The 1:1 Renaissance: How Personalization Strengthens Relationships

Todd Grennan By Todd Grennan Jul 20, 2017

With the rise of mobile, a new view of customer/brand engagement is emerging. Or, more accurately, an older view is gaining new currency, informing how forward-looking marketers are interacting with their customers in today’s mobile-first world.

Think small town merchant. A customer starts going to a bakery in their town and over time the baker learns their name, studies their preferences and details about them as an individual, making it possible for the baker to engage with them not as a salesperson pushing the priciest bread, but as a trusted advisor. Someone who knows the customer well and can tailor their recommendations and interactions to be genuinely helpful, inspiring deep customer loyalty and giving them reasons to keep coming back.

Personalization makes it possible for brands to have this same kind of intimate, one-on-one relationship with their customers—but globally, and on a massive scale. But only if you have the right data and know how to take advantage of it.

Customer data: The lifeblood of personalization

Think back to that baker. The thing that made it possible for him to successfully serve his customers and build strong, sustainable customer relationships was his understanding of who those customers were and what they were looking for. And while his way of gathering that information (living in the same community and interacting with his customers) is different than how marketers do it today, that kind of understanding is still essential.

When a customer opens your mobile app, visits your website, looks at a product page, makes a purchase (or starts to make a purchase), clicks on an email, or taps on a push notification, they’re giving you information. And if if your brand has the means to track and act on it, that information can support the sort of responsive, personalized customer experiences that are today’s version of yesteryear’s thoughtful, small town merchant.

If your brand doesn’t collect the actionable information that’s available to you, it can severely limit the scope of your personalization options—and result in a more generic, less valuable experience for your customers. After all, you can’t tell a customer about a discount at a location near them if you don’t know where they are.

Message personalization: Speak to every customer like they’re your only one

At its core, personalization is about engaging with each customer as an individual. That can be as simple as referring to someone by their first name or as complex as giving them product recommendations that are uniquely curated for them. But before you can craft the personalized messaging experience that’s right for your customers, you have to make sure that you know what’s possible and how to take advantage of it.

types of personalization

1. Use your customers’ names

Mobile is an intimate medium. People carry their smartphones everywhere, even sleep with their devices. So it feels a little weird to have a push notification announce itself with a vibration against your thigh and then refer to you with the digital equivalent of “Sir.” By pulling each customer’s name from your user profiles and use message personalization to automatically add them to your emails, push notifications, in-app messages, and more, you can show your customers that you know who they are—and that they’re not just nameless, faceless users to you.

2. Adjust your messaging based on your customers’ preferences and behavior

Building a relationship with your customers means understanding them—and to do that, you have to know who they are and what they care about. How often do they use your app or visit your website? What products do they look at? How often do they take action based on your messages—and do they prefer to be reached via push notification or email?

Using your customers’ behavior and stated preferences to personalize the messages you send makes it possible to communicate with your audience in ways that they find relevant and valuable. And personalization also makes the outreach you send more effective, increasing related conversions by more than 27%.That just makes sense—after all, wouldn’t you be more likely to tap on a push notification announcing a deal on a product you actually want to buy, rather than a generic promotional message?

If your marketing platform supports dynamic content, you can do one better and directly leverage information from your brand’s proprietary servers or third-party partners in real time. That could mean pulling up-to-the-minute information from your point-of-sale system to personalize an in-app message, or using Connected Content to dynamically personalize an email with the inclusion of articles or products that are individually curated for every recipient. That allows you to provide customers with a brand experience that’s not just personal to them—it’s responsive, serving them messages filled with the most up to date recommendations and information.

3. Speak to customers in the language they use

You can craft an amazing push notification—great copy, the perfect emoji, automatically pulling in each customer’s name and highlighting topics they’re likely to care about—but if you don’t send it in the language your recipients actually speak, all that care will go to waste. People want companies to address them using the language they prefer, and failing to do so can make it less likely that your customers make a purchase.

Mobile has made it a lot easier to get this right. Every smartphone and tablet has a device language ID that indicates the language being used on that particular mobile device—so if your marketing platform is tracking that information, you can use personalization to ensure that, for instance, the messages being sent to a Spanish-speaking customer are actually in Spanish. That makes it possible for the content of your messages to shine through—plus, it’s a lot simpler than creating 20 different all-but-identical campaigns for every message you send.

4. Send location-specific messages

Some messages are for everybody. But if you want to let your audience know about a promotion or in-store event that’s only relevant in certain regions, you need a way to ensure that people are getting messages that are relevant to where they actually are. Personalizing your messages based on recipients’ locations allows brands to send a single campaign that automatically adjusts what content, offers, or events a given recipient sees based on where they are, ensuring that you’re not showcasing a one-day sale at your Beverly Hills location to users in Brooklyn. Plus, by providing location-specific information, you’re increasing the chances that your audience finds the messages you’re sending useful, supporting stronger engagement with your brand.

5. Speak to customers when they’re in the mood to listen

send-time optimization examples

A good shopkeeper knows when to go up to a customer and when to let them browse in peace. Delivery time personalization (also known as send-time optimization) makes it possible for today’s brands to do something similar—that is, only reach out to customers at times when they’re likely to welcome and engage with a given message. This kind of personalization uses historical message engagement data to identify each customer’s unique high-engagement windows and deliver messages during those periods, increasingly the odds that customers will welcome your push notifications and emails when they arrive.

Strong relationships are built on understanding—and respect

Everybody wants to be understood. But we all have boundaries, too.

Used thoughtfully, personalization can be a powerful way for brands to build stronger relationships with customers around the world and bolster their user retention and monetization efforts. But when it’s used carelessly, personalization can strike a lot of customers as downright creepy—and that’s not a recipe for a healthy brand/customer relationship.

Before you personalize a message, you should consider a couple things. First, does using personalization add value for the person receiving the message? Second, does the way that you’re customizing this message seem likely to feel invasive or off-putting? If your use of personalization makes for a better experience for your customers and isn’t going to freak them out, then by all means—go for it. Otherwise, it’s time to rethink your approach.

Ultimately, personalization is most effective when it makes customers feel understood and valued by your brand without overstepping their personal boundaries.

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan is a New York-based writer and editor. When he's not writing about mobile marketing, customer retention and emerging technologies for Braze, you can find him trying to read his way through every Wikipedia article related to World War II.

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