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Rethink experience curation not personalization

30-second summary:

  • Marketers may believe that implementing personalization results in each customer having a unique experience and that they actually realize that their experience is different from the experience of others.
  • Often times, many attempts at personalization simply divide the audience into a small number of cohorts and then send different cohorts or offers to each cohort.
  • While it’s okay to segment customers and target content and offerings accordingly, marketers need to take the next step: create a satisfying customer experience through a curation process.
  • Marketers who want to create an experience that helps customers feel recognized and engaged need to look at audiences through a lens that spans from first meeting to established customer and constantly reflects changes in customer expectations and company offerings.

As 2020 finally comes to an end and the massive shift of businesses of all kinds to finally finally being “all-in” in digital marketing continues, there will be opportunities to go beyond the basics and really figure out how to get the most benefit can draw new online experiences from it. Everyone has a list of what to do next, and for many, personalization is a top priority. The term personalization can mean many things, however, and this can be a limiting factor in getting the most out of your investment.

Names are not enough

So many marketing emails come in every day with the most personal openings. Dear Normanas if the sender really knows us. Unfortunately, we are all very aware that the sender doesn’t know us at all and the rest of the email content is generally the same for each recipient.

This is not personalization at all, just fields that are appropriately filled in (except when those are feared Dear Email arrives). Marketers should seriously consider discontinuing name use altogether, unless there is an actual connection between the sender and recipient.

Names can have an impact if used thoughtfully, like the fashion website MR PORTER does after a customer signs up and the logo at the top of the page alternates between MR PORTER and your name, in my case MR GUADAGNO. Subtle but effective personalization at work!

Not always personally

One trap that preoccupies many marketers is the belief that implementing personalization results in each customer having a unique experience and actually realizing that their experience is different from the experiences of others.

The sad truth is that many attempts at personalization are often simply dividing the audience into a small number of cohorts and then sending different content or offers to each cohort. Yes, they tried to create something unique for the client, but it’s less about being personal than about being (potentially) relevant.

Customers these days are typically very demanding and see most of the basic techniques used by marketers. It’s okay to segment them and target content and offers accordingly, but marketers need to take the next step.

Think of experience

The way to go beyond simplified personalization is to stop thinking about something that was done to a customer, and instead think about that it was done to a customer. Creating satisfactory experiences for the client is a curation process, and curation only occurs if the curator regularly interacts with their audience and adapts accordingly.

The process of experience curation begins with a few basic principles:

  • Customers are more than the demographic, sociographic, and psychographic data provided or inferred that are associated with them.
  • The needs and wishes of customers change over time and the situation.
  • Experiences can and should be more than just targeted offers and relevant content.

Marketers who want to create an experience that will help customers feel recognized and engaged should start with these principles and expand from there. It requires thinking about the audience through a lens that extends from the first encounter to the established customer, constantly reflecting changes in customer expectations and company offerings.

This last point is especially important as many companies are either trying to bring new and improved offers to each customer, or they fail to inform customers of all offers that may be particularly relevant. Experience curation requires the active participation of both sides of the equation to continuously make small and large adjustments across each interaction.

Many of the next generation personalization software solutions on the market use various forms of AI to tailor offerings to customers. These solutions are powerful but not enough to build the competitive experience needed in the future. Marketing teams need to make experience curation an integral part of their overall strategy to attract and retain the best customers.

Personalization can be reinvented and now is the perfect time for any marketer to rethink exactly what it means and how it becomes a powerful tool. Hopefully that means less Dear Emails in our inboxes and other experiences that make us feel really known.

Norman Guadagno is Chief Marketing Officer at Acoustic, the largest independent marketing cloud, and a member of the ClickZ Advisory Board.

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