Behavioral Personalization and the Art of Distinguishing Intent from Incident


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According to Forrester Research, “The dominant CCCM [cross-channel campaign management] challenge in the next two years will be to personalize messages based on consumer behavior across channels.”1

Why? For the answer, we turn again to Forrester: “Integrating customer data from across marketing channels is still the No. 1 challenge for CI professionals.”2

Overwhelmed by a growing deluge of data from multiple, disparate sources, many brands are limited to a fragmented or incomplete view of their customers. Without a single 360-degree view encompassing all available data, personalization can fall short of its intended effect.

Consider the following examples. If I purchase a Justin Bieber album as a birthday gift for my teenybopper niece, should the ecommerce site assign me to the “Bieber fever” segment and personalize offers accordingly? Or if I’m in the very early stages of vacation planning, does the fact that I browsed a page or two about Tuscany provide a clear indication of my intended destination?

Consumers want—even expect—relevant content and personalized experiences but often their behavioral clues are incomplete and misleading. If these clues aren’t aggregated and analyzed in a broader context, an isolated incident can be mistaken for deeper interest and intent, resulting in personalization that’s misguided or premature, and generally ineffective.

With a 360-view customer view, the ecommerce site knows that my musical tastes lean heavily toward classic rock—an insight gleaned from transactional data, web history, campaign responses, preference centers, etc. Therefore, they won’t let an isolated purchase directly influence the offers I receive. Or recognizing the aberration, they might use a survey to ascertain if the CD was a gift, and then send a music recommendation (who’s the next Bieber?) for my niece’s next birthday.

In the travel scenario, the site personalized too early in the trip-booking process. I wasn’t sure which country, let alone continent, I wanted to visit. By pigeonholing me in the Tuscany bucket, they’re limiting my ability to pick the best destination—and begging me to say “ciao.” I needed relevant content, but at that point, it had to facilitate discovery. Recognizing that I was early in the buying cycle, they might have recommended additional destinations to explore. Then, immediately before and after my booking, they could step up the personalization, with deals on local attractions, weather info, travel tips, reminders, etc.

Done right, behavioral personalization can be tremendously effective. According to Gartner, Inc., “marketing organizations that utilize inbound and event-triggered techniques [those interactions and messages driven by customer behavior] will see a 600% higher response rate, compared with traditional outbound campaigns.”3

So how do marketers deliver on the promise of behavioral personalization, particularly in the wake of increasingly empowered, multi-channel customers? Including the single customer view discussed above, it requires four key things:

  1. Single Customer View – To analyze and extract customer insights—often in real time—that drive relevant offers/content
  2. Central Offer & Personalization Engine – To leverage that single customer view to intelligently determine the best offer/content for each individual, independent of channel
  3. Seamless Channel Integration – To orchestrate personalized offers/content around the customer relationship—not the channel—creating seamless, 1:1 dialogs
  4. Automation – To effectively scale personalization across millions of customers and interactions, as well as across multiple channels and devices

Ultimately, as Forrester notes4, the goal should be to “anticipate customer behavior and be prepared with the most appropriate offer to which the customer is most likely to respond.” Depending on the individual and where they are in their journey, that offer could be a discount, a piece of content, or a message; it could be broad or narrow; it could be aimed at acquisition, cross-sell, retention, etc. With the right data and technology, marketers can more easily discern which, anticipate needs, and delight customers.

1 – Forrester Research, Inc., “Campaign Management Customers Get Personal,” March 28, 2012, by Robert Brosnan
2 – Forrester Research, Inc., “Use Customer Analytics To Get Personal,” February 17, 2012, by Srividya Sridharan with Dave Frankland and Allison Smith
3 – Gartner, Inc., “Top Seven CRM Marketing Processes for 2011,” April 15, 2011, by Kimberly Collins
4 – Forrester Research, Inc., “Use Customer Analytics To Get Personal,” February 17, 2012, by Srividya Sridharan with Dave Frankland and Allison Smith

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ed Hadley
Ed Hadley is a B2B marketer with a decade of high tech experience. He is currently Senior Marketing Manager at Neolane, where he spearheads the conversational marketing technology provider's content creation efforts. Previously, Ed held marketing positions with Netage Solutions and PAN Communications.


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