The Promise of Personalization at Scale

A customer putting a name tag on his shirt - personalization concept


Much has been written on the promise of personalization — how it can unlock new customer growth, develop ironclad brand loyalty, even respond to customers’ unspoken needs. Yet few businesses have put this type of scaled personalization into practice. Why is that?

According to CMSWire’s most recent State of Digital Customer Experience report, only a slim majority of businesses (51%) are either conducting personalization experiments or already deriving benefits. The rest are either stuck in approvals or not prioritizing this aspect of marketing. Many find themselves stuck in a state of personalization paralysis, unsure of where to start and unable to move forward.

Personalization holds substantial promise for organizations, though. It offers an answer to the question being asked with increased frequency by businesses in this new digital era: how do we improve our customer experience? When implemented at scale, personalization has the ability to delight consumers and respond to their calls for brands to ‘know me, guide me, wow me.’ A recent McKinsey & Company report explained, “When asked to define personalization, consumers associate it with positive experiences of being made to feel special. They respond positively when brands demonstrate their investment in the relationship, not just the transaction.”

In showcasing that investment in the relationship, personalization helps to nurture customer loyalty, delivering an experience so impactful that customers feel compelled to return to a brand again and again. And as consumers have become inundated with choice in today’s digital commerce landscape, finding ways to nurture that loyalty is more critical than ever for a brand’s long term success.

Bloomreach’s latest report, The Definitive Guide to E-Commerce Personalization, further explores the ways in which brands can inspire, engage and convert consumers through personalized experiences, making every customer journey one that consumers can delight in.

More Than Greet-By-Name: Personalization Defined

Personalization has long since surpassed the days of a simple ‘Hi, [FIRSTNAME]’ field, and if your organization’s personalization strategy begins and ends with putting a customer’s name in the subject line of your marketing emails, it’s time to think bigger.

With the data you gather (responsibly) from consumers, you can know, guide and impress them with contextual and seamless experiences. You can thread consistent, relevant messaging across each of your owned channels, ensuring these different points of engagement tell a unified brand story, all catered to unique customer journeys.

To the consumer, it will feel as thought your brand has catered its commerce experience specifically to them. But you’ll be achieving that customer experience at scale, meaning hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of shoppers will feel you’re speaking directly to them and their journey. Customers today are thinking, “know me, guide me, wow me.” Brands that use personalization to deliver that experience are the ones that will win lifetime loyalty.

When successful, those personalization efforts will go beyond just delivering exceptional customer experiences — they’ll help to nurture brand loyalty and transform occasional customers into lifelong brand fans.

Overcoming Personalization Paralysis

Personalization may have been the ‘Next Big Thing’ for years, but warnings against setting expectations too high have also existed for years. Gartner was predicting many organizations would abandon personalization efforts back in 2019.

Historically, the challenge of implementing personalization at scale has lied in a few key areas: incomplete data, eroding consumer trust and underperforming technology. Fortunately, these are solvable problems.

Data collection might be harder these days, particularly with privacy laws and the coming sunsetting of cookie technology, but companies can build an extremely comprehensive view of customers by relying less on first- and second-party data and turning instead toward zero-party data (where customers intentionally share their data). Consumers today are far more aware of what’s happening to their personal data; by depending more on data their shoppers are willing to share, companies can build better customer experiences and build consumer trust at the same time.

A business can have all of the right data and the right elements of trust, but none of it matters if it doesn’t have the technology stack to deliver results. Cloud solutions that offer flexibility and shorter adoption times ensure organizations can move quickly to implement their personalization strategies. With these solutions in place, ingesting critical data and using it to power your commerce experience, your business can move swiftly toward better business results and, above all, better customer experiences.

The Path Forward

The nuances of personalizing at scale often lead to personalization paralysis — brands just don’t know where to begin. But personalization is an important, and achievable, strategy for any business looking to achieve customer loyalty.

Importantly, adopting the right tools, technology and mindset to allow personalization to flourish will go a long way in building consumer trust, proving to customers that you’re listening to what they’re telling you when they interact with your digital channels, and that you’re using those insights to make their next interaction even better. This should go beyond the low-hanging fruit of calling customers by their first name. Personalization has the ability to deliver true joy for your customers — the joy of being understood. Isn’t that the type of digital experience we all deserve?

After years spent with personalization paralysis, brands finally have the technology and resources available to reclaim the promise of personalization at scale. So let’s get started…your customers are waiting.

Be sure to read The Definitive Guide to E-Commerce Personalization for more insights into the power of personalized commerce experiences and how your organization can begin its own personalization journey.

The SMG Custom Content Team creates sponsored articles and data-driven thought leadership for SMG’s publications.

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