Brands Get More Personal in 2022

Women with smart phone in street

Inge De Bleecker, Vice President of CX at Applause looks at three ways brands can personalise the customer journey, provide meaningful interactions and improve customer engagement.

There’s nothing new about personalisation. It has been a central pillar of brand marketing and customer engagement since the turn of the century. Over the last 20 years it has evolved to feature in all aspects of digital marketing and advertising, customer comms and even omni channel experiences. But despite its growing prevalence, what does personalisation mean exactly?

Personalisation offers customers experiences that are tailored specifically to keep them engaged. These days, it’s no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s become the cornerstone of the customer journey. Customers expect it. We’ve reached a point where most people assume that brands have all the data that they need to tailor an experience to their personal requirements.

Not only does personalisation feature in the top design trends for this year (a clear indicator that we haven’t conquered this yet and assimilated into a ‘typical’ experience), but over a third of customers who abandon business relationships do so because it lacks personalisation.

Personalisation is part and parcel of the customer experience and customer engagement, but we clearly have room to improve. So where do we start?

1. Get the basics right, starting with greetings

A prime example of basic personalisation is the insertion of your name in the greeting in an email or newsletter. This type of personalisation has been around for decades. Yet, we’re still not getting it right. For example, my surname has a space in it, which is not unusual in last names in Belgium, or several other countries. Yet automated systems, to this day, are not equipped to deal with this, and will parse the last part of the surname as the surname and move the first part into the first name field. Seeing “Hello, Inge De” only reminds me that a machine tried to personalise the message, not a human. It doesn’t instill any positive sentiment at all, and it doesn’t keep me engaged.

Smart speakers are notorious for delivering the wrong greeting. Up until a couple of weeks ago, Alexa smart speakers used names as part of an attempt at personalising greetings but failed miserably. At home, we have a handful of smart speakers that are used by the whole family, but the smart speakers only address my son. This makes me roll my eyes every single time. Alexa devices have finally started to ask whether they’re addressing the correct person and are now doing a form of speaker identification in their personalised greetings efforts. I just hope they will revert to a generic greeting in cases where speaker recognition confidence is low.

2. ‘Personal best practice’ – Learn from the organisations that are getting content recommendations right

Personalisation is often used as a synonym to recommendation. After all, content is key to users, and serving up content that is deemed suitable is important. Spotify is often touted as a prime example of personalisation done right. And across the board, we’re getting there with content recommendations. Amazon has been making recommendations based on prior purchases for decades, as well as Netflix, and while those recommendations sometimes lead to hilarious results, progress is being made.

3. Personalise across the customer journey

Today’s customer expects to utilize various channels in a single interaction with a brand. A person may use a chatbot, a smart voice assistant or even call customer service. The average customer tends to use various devices that they switch between. Think of someone who starts a product search on their desktop, but later switches to their mobile as they are waiting to pick up their child from school. In some cases, ease of use dictates which device is used. Think of searching for a product using a smart speaker, and then switching to a mobile phone to view the image before possibly switching back to the smart speaker to purchase the item. Context, preferences and other aspects of the experience need to be carried from device to device, to the extent that it makes sense for the user experience, of course.

None of the items above are novel; in fact, they have been around for a very long time. Yet, it’s important that we nail the basics. Personalisation needs to make the user’s life easier, but at the same time, the onus should not be on them to improve their customer experience. Software should be smart enough to suggest things and make it easy for the user to accept or reject a suggestion. Customers want meaningful interactions every time they engage with a brand. It’s down to digital marketers and customer experience professionals to deliver highly relevant, personalised and contextualised experiences.

Inge De Bleecker is Vice President of CX at Applause.

Inge De Bleecker, Senior Director of User Experience, ApplauseInge has been designing and testing web, mobile, voice and multi-channel experiences for more than 20 years. She builds and leads UX teams and evangelizes customer experience principles throughout organizations. Her mantras are “design for everyone” and “test early and often.” As vice president of CX at Applause, Inge leads the practices and studies for CX, accessibility and conversational AI. Prior to joining Applause, Inge held several positions in conversational interfaces, as well as web and mobile design and research. She holds an MA from the University of Texas, Austin.

Inge is a published author. Her book, Remote Usability Testing: Actionable insights in user behavior across geographies and time zones, which she co-authored with Rebecca Okoroji, is listed as one of Book Authority’s best new usability books of 2020. Along with Okoroji, Inge created the USERIndex benchmark — a standardized means of measuring the user experience of a digital interface. As part of the USERIndex, Inge believes that an exceptional user experience is determined by 4 USER factors: usefulness, satisfaction, ease of use and reliability.

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