The future of personalization and loyalty is dynamic – Interview with Christian Selchau-Hansen of Formation.ai

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Today’s interview is with Christian Selchau-Hansen, the CEO and co-founder of Formation.ai, a machine learning-powered offer optimization pioneer. Christian joins me to talk about loyalty, personalization, dynamic offer optimization and what eXperience Leaders should be doing to build better relationships with their customers and drive better business outcomes.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Leadership and life lessons from the winner of the 2021 CX Leader of the Year – Interview with Sri Safitri of Telkom Indonesia – and is number 418 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here are the highlights of my chat with Christian:

  • Research from BCG shows that redirecting 25% of mass promotion spending to personalized offers would increase return on investment (ROI) by 200%.
  • A Venn diagram describes the relationship between loyalty and personalization, and the overlap is more or less 100%.
  • When I think of loyalty 100% of the way it needs to be, it is based on the notion of personal service and a personal relationship.
  • Loyalty programs often mean that the customer is willing to share data. If we understand and leverage that data, we can better understand our customers’ wants and needs.
  • In the age of AI and machine learning, you need tools that can start to create personal experiences at enterprise scale. That presents an incredible opportunity, and far too many brands are still stuck in the place where loyalty programs are effectively churn and burn.
  • Relationships are based on a dynamic of interesting and interested.
  • That balance will change over time, depending on the context and the requirement of the situation.
  • Formation.ai’s recent research (Dec 2021) found that while shoppers value discounts, brand loyalty hinges on more relevant and meaningful relationships with brands.
  • Customers expect a personalized experience, and it’s becoming much more clear to consumers that a vast chasm is developing between the brands who are not making the necessary changes and investments to make the experiences they deliver more relevant and personal and those that are.
  • Consumers need to see value. They need to see relevance for sharing their data.
  • Forrester: 3/4 of all customers say they want personalization, but about the same number say they have concerns about data and privacy and how their data is being used.
  • To be able to leverage first and zero party data, context is critical.
  • The challenge with going from mass to segmentation is you are linearly increasing the amount of work.
  • Segmentation does not scale, and it doesn’t easily take changes in context.
  • You need things to be dynamic. You need to be able to incorporate not only context, not only preferences but also make predictions about what will be relevant, what will be helpful, what will be valuable and then optimize it.
  • Examples:
    • We power personal offers, enabling United Airlines to connect with consumers at various stages of travel readiness.
    • We work with a couple of very large grocers in the United States to similarly provide personalized offers recognizing seasonality, a change in the weather, preferences, etc.
  • Taking a fully dynamic and personal approach, we see our clients achieve dramatic increases in engagement – 2 to 3 X in terms of the people who are engaging with offers and a far improved ROI.
  • Erin Levzow, Vice President of Marketing & Digital Technology at Del Taco Restaurants Inc.:
    • “Personalization used to be a nice to have but now it is a have to have. It is an expectation of the customer that they receive relevant offers to them. We are tasked with knowing what they have told us and what they haven’t told us but done in order to personalize their experiences.”
  • Customers are waiting for brands to fill the personalization gap.
  • Formation has recently released a guide to dynamic personalization.
  • To get started, be specific. Take a part of your customer journey, create some hypotheses and some experiments around it and get going.
  • The future:
    • It starts with building a better understanding of your customer, you know, building a more holistic picture, and that really does come down to also building trust.
    • I think it’s really important for brands to think about the concept of a loyalty ladder, i.e. how am I going to change and evolve and improve the experience for customers that express an interest and engage with my brand.
    • I think we’re going to see a pretty dramatic shift with privacy. With the third party cookie deprecation, acquisition costs are really skyrocketing and what that means is you need to invest in creating lifetime value. You need to invest in the existing customers and in those relationships. I think that that will change everything.
  • If you are not failing in some of your experiments, you’re not trying hard enough.
  • Christian’s Punk CX word: Simplify
  • Christian’s Punk XL brand: Patagonia

About Christian

Christian Selchau HansenChristian Selchau-Hansen is the CEO and co-founder of Formation.ai. Formation’s patented Dynamic Offer Platform enables marketers to deepen customer loyalty with highly engaging, personal offers. Formation’s customers have created and sent more than 10 billion offers to date. A 20-year tech veteran, Christian has helped develop new products and drive data-led growth at companies including Square and Zynga, and was previously a Partner and Managing Director at BCG Digital Ventures.

Find out more at Formation.ai, download their new guide to Dynamic Offer Optimization here, say Hi to them on Twitter @formation_ai and feel free to connect with Christian on LinkedIn here.

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