B2B Marketing, Business Processes

Personalizing Customer Experience with Big Data

Back in 1991, I trained in a database marketing boot camp. I worked on American Express (AMEX), managing its Gold Card direct marketing efforts. AmEx, a leader in personalizing printed communications, had created its most successful program when it highlighted in direct mail pieces that someone was a “Member since XXXX.” Yes, membership had its privileges. But for American Express, this personalization triggered a lift.

Show Me What You Got

Now it’s almost 25 years later. And while everyone has been talking about big data — trying to set up the proper infrastructure and human resources to be part of this phenomenon, 2018 will be the year to personalize big data on the screen.

The term personalization has many meanings to many people. For the purposes of this post, I am focusing on “the content on the screen.” Customizing what the user reads and sees will be the challenge, especially because a responsive design approach still requires careful consideration about what is personalized on a tablet versus an iPhone.

Big Data Will be Operationalized

With personalization being a key theme these days, marketers will need to get their hands dirty and truly understand the different categories in their customer database. They need to design their digital platforms with their database in mind, knowing that different areas of the screen can pull in content from both the customer and product database.

For example, Amazon pulls in two different types of data based on my purchase behavior: books on digital marketing, which I am interested in, and children’s videos, which I access every night via their Instant Video. Their customer database might carry just the title name, the author and the price. The assets for that information would be in a product database. The two need to work closely together on the screen.

Every day, Netflix and Amazon demonstrate their ability to leverage this kind of data to talk to their customers on an individual and personal level. Sometimes, I think they could go a step further in personalizing information on the page, especially because one of the big battle grounds these days is same day delivery. Amazon and Walmart can incorporate GPS data to determine potential offline purchases or product drop off points.

Intuit’s 2013 Turbo Tax product offers a nice personalized solutions for its loyal members. It automatically transfers returning customer’s personal information and prior year tax return data, including wage and salary information from their employer, and then adapts itself based on that information to splash screens and questions that are not relevant to their specific tax situation. The company leverages all of the valuable preexisting info that sits in its databases.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Smaller and medium size companies need to take their old school “face-to-face” approach to the next level and personalize more than just ads or emails. They need to personalize at all touch points, including customer service, Skype, Hangouts, etc.

It’s important to remember that having the largest dataset or most sophisticated database will not guarantee an effective personalization program. It requires testing out and knowing what data elements will motivate a customer or partner to take an action.

Getting Under the Hood

Here are simple steps to get you started:

  1. Assume any data element in your customer or product database can be used to personalize information on the screen.
  2. Identify the type of tribes/segments who will visit your site or your app (or call customer service).
  3. Prioritize a list of three calls to action you want each of these segments to take when they use your product/site.
  4. List out the information you want to display on screen.
  5. Map out these info elements for multiple screens (tablets, smartphones, etc.) because you can’t share the same information on a smartphone as you can on a PC.
  6. Confirm these data elements are stored in your database(s) and if not, plan on capturing and storing them.
  7. Work with your designers and programmers to determine how many characters, picture size, etc. you can fit on the page.
  8. Work with your analytics team to set up the proper tracking
  9. Remember: Start simple. You don’t need to personalize each area on the screen.
  10. Also remember, give your marketing team a basic course in database marketing.

Training marketers on how to leverage their customer and product databases will take time. The more they can understand about how data can be pulled from a system and displayed on a screen, the more effective they will be in selling their products and services. This will take time. This will require marketers to get their hands dirty, get under the hood and understand more than the fundamentals of big database marketing. This is true even if they work outside Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley.

The question is: Do they have the desire to acquire this skill set?

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