Personalised customer online shopping experiences have always been something of a holy grail. According to research carried out by management consultancy PwC, one in three (32%) of US consumers said they would walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. But, for those who do get the customer experience right, there is up to 16% price premium on products and services as well as increased loyalty. A customer-centric business model should no longer be just a long-term goal, it should be an immediate priority.
PwC’s survey also showed 73% of people pointed to good customer experience as a decisive factor in their purchasing, proving that customer experience really matters. However, only 49% of respondents said the companies they engage with provide a good customer experience. In a competitive environment, positively standing out can ensure success and longevity, and putting customer experience at the forefront of the company’s priorities is what companies should be striving for in order to achieve that.
Mind the Gap
Clearly, there’s a gulf between expectations and experience. So how can brands bridge this gap and create a truly personalised customer experience? We tend to think of personalisation as targeted emails, ads that reflect a person’s interests, and recommendations based on previous purchases. But, in today’s data-driven world, it’s much more than this.
On a basic level, personalisation is fusing speed and convenience with helpful employees and friendly service across all customer channels to create the best experience possible. PwC survey respondents gave each one of these features over 70% when ranking them in terms of importance. At a more individual level though, it’s about developing personalised content that reflects a customer’s preferences.
Finding out what current and prospective customers want, then, is paramount. There are simple methods of listening to your customers that provide vital information for tightening up their experience, such as website exit surveys. But as technology continues to develop the ways in which we learn about the customer, our insights become multidimensional, spanning across multiple channels.
Getting what you want with AI
Over the past few years, there has been enormous growth in data. With this huge growth comes the opportunity to utilise data collected from AI tools for machine learning and automated processing. This information gives AI the ability to identify key areas that should be targeted AI can be used to target individuals based on the simplest of criteria. Video ads, for example, can be shortened to suit a person’s attention span. Capturing a customer’s browsing and purchasing history can be used to offer personalised recommendations.
AI can perform menial and repetitive jobs previously filled by humans. Automated AI never gets tired, it never switches off, and it is connected to other systems within an organisation such as back office processing, warehousing, and deliveries, so it can deal immediately and effectively with customer queries.
Chatbots are a great example of this. Gathering data about customers, their shopping habits, and the way they view and interact with a brand is beneficial for ‘training’ chat bots on how to offer more personalised and relevant responses and suggestions to customers. They have gone beyond traditional customer service functions, although this is still an integral and evolving function.
Chatbots can interact with customers and promote a brand in meaningful ways. LEGO, for instance, introduced ‘Ralph the Giftbot’ with the aim of increasing conversions. It would ask simple questions around the gift recipient’s age, budget, and the type of sets they were interested in, and produce product suggestions on the back, with a free shipping code.
Social media is another powerful tool that can be used to help businesses to connect and engage with customers. Conversational analysis tools use automated AI to target individuals with adverts based on the content they post on social media. Additionally, information on brand perception and customer experience can be ascertained and utilised to improve certain areas of a digital marketing campaign.
While gathering data is an important step on its own, a business’ response is where the results lie. The raw data needs to be processed effectively to be made sense of, and to produce an outcome that improves customer experience.
Cohesion within the company
Gathering customer data and adapting business practices to align with customer expectations should be a priority for businesses and, in order to facilitate this, seamless internal communication is vital. Although the need for cohesiveness may seem obvious, in many cases it isn’t being implemented. A Salesforce survey revealed 78% of consumers expect consistent interaction across departments, but 59% say it doesn’t feel that way. Making customers feel like they are communicating with separate departments, rather than the company as a whole, can alienate them.
It is also detrimental to business to keep vital customer information they gather segregated to internal silos, instead of distributing it at a company level. This means some departments are losing out on the chance to act according to customer preferences and thus provide a more personalised customer experience.
The beginning of AI and data-driven customer personalisation is here, and for those companies who want to get ahead of the curve and begin implementing personalised experiences that hit the hot spot, there’s no better time to start than now.
Wrriten by Andreas Pouros, CEO, Greenlight Digital.