Challenge Accepted: Personalized Omnichannel Customer Engagement

By Team ZineOne March 11, 2020
image of omnichannel experience

Customer experience has always been the driving factor in acquiring, converting and retaining customers. It’s common knowledge that customers will pay more for better customer experiences. In 2020, customer experience has emerged as the most important factor in conversion, overtaking both product and price.

Omnichannel marketing: Retail’s next dimension

Omnichannel marketing, like all business intelligence derivatives, is a product of the information age paradigm shift that has toppled siloed business models. Big data and practical ML/AI have irrevocably changed business models, as well as customer expectations.

Omnichannel engagement, meeting customers where they are, is vital. A recent survey on consumer purchasing behavior found that although 63% of customers who discover product in-store eventually complete the purchase in-store, 24.5% make the purchase on their smartphone and 22.6% finish the transaction on their PC. Omnichannel marketing initiatives don’t just pull cross-platform data, they push out intelligent, seamless customer experiences across all channels—digital, physical and hybrid touchpoints. 

Beyond segmentation: Personalization with purpose

Customers see your organization as a single entity across all channels and they expect a cohesive, seamless experience throughout their journey, from awareness to and beyond conversion. While customers expect brand experience to be consistent across touchpoints, they expect their relationship with your brand to be unique, tailored for them as individuals.Successful personalization has evolved beyond parroting basic information like first names in an email, only to dump consumers into anonymity when they visit your website or enter a brick and mortar store.

During a recent webinar hosted by ZineOne, Brendan Witcher, Forrester VP Principal Analyst, explained that segmentation only serves the major minority. More often than not, what is labeled as successful segmentation actually fails the majority of your customers. The key distinction, Witcher noted, is that data-led personalization is a dynamic strategy, rather than a marketing tactic based on static rules. 

More than half of American consumers admit that they link the brands they buy with their personal identities. The same GfK‒NRF report also found that 47% of customers say that they “don’t feel constrained by social expectations of my age or gender.” It went on to reveal that although consumers expect a consistent cross-platform brand experience, they also mandate an almost paradoxical degree of personalization in their individual relationship with your brand. And that’s not all!

Today’s consumers are conscious stewards of their data & attention

Referring to the Stitch Fix sign-up process, Witcher warns “that’s half an hour of your life that you’re not getting back.” So why is Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service for clothes and accessories, so popular? Why are people willing to give that much time and very personal information to an untried product? Because Stitch Fix understands that consumers are willing to invest their time, attention and ultimately their cash, in customer experiences with a purpose — clothes and accessories personalized to their taste and needs. The NRF 2020 winter trends report underscores this insight with the caveat that purpose and value must be defined and delivered individually.  

Omnichannel personalization: 2 strategies that can only succeed as one

Omnichannel personalization is the only way to deliver the multifaceted, high-touch customer experience that today’s consumers prize above even the actual products. As Witcher points out in this eBook, “As organizations execute more omnichannel capabilities—coordinating traditional channels (marketing, selling and fulfillment) plus supporting systems to create a seamless and consistent customer experience across the enterprise—it is a mistake for those companies to ignore the need to personalize the customer experience within those capabilities.” However, doing so at scale is always a stumbling block.

All the data: Keeping pace with the three V’s—Volume, Variety and Velocity

Way back in 2001, Gartner analyst Doug Laney identified the three V’s. To this day, they remain the foundation of how we describe big data. Keeping pace with customers, technology and the ever-increasing three V’s—variety, volume and velocity—requires data collection, analysis and decisioning at speeds and with dynamic complexity beyond the abilities of any army of human experts.

Just how do you wrangle all that data? Your CRM is the starting point, but it is one component in a much larger ecosystem. As Witcher observed, demographics and transaction history have value, but his yoga pants purchase in no way makes him a soccer mom. It is crucial to cross-reference all the data in context.

From 15 seconds to a fraction of a second

Once all the data are collected and integrated, the next steps are analysis and decisioning. Keeping pace, staying in-the-moment is paramount. Years ago, it was called the 15-second rule. These days, Kendra Chen, ZineOne VP of Product Management, warns that 5 or 10 seconds is too late. You have a fraction of a second to make a relevant and useful suggestion before the browser window is closed. Incorporating in-the-moment contextual data, like the current local weather and clickstream session data, is also critical. 

Personalization engines, AI/ML-led in-the-moment decisioning software that continuously reiterates individual customer parameters across touchpoints are the golden ticket.

Challenge accepted: omnichannel personalized engagement at scale

Now that customer experience is at the helm of conversion and engagement, effective omnichannel personalization is mandatory for all brands. The core of the five steps that McKinsey suggests for overcoming the challenges of omnichannel personalization, is an AI/ML-led automated decisioning engine. Only an AI-led platform is capable of automating the collection, analysis, decisioning and delivery of in-the-moment omnichannel personalization. 

Long gone are the days when having the best product guaranteed success. And the internet has ensured that every product has alternatives and consumers have multiple choices. However, intelligent omnichannel personalization that combines ‘data, tools, and operations’ can make you the only source of customer experience, that today’s consumers prize above that products that brought you to their attention in the first place.

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