Organizations that don't invest in personalizing the customer experience, whether online or within their brick-and-mortar stores, are going to be facing an uphill journey to keep up with their competition.This message is at the core of Responsys Interact 2013, currently taking place in San Francisco. In the relationship era that we're living in right now, customers don't just want, but expect messages that aren't only relevant but also personalized to them individually.
And as Scott Olrich, Responsys' president for marketing and platform, pointed out, marketers have the tools to turn the clock back and deliver the same personalized experience of the past, when retailers knew their customers' needs and preferences and were able to not only serve these needs but create a true one-to-one relationship.
Some of us have fond memories of small stores that were able to deliver a highly personalized experience because they knew each and every customer. Growing up I remember the corner grocer knowing what products my mother preferred, without the need to look at a database. In fact, I bet he didn't even have one.
While customers enjoyed this uber personalized relationship, the majority were willing to give it up for better choices, starting to do business with bigger organizations that were able to give them just that.
However, marketers have figured out a way to turn the clock back and be able to deliver the same personalized experience that we were accustomed to in the past but are tapping into technology to do it at large scale. This is allowing customers to both have the cake and eat it because they're able to have the personalized experience that they always wanted but at the same time have the choice that larger companies make available. Olrich used the example of Amazon which offers a humongous choice to its millions of customers but still delivers a highly personalized experience by following each member's online journey and making suggestions that are relevant. In the end customers don't feel like they're doing business with a large company but with someone who knows them intimately.
During a conversation with Michael Della Penna, senior vice president of emerging markets at Responsys, he mentioned how individuals like myself, who were accustomed to this personalized relationship in the past, notice and appreciate it when they encounter it again nowadays. More importantly, they are keen to share the experience with their friends or to the world through social media.
Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct, spoke about the retailer's journey towards this extremely personalized experience, and pointed out that customers expect this at every touchpoint. "Retailers that don't invest in personalization won't be successful," he stressed. In fact, Nordstrom pointed out that even customer loyalty is increasingly dependent on this highly personalized relationship rather than the more traditional points systems.
Some might wonder whether the data needed to deliver such a personalized relationship will make organizations appear Big Brotherish. According to experts the answer is "no," as long as the brand is delivering something of value to the consumer. "If you offer something of value it stops being intrusive and becomes relevant," noted Della Penna.
In the end, it's all about building relationships. Customers want brands to know who they are and treat them as individuals. Only those organizations which are able to do this successfully will remain relevant and beat the competition.