Take a simple mass-customised email to “Hi John”. Is it personalised? Yes. But is it effective? No. Merging FirstName or LastName into a messaging campaign is the absolute minimum any marketer should do.
And there’s a lot more to it than that.
True personalisation goes beyond inserting the customer’s name into every communication. It starts with the first contact and grows as the relationship does. It means recognising where your customer came from, what they did before, and seeing each customer touchpoint as part of an ongoing conversation over time, not as a separate event.
Increasingly, it also means doing all this across different channels, presenting the same friendly face to the customer whether they respond with an email, WhatsApp message, or via a chatbot. In addition, it means staying personal at scale, even when you have thousands of messages going out daily and making every customer feel like your only customer.
78% of consumers prefer and recommend a brand that provides personalised services.
That’s not easy. But it’s our philosophy here at CM.com. Seeing various datasets as a single seamless view of the customer, whatever channel they choose—using software to make your human agents more effective, automating some tasks so they can apply their creativity elsewhere. And making sure different events stay part of the same conversation, giving your customers no reason to check out a competitor. (Let’s remember: a competitor is never more than a click away.)
Let’s look at why this matters and how this best-in-class personalisation works, fitted to the customer journey as you know it.
Personalisation in retail and eCommerce: why it matters more than ever
The first contact
Of course, personalisation should be part of every marketer’s toolkit, from the most innovative eCommerce merchant to the most old-school family business. Nowadays, customers expect a personal touch. Especially in uncertain times, it is essential to meet these expectations to prevent your customers from going to competitors.
But in eCommerce, it’s perhaps even more vital. Because your customer is on the internet while doing business with you: one mismanaged interaction, one slow response, and it’s Hey Google! to search for alternatives.
Accenture says 91% of customers are more likely to buy when an eCommerce site remembers them.
Note: personalisation isn’t something that only starts after the customer signs up for an account. It begins at the first interaction, whether through a web inquiry, a chatbot interaction, or a message on social media. Recognising the customer as an individual, from the moment they land on your website to the awareness and consideration stages of the funnel, puts you ahead of the game, even before you know their name.
The first order
Understanding this lets you continue the interaction at another key touchpoint: the first order. A smooth pathway from awareness to that first “Buy” click improves the customer experience because the customer will never feel you’re wasting their time.
Example? The “break” between a chatbot conversation (however successful) and adding an item to a shopping basket. These are separate interactions in far too many businesses, but they don’t have to be. Imagine the initial web chat ending with a product purchase, catching the buying journey within the conversation. That’s real personalisation.
The right channels in real time
The next risky touchpoint, where you know the consumer can be lost, is the order: the confirmation and shipping reminders. Most businesses send these by email, and they don’t always use valuable data points that can drive higher sales.
What if your shipping updates went out as part of the same WhatsApp conversation the customer started, keeping everything in one place? Or supply chain mishaps could be communicated in real-time by SMS rather than less-looked-at email, giving the customer instant satisfaction that you’re solving the issue? All are options, and savvy retail businesses are using them.
The returning customer
After the first order comes the real opportunity for retail and eCommerce personalisation: cross-selling and up-selling, when a customer leaves your site with a full cart, looks at a product recommendation multiple times, or looks at a previously purchased product.
All are potentially profitable if you send the right communication at the right time. And these capabilities are no longer reserved for enterprise-scale retailers like Amazon. Adopting a cross-channel personalisation mindset will help.
How to do it: plan communication across silos
Of course, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. So let’s look at the one element eCommerce retailers need for effective personalisation: communication across departments.
There’s no way around it. If marketing is hoarding your mailing list while customer service operates in a separate silo, your communications will look inconsistent and jumbled to the customer. Buying history won’t be recognised if they phone in; a discount earned from one channel may not be available in another; and a thousand other little disconnections that annoy the customer.
Do you know how you can change it? To finish up, here are some methods we’ve explored at CM.com.
Multidisciplinary teams can help. People who can guide customers across the whole journey without a handoff or who use their knowledge and awareness of how different departments interact to smooth over gaps in the customer experience. It’s also a very valuable mindset to adopt across your organisation.
Build a single, comprehensive view of customers’ needs and behaviours, and share it across all departments. Help sales, marketing, customer service, and CX use this 'single version of the truth' as their basis for communications. Integrate customer data into all your tools,
Use chatbots in the right way. AI bots are now part of customer service infrastructure, they’re getting smarter all the time and can help customers with common questions, point them to valuable resources, and even slip in links to products you sell.
Think of channels as different parts of the same experience, not separate. The customer who always asks your chatbot about product information might never use the chat at purchasing time. Always offer multiple channels and let the customer choose the ones they prefer.
Focus on integration. Of course, some services can help – like CM.com’s Mobile Marketing Cloud and Mobile Service Cloud. Combining these solutions will bring together multiple channels, campaigning, and management tools in the cloud.
Silo thinking is the barrier to real personalisation. Solve this, and you’ll enable a whole new world of individually-tailored, multi-channel, joined-up customer experiences - helping you acquire and retain customers for the long term.
That’s true personalisation. As you’ve seen, it’s much more than mail-merging customer names in your CRM. And this is where CM.com can help. Our cloud-based services let you campaign, communicate, and converse with customers across the many channels they use daily – with every interaction point and sales opportunity maximised for customer satisfaction and profitability.