Personalising Customer Experience
Mezzo Lab’s Hong Kong Managing Director, Patrick Milburn, discusses the role of personalised customer experience in maximising company revenue.
Why do you think personalisation has become such a huge trend during the last few years? Is it because of factors such as intense competition and the fact that people rely on third-party validation like customer reviews to get feedback, rather than advertising itself?
I think the biggest change has been the access modern consumers have to data. They are now able to research multiple brands and products, compare them and read reviews, all at their fingertips. The old Mad Men-esque approach – selling a big brand idea which was often an idealised concept of the potential of a product – no longer works because consumers can unpick the hype themselves on their phones.
Social media also plays a huge part – previously you might have asked a friend or family member about their experience with a brand or product. Now, people have products or experiences thrust upon them from their peers on their Instagram or Facebook feeds. They’re often showing their lives alongside a view of how companies have provided them with something unique or special. It’s effectively the modern equivalent of Keeping up with the Joneses.
This ultimately means consumers now want something that shows that brands value them as unique customers, and not just as buyers of an end product. It’s not quite enough just to provide something in and of itself – and this means brands have to think about the whole pre, during and post experience. Personalisation is, therefore, the way to provide this as an individual brand, and the data and technology side of things has caught up to enable this practice.
On the other side, some companies still abide by the one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. Do you believe that they will be able to survive in today’s competitive landscape?
There are some companies where this works, but they’re few and far between. The argument that says that a great product experience is enough and if you get that right nothing else matters, is one that they are likely to lose in the long run. This is driven by a need for the modern ‘empowered shopper’ to access the same brand experience across every channel.
Nowadays, it’s not enough for major brands to just have a nice in-shop experience. Customers want the experience to be consistent – whether this takes place online, through the call centre, via an agent or in store. They also want this experience to be unique to them. Customers see the brand, so a disconnection in one area means the whole experience is ruined.
Toys R Us is an example of this – they only focused on selling the widest range of products in-store and online. Unfortunately, they were competing with other companies who did this better. They struggled to change their business– there was no ‘experience’ as such other than just buying the product in-store, so they were unable to differentiate their offering. Apple, you could argue, don’t offer much of a personalised experience with the iPhone. You can’t change a huge amount within the product itself – limited colours, limited changes to the operating system, constrained app store. But the experience is incredibly refined and ‘feels’ personal. They sell a premium experience, which is remarkably consistent from their advertising, from their shop and through to the product, and they make it feel personal to you via the messaging.
How can a personalised customer experience set a company apart from the competitors and increase its revenue?
If we start with the customer and understand that they are now increasingly empowered and have access to a much broader range of choice, the obvious conclusion is that the brand or product must solve the challenge and make it feel like it’s been done in a way which is unique to them.
If we can set this as a clear vision and define the use cases that we need to resolve, the rest becomes relatively straightforward. It then really becomes a process of mapping out where they need to get to, where they are now, and defining the steps in between. This includes figuring out the people and process steps, alongside the technology.
Ultimately, the data and technology pieces are the enablers to the vision rather than the vision itself. If they start with the data and tech elements first, then they can very quickly lose sight of the challenge they’re trying to solve. Being able to define what experience they want to provide for customers clearly is a much more powerful set of guiding principles than planning to roll out a whole load of new infrastructure with no real understanding as to why.
In which ways can a company achieve effective personalised customer experience?
Identify what actual benefit a customer gets from personalisation. Just personalising for the sake of it is somewhat pointless. There needs to be utility in it, to solve a business or customer challenge (whether ease of use, improving the experience, embodying the brand values etc).
The “how’ is the easy bit – it’s the “what” and “why” which takes creative thinking.