Companies correctly believe that delivering personalized experiences sets them apart and makes them more competitive—better able to win the long-term allegiance (and spending) of customers.
Yet, many companies are making slow progress because they believe that hyper-personalization demands complete data. I have often heard marketers wonder out loud when and if their personalization programs can be launched—particularly when their financial institution covers multiple lines of business and products: “We can’t do personalization today because we don’t have the data and permissions needed to serve a market of one. How does anyone even pull this off?”
Overcoming personalization paralysis
When it comes to one-to-one marketing, not everything is possible right now, certainly, but companies should not succumb to a kind of “personalization paralysis.” They should not wait until the day when the data is perfect, because that day may never come.
Instead, marketers should proceed based on a continuum of personalization, with mass marketing at one end and a segment of one at the other (see Figure). There are steps in between those two extremes where knowledge and insights to produce meaningful benefits can be created and actioned now, laying the groundwork for the ultimate transition to hyper-personalization later.
Benefits of the continuum approach to personalization
This continuum approach is all about using segmentation to provide increasing levels of personalization across customer touchpoints over time. In the move from mass marketing to one-to-one marketing, two additional steps are especially important:
- Cluster analysis. Using customer surveys as well as transactional and third-party data, perform a cluster analysis to discern segments or groupings, as well as the shared attributes driving the differentiation of one customer group or segment from another.
- Segmentation and personas. With additional data, you can refine the initial clustering to segment your audience based on a more detailed understanding. Then, create a persona—or archetype—for each segment so you can more fully understand who they are. Put a name, face and a lifestyle to people as a way to embody the segment. That approach will make it easier to create distinct experiences for each segment.
A side benefit of this gradual approach is that it allows the marketing teams and the compliance teams to work together more effectively along the way, balancing innovative and responsive marketing with effective risk management.
Along the way, test and learn. This will add to your understanding, allowing you to become more precise. Even companies extremely advanced in personalization make educated guesses along the way. Rapid testing, iterative development, permission to fail, and continuous improvement are the hallmarks of personalization leaders.
Using a continuum approach, you can give your customers more personalized experiences now, while earning their trust to gather and utilize more data over time.
Don’t wait. You already have some data, as well as the pipes and the content, so start using them. You can test and learn and build more definitional understandings of your customers’ needs and wants on your journey to a market of one.