Boosting Brand Affinity with Customization and Personalization
How many of us remember walking into a gift shop when younger and eagerly searching for a refrigerator magnet, miniature license plate, mug, or pencil inscribed with our name?
Personalization is a tactic brands and businesses have been using for years to hook us into their offerings. The idea behind this is that, as consumers, we forge stronger attachments to products that appear to have been created for or tailored to us, personally. For businesses, encouraging these deep connections with customers results in loyalty and greater lifetime value.
In theory, the formula is simple. But in reality, success requires so much more than printing a name on an everyday household object. Instead, brands must allocate large amounts of resources to really understanding their customers, and then develop offerings that suit.
Fortunately, the Internet provides a more efficient and effective way to personalize offerings on a mass level. And as a result, we’ve seen the rise of businesses that offer customers a service to personalize common gift items, to create something with greater meaning and significance for a loved one.
However, in this day and age, customers have what seems like an unlimited choice of options when it comes to personalized products or services. Therefore, for personalization to really be a differentiating factor for your brand, tailoring must go far beyond the surface level of a product or service.
Everything from the brand experience, content, and functionality of the final product or service must be designed and developed with each individual end user in mind. But again, the Internet offers a hand here, too. Essentially, businesses with digital offerings also have data and insight at their fingertips, which can help them better understand who their customers are and what they want. With this information, brands can begin to personalize the ways they communicate, interact with, and cater to their customers to evoke a greater feeling of connectivity.
For example, personalized digital marketing tactics, such as including first name fields in email campaigns, have proven to generate greater click-through rates than those without. Clearly, tailoring this small part of an email by ensuring such information is collected and stored in your address database can have a significant impact on the success of your activity, soon outweighing any additional work or effort required to implement the change.
Similarly, pay-per-click advertising (PPC) can benefit from personalization, particularly if ads are targeted using users’ individual preferences and characteristics. While PPC management can be a time-consuming task, with personalization only adding to the load, there is a strong case for using a software solution that can help you collect and analyze data, and then automate activity accordingly. As well as saving time, this marketing tactic also becomes much more efficient by lessening the budget being wasted on ineffective leads. With ads more likely to be shown to users with a greater chance of clicking (as their data suggests a strong interest in your offering), there is opportunity to improve click-to-conversion rates too.
Again, this all sounds good in theory, but a data-centric approach presents further challenges in terms of knowing what information to collect – and then interpreting it in a way that is accurate and useful to the business. For instance, businesses operating across various sales channels may face difficulty collecting data representative of its multiple customer segments. Its online customers are likely to be different than its in-store ones, so an offering personalized to the latter is not guaranteed to feel equally as customized to the former, and vice versa.
This is another area in which technology can help. Enterprise digital commerce platforms offer businesses a way to collect and centralize data across all channels. With all this information in one place, it is possible to draw meaningful and accurate insights to inform personalization decisions.
Add tech, stay human
However, personalization in its fundamental form is all about being human and emotive in your approach. Developing meaningful connections comes down to understanding the intrinsic values of your customers and placing these at the center of your offerings. Data and technology, therefore, can help only so much. Alongside this, there must be human input, which can come from your experience and expertise of your market and consumers.
For example, in more recent years, we’ve seen brands give more thought to mass marketing opportunities on special days and events, such as Father’s Day. While data and technology can help you create a personalized email to promote gift ideas for an event the majority will be celebrating, a human approach will tell you that many of your customers may prefer not to see messages associated with the occasion. As a result, we see pre-campaign e-shots that give warning and opportunity to opt out of communications associated with the event.
By combining both technology and human instinct in this way, offerings become that much more personal and effective at boosting brand affinity. And when it comes to differentiating your personalized offer from the next, that is where the real sweet spot is, especially as the e-commerce market becomes ever more saturated with competitors.
Nate Burke is CEO and founder of U.K.-based Diginius, a software and solutions firm focused on helping businesses achieve maximum impact from their online sales and marketing activities. An early e-commerce pioneer and entrepreneur, he launched his first Internet business in 1997 and is a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominee.
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