Marketers understand the value of real-time personalization. By delivering experiences relevant to a customer's current context, a company can increase impact and return on investment for each engagement. But how do you go about it, and what does it take to get it done? In our previous post, we talked about best practices for real-time personalization. Now, we'll focus on the technologies needed to power your strategy.
Most organizations have a good baseline understanding of who their customers are—their personas, where and how they interact, their channel preferences and so on. This information can enable targeting for outbound campaigns. The challenge comes when you try to move beyond this batch environment, where scheduled messages promote marketer-defined offers, to one-to-one interactions shaped by the customer's real-time activity and needs. It's simple enough to place an ad on a website, but far fewer companies can deliver exactly the right message for each person to see at the right moment, and do so at scale.
While each marketer will approach real-time personalization differently, there are three core capabilities that every toolkit should include:
Omnichannel real-time interaction management (RTIM)
The first step is to evaluate your existing architecture. What channels are available to you: Web? Mobile app? Call center? Email? Point of sale? Which of these is available for inbound marketing, and which ones allow customers to easily respond to the messages you deliver that way?
For the most part, inbound or real-time marketing capabilities tend to be both limited and isolated to an individual channel. You should be working toward the ability to understand and orchestrate real-time, cross-channel interactions throughout the customer journey. For example: A customer spends time filling a shopping cart, only to abandon it before completing the checkout process. A timely remarketing email—an incentive such as discounted pricing or shipping, an upsell or cross-sell opportunity, a simple reminder—can bring that customer back to quickly complete the process.
While an omnichannel approach is the ultimate goal, you may want to begin by emphasizing a single channel. As the most commonly used channel as well as the most flexible in the types of messages that can be created, the web is a good place to start. Marketers generally have rich information on customer context to draw on, and ample opportunity and content to deliver relevant experiences in real time to deepen engagement.
Segmentation logic, marketer-defined rules and cognitive self-learning
Effective personalization involves both segmenting audiences into distinct groups and creating relevant messages for each individual within each group. Marketers can define rules to tailor engagements according to past behavior, demographic and geographic information, channel and so on. Cognitive self-learning powered by big data analytics can refine each engagement based on information gathered about a customer's tone of voice and behavior over time. A telecommunications provider with a streaming video service might use information about a customer's past orders to complement a bandwidth upgrade offer with a personalized bundle of curated content to increase its relevance and effectiveness.
Mutually aware inbound and outbound communication
To deliver an optimal customer experience, your batch and personalized messages need to be consistent with each other. If a bank has been using direct mail to promote a service to a select group of customers, those customers should be greeted with the same offer when they arrive at the bank's website or call in to talk to a representative. Conversely, if a customer has contacted the company to ask for assistance, register a complaint or place an order, that information should be taken into account in the outbound communications the customer receives—either to capitalize on an upsell or cross-sell opportunity, or to prevent annoying a disgruntled customer with an ill-timed promotion.
The technologies to enable these capabilities are available today—not just for large enterprises, but also for mid-market companies. Of course, it's not just a matter of buying the right tools—it's also important to understand the commitment and collaboration required to enact a real-time personalization strategy. Make sure you're in a position to complete the initiative and deliver the promised benefits for the business.
These benefits can be considerable, including:
- Increased efficiency and effectiveness of marketing interactions. Marketers can leverage the system's cognitive capabilities to gather learnings and refine communications without having to devote the time and effort to human analysis.
- Higher conversions through greater relevancy. The customer data gathered through each channel can be integrated, analyzed and used to deliver a more personalized experience across every channel.
- Retained revenue through deepened loyalty. The more you learn about your customers, the more relevant each engagement can become, increasing customer satisfaction to reduce attrition.
- Reduced cost through redirected marketing efforts. Insights gathered through real-time personalization can help you spend your budget more intelligently to drive conversions, retention and loyalty. For example, some
IBM customers have redirected up to 30% of their traditional outbound costs to more efficient and high-impact inbound marketing efforts.
As you proceed with real-time personalization, here's one final piece of advice: Make sure you're ready to handle the flood of data you'll be seeing. The right reporting and analytics can give you a clear view of what's working, where and how much conversions are increasing, and where to go next. The opportunities can be endless.
About the Author
Arjen van der Broek is the global product management leader for IBM Marketing Software Solutions (formerly known as
About the Sponsor
IBM helps you create unbreakable bonds with your customers. Through a powerful set of tools and solutions for marketing, e-commerce and customer analytics, you can understand your customers, identify the moments that matter most and respond immediately with experiences that surprise and delight. Become a customer-oriented business, unleash the power of cognitive commerce and tap into an endless universe of information and possibilities, including how real-time personalization solutions help you turn individual customer interactions into relevant, contextual, optimized engagement. Learn more at ibm.com/real-time-personalization.