Just for You, Four Stages of Hyper-Personalization

How brands can use automation in the marketing stack to deliver tailor-made messages in the moments that matter most

By Brett Wachter


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Brands are realizing they can't thrive by personalizing only a few customer experiences. Because the brand relationship with the customer changes every day, every hour, with every experience, the investments in occasional outreach are better spent on a process that continuously learns about customers. With that kind of process at hand, chief experience officers and digital leaders are coming to see their ability to drive hyper-personalization is finally within their grasp.

By combining the systems that provide rich insight on consumers with the systems that take action and engage the customer, companies will finally have a complete view of their customers and will be able to deliver individualized experiences across all touchpoints. This approach achieves a level of personalization that's consistently efficient and compelling.

Known as hyper-personalization, this process doesn't just personalize basic parts of the customer experience, such as the initial flurry of emails to create a lead. Instead, it reimagines entire stages of the customer journey at the points of interaction most valuable to the company, leveraging data from every interaction with an individual to create a holistic view of their needs.

That kind of commitment to detail is possible, but it happens only with the support of automated platforms that can help create personalized content and offers at scale.

Through scale and automated platforms, every company can — and should — aim to master hyper-personalization. In this hyper-digital age consumers expect more individualized experiences from brands.

To outline what marketers can do to deploy hyper-personalized messages at key points along the customer journey, here are the four stages of hyper-personalization.


1. Build Up Communications

A company should be able to communicate what defines its brand experience. That's a foundational step in marketing and the first stage on the journey toward hyper-personalization.


While brand strategy is considered table stakes, some companies struggle to make the most of this stage — or move beyond it — because their legacy technologies don't have the agility to update content quickly. Instead, they're stuck running long, somewhat impersonal marketing campaigns. Before proceeding to the next stage of hyper-personalization, brands must ensure they are clearly aligned on their brand messages and experience objectives, with the right platform in place to support those goals.


2. Get Insights in Sync

Many brands have now moved beyond the inside-out first stage and have made significant investments in commerce and customer experience technologies, enabling the delivery of content and managing transactions with the same stroke. They've achieved a synchronicity between the necessary components that drive merchandising and marketing and are offering a rich customer experience.

Still, that's not the end of the journey. There are two more layers of this stage, insights and action. A seamless combination of the two is what companies should aspire to if they want a mature, insights-driven customer experience ecosystem.


3. Establish Progressive Engagement

The third stage, which centers on progressive engagement, lets companies piece together profiles of customers. It's the process of taking the first point of contact, when a consumer is largely anonymous, and continuing to learn from every interaction to build a full understanding of what should eventually become a loyal customer.

This understanding goes beyond name, contact information, and social media handles; it also includes shopping preferences and the customer's propensity to buy certain merchandise at a certain time, all captured in a unified profile in a company's customer data platform (CDP).


4. Deliver Multichannel Experiences

The fourth stage combines all the insight gathered in stage three and applies it across a multichannel experience, so customers will see that a brand does, in fact, know what it needs to know about them to deliver a customized shopping experience.

These displays of acute understanding in the context of the moment boost sales and engender loyalty. Multichannel enablement comes through the marriage of the CDP with a brand's marketing platforms to inject targeted insights into the experiences as they are created.


Consistently Appealing to Each and Every Customer

Some companies have grasped all four stages and are now consistently delivering hyper-personalized customer experiences. Take, for example, a national outdoor retailer who has successfully married personalized content with marketing pitches that are delivered through a multichannel experience that doesn't seem generic when it reaches individual customers.

A customer who has twice viewed some of the retailer's jackets will receive a targeted offer that connects the product with an upcoming hike in his area. Delivered through email and available on the brand's website and mobile app, the content doesn't smack of a sales opportunity, it instead comes across as a thoughtful message delivered at just the right time, tugging at the customer's love for hiking and apparent need for a jacket.

The retailer's hyper-personalization initiatives are making a mark because this company has the technological ecosystem to combine what shapes insight (i.e., its data management, analytics, and customer experience systems) with what drives action (i.e., personalization technologies and marketing automation tools).

That should be the destination for any brand — a sweet spot where the systems of insight work in harmony with the systems of action. Such integration allows marketers to learn continuously and develop complete profiles of their customers, so they can engage each one across channels at a level of scale that doesn't require long lead times. At last, marketers are able to make truly tailored offers wrapped around content that appeals to the hearts and wallets of each customer.

Brett Wachter (@bwach) is a North American marketing platforms leader at IBM iX, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program. You can email Brett at brettwachter@us.ibm.com.



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comments (1)

Cole Cummings

October 5, 2019 6:02pm ET

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