If your business is not up to speed on offering consumers a personalized digital experience, then it’s time to catch up quickly. Personalization is no longer trendy or optional. On the contrary, personalization is rapidly becoming a consumer expectation.

Businesses are seeing the rewards of capturing and analyzing data, which includes both consumer advocacy and increased revenues. They understand their consumers more intimately, can create more rewarding and enriching experiences, and can market more effectively.

Achieving the win-win of personalization requires time, attention, and technology. The payoff is commensurate with the effort required.

Personalization And Big Expectations

Today, personalization means so much more than emails with the consumer’s name in the salutation. In a highly digitized world, with their smartphones always nearby, consumers expect their brands to know them and to deliver what they need on demand.

In the not-too-distant past, consumers had only local purchase options promoted by traditional advertising to guide the way. Now, everyone is trying to connect with the consumer in real-time, through every channel and device. Consumers trust sites such as Yelp, Google Reviews, and TripAdvisor more than the brands they grew up with. Given this noisy landscape, brands need to prepare to engage with consumers on their terms.

Today’s connected consumers can quickly look for products and services and have the power to be far more selective in the decision-making process. They no longer want to spend money to procure a product – they want a customized product accompanied by excellent service and the one that’s best suited for their professional or personal needs. Consumers have set a high bar.

The Business Benefit: The Universal Consumer View

Consumers do not materialize from the vastness of space to make a single purchase and then dematerialize back into the ether. Treating them as such will eventually be fatal to businesses. Instead, brands need to create a universal consumer view. That’s the process of tracking the consumer’s digital journey and conducting a holistic analysis of their behaviors across channels and devices.

By combining the way in which they interact with advertisements and how they shop, when they open emails, visit other websites, and other factors, it is possible to learn what motivates them and their communication preferences.

With a full understanding of the consumer’s journey, one can create a personalized, useful experience that will speak to them at a time they are most receptive, and in the format they prefer. When done properly, a personal algorithm is mapped, and consumers feel as though you are truly in tune with their needs.

The actionable data, which is collected to personalize each consumer’s shopping experience, has significant implications for the profit and scalability of the business. Analyzing the data can reveal significant trends, segments, and channel preferences. Use these insights to reach new consumers more efficiently. But first, a business has to first prepare for personalization if it wants to achieve profitable results.

For example, The Economist is an old-school media property that evolved themselves quickly with an up-to-the-minute understanding of personalization. Using programmatic advertising techniques keyed to potential subscriber behaviors and locations, The Economist determined the best articles to show each consumer along with a tailored subscription offer. The campaigns were deployed over social channels and grew the millennial subscription base by 165%.

The Three Steps To Personalization

The first step is to agree on the objectives and key performance indicators of the personalization initiative. Desired outcomes of the initial testing might not tie to hard performance metrics such as revenue, but instead, aim for increases in consumer engagement levels and interactions. Leave room for a flexible framework so the data can guide the testing.

Second, merge data sources. This does not have to be overwhelming when the right tools and partners in place. First-party data (the information held by the brand about their consumers and their web properties) is married to third-party data (the information collected and syndicated by adtech vendors that push consumers to a brand’s purchase point). Some brands also merge second-party macro data such as real-time weather data and gas prices.  Clearly, merging data requires greater levels of technological sophistication.

And that’s the third step: Mine your data for insights you can use to test, learn, and refine customer experience and marketing initiatives. In a perfect world, merged data would uncover needle-moving insights such as discovering a new audience segment or a crucial gap in a digital journey. In most cases, the data reveals micro insights that enable businesses to continuously optimize the consumer’s experience.

As you go through this process, it makes sense to evaluate outside expertise. Businesses rarely have the in-house resources to accomplish the personalization process for themselves. As consumer demand for a personalized experience continues to grow, companies that invest in an integrated planning approach facilitated by industry experts will be positioned to maintain a competitive advantage.

Consider The Big Picture: The Win-Win Of Personalization

It’s easy to see why personalization is valuable to a consumer. They don’t feel as if their time is being wasted with marketing messages that are largely irrelevant to their journey in life. These personalized deals, products, and services deliver the greatest value to their specific interest at that moment.

Helping companies understand the value and getting them to make the investment seems more challenging. However, when presented with increased conversion rates and other hard data, the value quickly becomes apparent. For a business, it will not be enough to just offer consumers high-quality products or services. They already have an overabundance of options. The companies who delight their loyal and happy consumers will be those offering an experience that makes them feel valued and understood on a personal level.

Investments in time, attention and technology can create a personalization win-win for consumers and your business.