by Aly Abji
The reality of customer communications today, especially when it comes to marketing, is that consumers dislike advertising. According to an Adlucent study in 2016, 75% of consumers prefer to see fewer ads, and 71% prefer ads that are tailored to their personalized interests and shopping habits. At the same time, 44% of consumers are willing to provide personal contact info in order to receive more relevant ads, and 87% believe personalized advertising means unique content, based on previous purchases or shopping behavior and delivered at a time when they are looking to make a purchase (Adlucent 2016).
Looking at a more recent study conducted by WBR Insights, 94% of marketing and digital commerce leaders across North America “agree that eCommerce personalization is important for driving greater engagement among customers”. Furthermore, they tie personalization to key business metrics such as Conversion Rate, Customer Lifetime Value (LTV), Average Order Value and Revenue Per Visit (WBR Insights, 2019).
Source: 2019 eCommerce Personalization Report, WBR Insights
We can see the trend appearing here. Consumers are very aware of being advertised to and demand personalization, while leaders in the field know the business outcomes they can achieve by focusing on personalization.
This is where we see the transition into the age of relevance, from the age of loyalty. With so many options now available to consumers at their fingertips, it’s no longer enough to just have a good product or service. Being relevant to your customer is the new challenge facing customer experience professionals today, and so there is heavy investment in this area.
What does it mean to be “personal” when it comes to customer engagement?
Personalization certainly requires data and insights on your customers. With today’s CRM and software solutions, there are many ways to capture and harness this data, but it is still one of the biggest challenges for many companies in realizing the dream of personalization.
As “personalization” comes in many flavors, it is essential to break down the necessary elements. Personalization can be as simple as using a first name, sending a birthday message, or following up on a specific product your customer was looking at or put in their shopping cart on your website. We are in the age of the on-demand economy, enabled and fed by our mobile devices and our “always-on” connection to the internet. Today’s most successful companies are changing the way we do business, interact with one another, and how we interact with them. So let’s dive into a few of the common personalization strategies organizations are deploying today:
- Segmentation - the traditional way to split up your audience based on specific identifying characteristics such as age group, gender, location, etc. but... TRICK OPTION! Segmenting an audience is not truly PERSONAL, as it doesn't drive down to the individual's context. Yes, it has elements to it that ensure relevancy to the recipients like "men who like leather jackets" or "women in their 40's", but it's for a group, not the person. We can't truly call this personalization.
- First name - many companies today send emails and text messages and replace the introduction (and other relevant elements) with a person's first name. They may also add additional rules such as timezone/locations and schedule messages accordingly. First name, whether through email, text, or anything else, is just the price of admission for personalization. You get their attention, and it seems "just for me", but when you dig into the content, it's evident in many cases this is not "just for me". Think about an acquaintance of yours that only ever remembered your name and that you like buying stuff. Would you come back for more? We put this in the entry-level column of personalization.
- Retargeting - this has less to do with content and more to do with the channel. If I happened to look up a new pair of headphones (I love music, so I use audio equipment examples) on Amazon, and get an ad for it on Facebook, this is a great reminder to "pick up where you left off". At the same time, careful execution is recommended, as it can quickly lead to annoyance and privacy concerns. Today's largest companies are mining gold from our data, but at the same time, there are many benefits to the customer when done right, and it provides a much more efficient way to allocate marketing budgets.
- Dynamic elements - this category has different levels and could be an article of its own, but we won't get too deep into the details today. The key here is using real-time data points about a customer to provide contextual information. For example, "Dear Janet, we saw you were interested in Bose Quietcomfort II headphones! Complete your purchase now and receive a $10 credit towards any other purchase. Click here." With the right software solutions (CRM, Marketing Automation, etc.) and integrations, this can and is a reality for many brands today, and is quickly becoming the norm. Dynamic elements really come to life when you add in mobile and video. The screen of yesterday was cable television, but the screen of today is the one you are most likely reading this on, your mobile device.
As we can tell from the examples, personalization comes in various forms that use elements of identity, content, and the channel itself to create a more personalized experience. The right way to do things is not the subject of our discussion, but rather the focus is on the business outcomes that different methods can deliver based upon highly specialized variables for various brands. What works for one may not work for another, and this could be due to a range of factors, including brand, product, and the macroeconomic environment.
This is why it’s so important to ask yourself “what do I want my customer doing or seeing more of?” and “what do I want my customer doing or seeing less of?”, then build out specific objectives and metrics to test. Finally, A/B test what works for your customer segment, product line or other initiative. This part is absolutely crucial to not only prove the improvement in business metrics but also to test different variables. You may see different results depending on the channel used to deliver the message, the amount of text you send, whether you use text, static images, gifs or videos, or other factors such as the audience, promotion or time of day you set. One could write a textbook or series on A/B testing alone (and has). We’ll leave that up to our Sinch Engage data scientists (yes we have data scientists!).
Brands are competing for people’s attention while most of the time they’re looking at their mobile device. People are spending so much time on their phones, Apple released the Screen Time feature for iOS in 2018, and gives key breakdowns of where you spend time, and tools to schedule time away from the screen, or set time limits for specific apps. Now consumers are looking for ways to spend LESS TIME on their mobile phones, but this is difficult (impossible for me!) and so we must be selective with our attention and interactions on our phones, especially those that are not relevant (both in general and at this time).
So how do we cut through the noise when everyone else is competing for your customer’s attention? This is not just a marketing question, as we’ve heavily focused on that as a use-case so far. This is a comprehension question. Whether it’s promoting a sale, providing valuable or mission-critical information, or building a chatbot driven, app-like conversational experience through RCS, user-experience (UX) comes hand in hand with customer experience (CX). Leveraging the most far-reaching communication channels in a way that provides relevant, personalized and valuable information at the right time and in a way that can be easily consumed (comprehended) by a recipient is one of the most highly researched areas of customer engagement today, if not the most.
User-experience (UX) comes hand in hand with customer experience (CX)
Useful data is hard to come by. That’s why Sinch put together a helpful infographic that reveals the true potential of leveraging a personalization strategy in your customer engagement initiatives:
Check out our latest eBook: Messaging and Personalization – Transitioning from loyalty to relevance, our webinar in partnership with MEF or our Personalization product pages!
Sinch Engage – a full-service mobile engagement agency under the Sinch umbrella
Last year (2018), Sinch acquired a company called Vehicle (founded in 2010) in Seattle, Washington. Today we call it Sinch Engage, a full-service marketing agency that lives within the Sinch umbrella and brings together some of the most cutting-edge data, mobile messaging and image/video/audio production technologies to create the most advanced personalization engine for mobile messaging available today. This is not your standard software as a service (SaaS) solution, but a full team of experts that work closely with our clients on strategy development, campaign management/execution, creative development, production, and analytics.
Sinch Engage’s dynamic video messaging platform enables enterprises to make more meaningful and personal one-to-one connections with their customers, directly on their mobile phones. From dynamic text and images to personalized videos, where all aspects of the audio and visual tracks can be tied to individual customer attributes, Sinch Engage delivers highly targeted communications to each unique consumer.
By leveraging an essential list of ingredients and putting them into our magic box, Sinch Engage has proved through many successful projects that dynamic, personalized rich imagery and videos delivered through mobile channels enables brands to drive customer engagement to increase loyalty and sales, support on-boarding, and reduce churn (think back to the key metrics eCommerce leaders are measuring against personalization shared above).
Sinch Engage has powered campaigns for brands such as AT&T, Macy’s, MillerCoors, and Cricket Wireless. We bring together a team of in-house business strategists, creative resources, data scientists, and much more combined with the power of the Sinch Super Network to deliver real-time messaging for brands. Some of these campaigns leverage 50 or more unique data points about a recipient while building rich images and videos on the fly, then sending these out to 30 million+ subscribers in real-time. Sound like magic yet?
Let’s revisit the metrics, as we’ve already covered the benefits of first leveraging SMS, then using MMS (rich imagery and videos). Now we want to add the “magic” of hyper-personalization at scale with Sinch Engage.
Research has shown:
- Adding Mobile Messaging to an existing Email campaign resulted in an 88% increase in response rate and a 2X increase in purchases annually.
- Using MMS over SMS results in an increase of click-through rate (CTR) of 4X!
- Leveraging RCS Messaging resulted in a 10X return-on-investment, a 60% increase in CTR versus SMS, a 146% increased in intent-to-purchase over SMS (Subway 2018).
- Mobile video has a 3X higher campaign lift vs. TV (TubeMogul 2014), and customers are 2X more likely to feel a personal connection after watching a video on mobile vs. TV (Google/Ipsos 2015).
These are all great metrics, but you may be thinking, “how do I apply that to my business?” and that’s precisely the right question to ask. Our process is to work with your team and your systems to address specific metrics you are already measuring, and find ways to augment your existing efforts through A/B testing to prove the value of a personalized dynamic rich messaging campaign that makes sense for your customer engagement objectives. We can go as far as full-blown customer lifecycle management, build storyboards, cadences, and then make your creative elements. We can then take aspects of that creative and make individual pieces dynamic so that we can quickly and efficiently send out millions of unique images, gifs, and videos (think 60-second unique personalized commercial spot for every customer in your campaign!).
Our process is to work with your team and your systems to address specific metrics you are already measuring, and find ways to augment your existing efforts through A/B testing to prove the value of a personalized dynamic rich messaging campaign that makes sense for your customer engagement objectives
Here are some great examples of the work we do:
1) Dynamic elements about a specific customer’s bank account activity are used to generate a custom image with key points of personalization that are unique to the recipient. Once again, these are generated “on-the-fly” with the latest information, for mission-critical service messages like shown here.
2) Go more advanced, and have a video created again “on-the-fly” including professionally recorded audio with voice actors to really drive your message home and truly “speak” with your customers. These can be made with graphic images, or we can even shoot a full 60-second commercial with real actors depending on your budget!
3) Deliver across ANY channel, not just mobile. Being able to leverage these capabilities at key customer touchpoints on their journey is crucial to gaining the full benefit of customer lifecycle management being augmented with advanced personalization methods.
Now, bringing this all together we see the progression to relevancy from loyalty by using the right message on the right channel at the right time is clear. The technology landscape now enables a personalized and one-to-one customer communications environment, and this brings huge benefits for customer loyalty, conversions, business operations efficiency and overall brand value in the eyes of your customer.
The author does not claim to be an expert on personalization and recognizes it is an ever-evolving and highly researched field. His articles are his opinion, with researched resources and experience working as a mobile messaging and technology professional for nearly a decade. The author intends to open conversations on topics that interest him and hopefully interest his network.
Want to learn more? Or just want to connect? Please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to chat.
Originally posted on LinkedIn by Aly Abji.