From personalisation to contextualisation: Enhancing the customer journey

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It’s official - personalisation matters. The concept of personalisation has reached beyond the digital marketers and into the boardrooms and business functions of many types of organisations across the globe.

Digital personalisation is designed to provide a better customer journey by tailoring content, offers and even the web site experience itself to the needs and interests of the customer. This is done by leveraging both the behavioural and situational patterns of the customer as well as their real-time actions to ensure what they view on the web site is relevant to them. Contextualisation enriches this further by looking at not just what content customers engage with or what they purchase, but when and why they did so. Contextualisation helps brands to understand where their customers are in their journey and uses this insight to personalise the digital experience across all touch points from web to e-mail to social.

Web site visitors provide brands with information about themselves, whether or not they are ‘known’ customers. Information is gathered based on what they view on the site, the content they access, the topics they are interested in, and in the actions they take. Brands should use contextualisation to help them generate a rich, integrated customer view by storing behavioural, situational and any other data to a progressive profile that continues to aggregate information over time.

This profile should pull in data from all touch points, centralising it to give brands a comprehensive view of their customer. This unified profile can then be used to recommend content and provide personalised calls to action to each individual customer that will enhance their overall experience, keep them engaged and accelerate their path to conversion.

We consider that there are three fundamental stages in the customer journey to gain insight and deliver relevant experiences:

Research phase

This is often the initial, but crucial step in the buying process and the first chance for marketers to understand the customer. It’s a web driven experience primarily at this stage, with customers spending more time on a site, collating information in order to make a better purchasing decision. In the retail world, this research phase may well be conducted across a number of devices. For financial services customers looking for a mortgage, car loan, or credit card, it’s more likely that this stage requires in-depth research that is often done via a laptop or PC.

This information-gathering phase is important and understanding the context of this research phase enables brands to put forward the best, relevant content. Pushing prices or specific product offers at this stage may put the customer off. This is the educational phase where content is king and delivering the right information at the right time is important. This is the time to start building the unified customer profile that will prove so useful later on. By understanding what the site visitor is trying to do gives organisations a better chance of securing them as a customer in later steps.

Conversion phase

It’s at this point that the content focus of the web site needs to change. The customer is likely to know what they want, but they need to assess where and when they should buy or subscribe to it. Understanding the referral source and location is important for the brand to make content recommendations and personalised offers. Are they a new customer? Then offer them an introductory discount. If they have been researching more than one product, use this data to put together a competitive bundle. By leveraging the customer profile information gathered in the research stage, organisations are able to compile relevant offers in real-time within the site visitor’s current session that keep them on the site longer and increase the conversion rate.

Building loyalty

Building long-term relationships to encourage repeat purchases can be created through compelling and highly relevant digital experiences across all channels and interactions you have with your customer. This is particularly important for sectors where there might be little margin on some products, or where no profit is made on the first service sold.

Understanding what the customer has bought and providing them with the appropriate information they might need after the sale keeps them engaged and encourages them to come back. For example, if someone has just purchased their first electric car, how can they be supported in the first few months? Up-to-date advice on where to charge cars on longer journeys, how to connect with other electric car users, or information on charging stations within a 10 miles radius comprises welcome and relevant content. Supporting and educating the customer in the post-purchase phase greatly enhances the brand experience and encourages customer loyalty. The customer profile built up in the research and conversion phases helps to make this content even more relevant.

For banking customers, the only interaction they might have with their financial institution is via mobile. There is very little need to ever set foot in a branch and, therefore, banks have to upsell products and services via their mobile apps, the success of which depends on using contextualisation. Aside from the data they may have on the customer, banks are able to build a picture of a customer based on account transactions and other financial products bought recently.

Contextualisation in every industry

Sites that might not have a retail or transactional element to them can still use contextualisation to streamline customer service operations. Organisations that have to deal with many queries can make their self-service web sites much more effective with the use of contextualisation.  A good example of this is local government web sites. If they can understand what the visitor is looking for, these sites can be proactive in recommending the right information. Visitors can still be anonymous, but using all the information available, such as the time of day they visit the site and their geolocation, can ensure the best information is instantly available. Certain assumptions can be made, such as if the visitor’s location is local, they are likely to be looking for municipal services. If the visitor is navigating to the site directly, they’re more likely to be familiar with the council. If visitors are coming via a Google search, the content offered initially might be broader. 

Brands need to use contextualisation to capture visitor data and build a high resolution picture of a customer from their very first click on the website. Each return visit, call to action realised, or purchase helps to build up a richer profile and enables the vendor to customise content. Brands that look at customer behaviour both in real-time and historically all three phases of the buying journey are able to build much more granular profiles of their customers. It’s then that a contextualised experience can be offered seamlessly across different touch points. And this is key to building great digital experiences.

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