Why customer profiles are the key to personalisation

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Personalisation has been around for a number of years now. Brands tend to focus on a single channel (often email or web) and concentrate on adjusting the content for a superficial personalisation experience.

Meanwhile the challenges brands face around the disparate state of their customer data are not addressed, resulting in a preference for broadcast marketing. Creating actionable customer profiles allows brands to break down their data silos, focus on the evolving data streams and move from broadcasting to predicting, all in real time.

The explosion of technologies, devices and channels of communication has empowered the consumer to dictate how she wants to communicate with brands. In this increasingly customer centric world, the modern marketer’s role is to improve and optimise the customer experience of the brand he represents.

With so many routes to communication, the marketer is moving towards a responsive role in the dialogue, rather than pushing messages according to his own agenda or that of his company.

Web personalisation

As a result, web personalisation is seen as the most effective means of automating some of the minutiae of this ‘reactive’ role. In theory, personalisation enables the marketer to provide relevant, timely information based on data collected across multiple channels.

Forward-thinking businesses are using historic and cookie data to personalise web pages, emails and text messages. Near Field Communications (NFC) technology such as Apple’s iBeacon also makes it possible to gather geographic data in real time, which can then be used across these channels to send highly relevant, highly personalised messages.

The challenge is amalgamating and organising this data to make it readily available to the company’s messaging systems – CMS, email platforms, SMS – in order to deliver timely and relevant communication. All of the data can be collected and used, but it is stored across disparate systems and silos.

So how should marketers be making the theory of personalisation a reality to deliver a truly personalised experience to customers, one than extends beyond starting emails with “Hi <firstname>”?

Information consolidation

Much of the personalisation debate has been around content – what to say, when, through which medium and to whom. But the real challenge is finding the best way to consolidate all the information that drives personalisation into one place, so that it can be analysed and actioned as a sum total in the first place.

For over 20 years the Single Customer View concept, or 360-degree view of the customer, has been the coveted approach to centralising data – from the IT architects of the 1990s right through to the modern multichannel marketer of today. Yet this concept tackles the problem from the perspective of the data a company may hold about that customer, rather than from the perspective of that individual customer herself.

This is where profiles have the upper hand, causing a fundamental shift in the approach to customer engagement. Unlike CRM data, profiles are not limited to customers – prospects can be incorporated as well. Unlike web data, profiles can include data from multiple channels. Unlike Business Intelligence, profiles handle data in real time. And unlike a Single Customer View, profiles are actionable.

Customer profiles

All of this means that, using customer profiles, meaningful engagement can be delivered exactly at the optimal point.

Take, for instance, someone who has clicked through an email to view a product. When that person then walks into a physical shop, triggering a beacon, a message could be sent to that person’s mobile with an offer on the range of products initially viewed online. Conversely, an email could be sent later on offering promotions based on products viewed in-store.

Arla Foods is using Innometrics’ customer data management platform, Profile Cloud, to boost offline conversions using online behavioural data. By sending personalised, in-store vouchers for ingredients of recipes browsed online, the food manufacturer has improved conversions by 26%.

Conversely, Denmark’s largest supermarket chain is looking to emulate its brick-and-mortar success across digital channels. Using static, geographic and address data of its customers, it can tailor offers of products relevant to where they live. An urban dweller would have less interest in garden furniture than they would more compact alternatives, for instance.

Multi-channel data

As with these examples, it is the consolidation of data across multiple channels that is key to effective personalisation. Even for companies and brands that manage to achieve a single customer view, or a 360 view of the customer, how does that insight turn into action, and how easily can this process be administered? Customer profiles use real-time data to empower the brand’s chosen platforms to do the best possible job.

True personalisation allows any message to be sent at any time, based on any data set or combination thereof. For this to work, data needs to be centralised and made instantly actionable.

The rapid emergence of new technologies and channels available to both brand and consumer alike, means that data silos will continue to be created – it is therefore paramount for brands to ensure they use a combination of tools that not only work together, but that are sufficiently future-proof to work with the next big thing… whatever that may be. Profiles are the best way to achieve this.

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