How to Satisfy Customer Expectations for a Personalized, Omnichannel Customer Experience

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A recent Marketoonist cartoon hits on the secret to delivering a personalized customer experience (CX). A little girl on Santa’s lap asks, “with iOS privacy changes and cookies going away, how will you even know if I’m naughty or nice?” Santa’s response? “It’s called first-party data.”

While a personalized CX seems to be high on everyone’s wish list this holiday season, there may some unhappy customers. In a Harris Poll survey, 73% of consumers said that brands do not meet their expectations for a personalized CX. Nearly as many (65%) said that personalization is now a standard service they expect from a brand, and 69% said that the pandemic made it even more important for a brand to know their individual needs and preferences.

The cartoon also hits on a misconception that partially explains why expectations are not being met; for too long, brands used third-party data as a proxy or a stand-in for a customer’s actual preferences, mistakenly thinking that what is true for one customer of a certain age, gender, income, etc., must be true of all customers in that demographic. Perhaps it is for the best that third-party data is becoming less relevant.

Approximating personalization by making assumptions about what you think you know about a customer, however, is a far cry from providing a personalized, omnichannel experience that is both tailored to an audience of one and – just as importantly – is delivered in the precise cadence of a customer journey.

Stay in Step with a Customer Across an Omnichannel Journey

First-party data that already belongs to an organization, compiled from every conceivable source and with data quality processes completed in real time, is the secret to meeting customer expectations for a personalized, omnichannel experience that reflects a deep, personal understanding. In practice, this means engaging with a customer with a consistent voice across every channel, where every interaction is relevant in the moment. Presenting a customer with a real-time, omnichannel experience manifests itself in many ways; it’s an online browsing session made more relevant to either an anonymous or known customer as the session unfolds. It is an online browsing session made more relevant because the brand recognizes the customer, not just the device ID, and knows the customer recently contacted the call center about a product, or initiated a return, or posted on social media, etc., and presents the customer with a next-best action that is perfectly in step with the unique customer journey.

Clearly, a personalized experience in the cadence of a customer journey requires real-time data. Latency introduces doubt, which destroys the trust an organization has that data on hand reflects the absolute latest unified profile of a customer, an unassailable and continuously updated Golden Record that lets a brand know everything there is to know about a customer.

Data Quality, Identity Resolution and a Contextual Understanding

Importantly, data quality steps that engender trust by ensuring that data is fit-for-purpose for any business objective also include advanced identity resolution. Probabilistic and deterministic matching completed at the point of data ingestion ensure that all proxies for a customer ID are resolved to an individual or household. Persistent key management assigns a unique ID, creating a maser record that provides a contextual understanding of a single customer view that persists over time. Details of past engagements – preferences, behaviors, transactions, etc. – help a brand form a deeper understanding of a current customer journey.

In the same Harris Poll survey where a majority of customers said brands fall short in meeting their expectations for a personalized CX, 39 percent of customers said that they will not do business – full stop – with any brand that fails to deliver a personalized experience.

Omnichannel personalization is on many a customer wish list. Brands that meet or exceed their expectations will be rewarded with a more loyal customer base – and more revenue. According to a McKinsey report on the value of getting personalization right, companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players. And, across US industries, it estimates that shifting into the top quartile in performance in personalization would generate over $1 trillion in value. Without question, a personalized CX is worth pursuing.

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