In this article Tom Barton reveals why the biggest marketing trend in 2018 will be the need for increased personalisation across the whole customer journey.

With customer experience being a key driver of loyalty and repeat purchase, a crucial question for your business is how can you provide an excellent customer journey? One of the most effective methods is to give the customer a personalised experience with your brand.

Leveraging personalisation to improve customer experience will be of huge strategic importance in 2018. With product and service choice growing exponentially year on year, in both B2B and B2C markets, and brands needing to fight harder for customer attention, your business must have a strategy to stand out from the crowd. The brands to keep up with in 2018 will be those who utilise forms of personalisation to improve their customers’ experience. There will only ever be more choice, and with that, ever more complex purchase decisions. Your customers will remember you over the competition and alternatives due to the personal experience you created for them. Therefore, personalisation is not a nice to have but a need to have strategy in 2018 for securing a loyal audience.

Customers in both B2B and B2C markets have a growing expectation for personalised experiences. They know we’ve come a long way from “people who bought this, also bought that” and expect increasing levels of personalisation. This year they will be expecting you to use the information you have about them to make their lives easier, to make sure they don’t get emails about products they have already purchased, to ensure they are greeted by name, to offer them meaningful recommendations and to send them a discount code for paper because you know their printers have ran out.

Increased personalisation will be a big trend in marketing in 2018 due to its strategic importance to your differentiation and your customers’ expectations for it.

Additionally, in 2018, technology that helps deliver personalised customer experiences will only become more advanced and more available. We can expect developments in artificial intelligence technology like chatbots, which allow customers to engage in personalised conversations with your brand. Advancements to the ways in which we can use push notifications to put messages in front of customers when it is relevant for them to read and more innovations to email marketing software, along with a rise, in the use of augmented reality in communications to put customers in touch with a product or service on a very intimate level. A prime example of this is the new Ikea Place app which allows users to tap through a catalogue of over 2,000 products, then hold up their phone and use the camera to place the digital furniture anywhere in a room.

Executed well, personalisation will enhance your customers experience and in turn set you apart from the competition, increase sales and increase loyalty. That is everything we’d like from a campaign, so how is it done?

Tip one: Collect and use data

Personalisation starts with knowing the customer – or perhaps a better way to say it is remembering the customer. The more you remember about the customer, the better you can tailor their next experience. The challenge for your business in 2018 is to assemble a real time view of a customer and their up-to-date journey with your brand. This view then needs to be used ‘in-the-moment’ to inform the next best actions or conversations.

To develop a real time view of a customer, you need to constantly gather data on them. Collecting data is often perceived to be a difficult hurdle to get over. Most businesses, however, can easily put in place a simple data capture strategy on their website, for example forms to fill in when you get in contact or purchase a product, that will provide brilliant data that you can action on, in real time. Data capture points on your site can give you customers names, ages, gender, opinions and email addresses in relation to purchases or other actions. From this you can then effectively map the next action they, as an individual customer, should receive. For example, you can use this data to make sure customers avoid irrelevant campaigns, promote relevant products and services to them and more simply, start calling them by name. If you don’t have one already, put a data capture strategy onto your website (make sure you are GDPR compliant, however).

Once you have mined the data, you need to put in place a way of tracking customers’ details, preferences and buying patterns, so you can then action on the data to deliver a personalised experience. This is where setting up a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is required, but this can be as simple as recording customer information on a spreadsheet.

Tip two: Make sure the experience is omni-channel

To provide the best customer experience, the way in which a customer is treated across channels must be seamless. In store staff can prepare a customer’s regular order or can recommend a product based on an understanding of the individual. This level of personalised service should remain the same online. This year you need to think outside individual channels and instead take an omni-channel view. Customers don’t think in channels, businesses do. If you personalise communications on one channel, try to do it on all so the customer’s relationship with the brand never feels like it has been forgotten.

Data-activated marketing based on a person’s real-time needs, interests, and behaviours represents a chance to create a great customer experience. With experience being a key driver of loyalty and repeat purchase, utilising forms of personalisation to improve your customers’ experience must be on your objectives for 2018.


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