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5 Elements of Optimizing for Personalized CX

4-minute read

It’s common business practice when looking to achieve outcomes at scale to default to an approach of “majority rules”. Marketers look for the highest averages, common traits in the largest segment of consumers, or the typical buying behaviors of a specific generation. The challenge is that when it comes to personalization, these strategies can fall flat because what an individual wants is most certainly not the same as what everyone or a majority of customers want. 

Consumers don’t want to be viewed as one of many, they want to be valued as individuals. This is why it’s not enough to optimize the customer experience (CX) for the average consumer. Brands need to factor in what’s required to delight individual consumers, even as this changes depending on what they’re shopping for and as market trends shift. 

The spectrum of products and services available for purchase through e-commerce is almost without limit. Customers can buy anything online from a tube of toothpaste, an antique dresser, and a luxury vacation. Trying to factor in individual preferences as well as unique customer journeys can quickly become overwhelming. 

Increasing demands for personalization in a highly dynamic and competitive marketplace make optimizing for unique shopping experiences challenging. Add to that the need to deliver at speed and scale to stay competitive and marketers have their job cut out for them. It’s not an impossible task, just complex. This is why it’s helpful to not only understand who your target consumers are, and what they’re shopping for, but also how and why.

With this level of complexity brands are continually seeking ways to better connect with their customers and understand what’s driving their decisions to buy. This goes beyond identifying customer personas and highlights the importance of understanding the journey customers take and how it differs between products, brands, and customer profiles. 

WHO – Focus on the customer data that matters for personalized CX

With the demise of third party cookies, the focus has turned to better ways to collect and analyze first-party and zero-party data. This can benefit marketers in several ways. Primarily the data provided by third party cookies was demographics and because they’re very general in nature most of the time their attributes are of little use in assisting with personalization. There is one exception though and that is when looking at ways to improve the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). 

Here’s an example: In the past two years, older generations including baby boomers have become very proficient at shopping online and this has broadened the demographics of e-commerce. However, how baby boomers navigate and what they consider important information can be quite different from a Gen Z consumer. 

Retired people generally have more time on their hands and they like to compare prices and product options to make sure they’re getting the best value. Also, if they get stuck, their preference is typically to speak to someone that can assist them, rather than trying to troubleshoot on their own by viewing online FAQs. Knowing that a website visitor is over 65 years of age gives marketers the ability to personalize experiences with those preferences in mind. This is especially true when combined with the device site. A 68 year old person using an iPad provides a valuable data set to use in personalizing their experience to the fullest.

WHAT – Not all products are equal in terms of CX

Some online purchases are simply about availability, price or convenience and there’s little emotional attachment. This is typical of groceries or other convenience items that are frequently purchased. But home decor or vacations, for example, are bigger ticket items, both of which involve thoughtful decisions based on individual preferences. 

Bigger ticket items naturally lead to a customer journey that is more involved that ensures the consumer is more emotionally invested. After all, what they’re really buying is a dream. They want their home to look stylish, or they want to experience a specific destination or culture. The key element of customer experience in these cases is to help consumers navigate through a myriad of choices to identify what’ll match their dream by serving the right information at the right time in the journey. 

HOW – Leverage the unique capabilities of specific channels

The growth in mobile commerce cannot be ignored. Mobile phones have become the go-to for all kinds of information, whether it’s looking up a store location or comparing prices, shipping costs or product availability. Shopping on mobile is very different compared to desktop or even tablet and requires a targeted approach that factors in the limited screen space and how gestures such as swiping impact the user experience. 

The best way to understand which ideas have the most impact requires ongoing experimentation. This demands the ability to identify top performing experiences and then add to them. Such an approach ensures that experiences remain relevant to changing customer preferences.

WHY - Understand emotional connections to shopping

One of the leading trends in CX is sustainability. Consumers are more likely to spend with brands that are making a concerted effort to reduce their impact on the planet. This is because consumers feel that they’re also making the world a better place through their buying choices. It is becoming increasingly important for consumers to feel that their personal values align the companies they do business with.

Understanding what consumers value and why it’s important to them can help brands identify what information to present and in what way so that it works to convert website visitors into loyal customers. The emotional aspect will vary depending on what consumers are buying, but it can still exist with a frequent purchase such as shampoo. Consumers have their favorites and this becomes very obvious when an item is out of stock. 

WHEN - Achieving real-time personalization

As much as consumers expect real-time personalization, brands are limited in their ability to deliver. They’re limited by the availability of data and the ability to validate and analyze it fast enough to generate actionable insights. 

This is where AI-driven experimentation can have a real impact on CX. AI doesn’t get bogged down in complexity, instead it can process huge volumes of data quickly and help predict the next best touchpoint to serve in the customer journey. Real-time personalization can be achieved by AI-driven experience optimization that works to serve and adapt relevant experiences while visitors are browsing.

Optimization Takeaway for Personalized CX

With so many elements to take into consideration when aiming to achieve personalized CX, marketers need to marry their expertise and knowledge to technologies that can help them improve and scale personalization. Optimizing for unique shopping experiences is what’ll make one brand stand out against competitors and is well worth investing in.

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