emotional level. For example, Netflix leverages the insights from nearly half a billion accounts to make strategic investments. Netflix personalizes the homepages of every account, providing the right content for the right time based on the user’s preferences. Similarly, the e-commerce giant, Amazon uses Deep Learning to predict the products the customers are most likely to buy based on their browsing, wish list, and shopping histories. 35% of Amazon sales are attributed to its personalized recommendations based on the users’ on-site behavior.
McKinsey suggests 95% of retail companies’ CEOs say personalization is a strategic priority, but only 25% of consumers think the personalization done by retailers is relevant. Thus, it is essential that businesses have a strategy that is holistic and can be adopted across the business rapidly and effectively.
These strategies should be built on a framework that goes beyond a tactical approach and incorporates experience and operations that make the business stand apart. One such approach to personalization is the one that is the Authentic, Inclusive, and Responsive (AIR).
A.I.R. – The underpinning for uniquely personal experiences
AIR is a multi-dimensional personalization framework that guides clients from a world of delivering generic experiences to delivering authentic, trusted, inclusive, and personally relevant experiences to their customers across the entire journey. AIR’s three fundamental tenets for delivering uniquely personal experiences are Authentic, Inclusive, and Responsive.
- Authentic – The key to building connection and loyalty
Enterprises need to demonstrate an understanding of the unique purpose of customer engagement with the brand beyond the tactical needs. Brands need to lead communication that reflects their purpose and value while serving customers with integrity and consistency, ensuring that the customer feels safe and secure. For example, a beauty or cosmetics company can provide a phy-gital experience by personalizing product recommendations based on customers’ skin color, hair color, eye color, and product availability. This helps customers to choose versus being sold to.
- Inclusive – Your customers are part of something big
Customers want to be part of a meaningful and substantial cause. They need to feel involved and be like partners–contributors. Companies need to make their products and services accessible across channels in a frictionless, easy, intuitive way and in a tone that is personal, inviting, and familiar. Customer needs to feel involved and wanted.
- Responsive – Responding to customers with speed, context, and focus
The customer experiences process needs to be contextualized, data-driven, continuously learning, and adapting. Despite the pandemic, Starbucks attributed 52% of sales from US company-owned cafes to its rewards members by customizing mobile ordering to show favorite orders and relevant recommendations. They also allowed pre-orders and payments so that the order is ready by the time the user reaches the café. This minimizes contact and reduces COVID exposure.
With a data-led design thinking approach, companies can uncover friction points in the user journey by conducting data layer audits. Deploying design thinking and analytics helps IT teams to reimagine user experience to the next level of personalization in real time. Enterprises need to have strong data-driven approaches for building personalized experiences and for running experiments at scale. Leading digital companies invest significantly in this capability.
With every new framework, technological innovations, and business strategies, the question every company and executive needs to answer is, with access to so many different digital products and channels, are the customers able to navigate their journeys in a way that provides them with a curated experience? There is a clear disconnect between what customers are looking for and what companies can provide. As a result, personalized customer experience has become the single biggest differentiator for any brand overtaking price and quality.