Before the internet, marketing was a much simpler affair. Nowadays, consumers have a world of commercial opportunity mere clicks away, and brands are finding it increasingly difficult to stand out in the crowd. Where there used to be a gap between business and consumer, there is now complete overlap. Advertising is declining and social media is on the rise. Consumers are engaging with businesses like they’ve never done before; rather than sitting on hold to make an enquiry, they flock to Twitter; instead of trying out your product, they click across to your competitors and read hundreds of customer reviews. Business is now a social affair, and that makes it personal. Once consumers realise they can get a personalised service, they’re unlikely to settle for less, and that’s where many businesses are starting to come up short. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the far reaching expanse of the internet makes personalisation all but impossible, but we’re not talking about face to face interaction. We’re talking about a level of service that’s tailored to the customer. That empowers them, excites them and makes doing business with you so seamless they wouldn’t even consider going elsewhere.
It all starts with information. Customer information and analytics are no longer simple sales tools, they’re a way of gaining real customer insight that can be used to enhance the overall brand experience. Each customer can be treated as an individual, receiving a tailored experience whenever they interact with a brand, and this keeps them loyal. This goes one step beyond target demographics; it’s about knowing each and every customer, and an increasing number of online retail businesses are heading in this direction. In fact, out of 128 retailers asked, 30% of them placed personalisation in their top five areas of investment for the coming year.
So, how does personalisation work?
Journey analytics is really at the core of personalisation. It’s a practice that analyses a combination of qualitative and quantitative data from customers across a number of touchpoints. By learning how, when and why customers interact with a brand, that brand can get better and better at predicting a particular customer’s behaviour and tailor their service around. This may involve tailored offers on products they might like, or dropping an email in their inbox at just the right time based on their shopping habits. However, personalisation is about more than simply selling. It’s about building a two-way interaction between brand and consumer. You need to create campaigns that are valuable, contextual and content rich, giving consumers the best possible return for interacting with your business. You need to engage them on social media and give them multiple ways of engaging with your brand across countless devices and channels. Remember, every single time a consumer engages with your brand is a chance to add to your bank of knowledge about that particular individual. Of course, for any personalisation strategy to work effectively, customer information must be well managed, organised and readily available. That’s where a solid CRM (customer relationship management) tool such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 can really shine. It uses social insights and customer intelligence to help you build and manage campaigns, and also gives your team the information they need right at the moment they need it, making your customer feel like a real VIP whenever they interact with your business.
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 Forrester/Internet Retailer Q3 2015 Commerce Technology Investment Survey