Consumer trends have never been put on hold and the pandemic is only accelerating many trends that are already being observed. As more people buy online, more data is created and data feeds personalisation.
Even though people right now are purchasing more essential products, consumer data allows organisations to sell those products more effectively and to forecast future behaviour. To be able to sell more effectively to individuals, brands must be capable of speaking to each and every person and meeting their current needs. To attract and retain customers you need to know them first.
To be pertinent and have the ability to engage customers in times of upheaval brands must have immediate access to quality data from which to extrapolate meaningful insights, and be agile enough operationally to then quickly react to those insights, to adapt, innovate, and change course to win over consumer hearts.
We are not to be seen as one
We all want to be seen as individuals, not a ‘type’ of individual – we want to be thought of as unique, because each of us is unique. We don’t want to be grouped together, generalised, put into a box and broadly represented by a persona. We want to be engaged by brands in an exclusive and meaningful way. We want our loyalty and trust to be earned. Personas are convenient fictions that have, for too long, prevailed and are formed on the basis of preconceived representations. By definition these representations are imperfect and can lead to an imperfect brand model.
In the current climate, routine habits pre social distancing, our social activity and our entertainment are disappearing while certain other behaviours, such as shopping for essential food and household items, are reinforced on a daily basis. Some of these changes will remain temporary, others will become a part of our lives for some time. For many organisations, this creates a complex landscape of seemingly erratic patterns of engagement, further complicating the analysis of user or consumer behaviour. This means that most retailers are unable to react quickly when dramatic changes come into play. And many retailers are unclear about which capabilities they need to build to create a truly personalised experience.
Data is the new currency
Knowledge is power and therefore data has become the most valuable currency. Organizations such as Amazon, Google and Uber have built their entire model on customer behaviour data and analytics. In a world where customer-centricity, personalisation and customer experience are king, it’s no surprise that these companies flourish. To succeed these days, brands need to articulate their product and service offerings continuously and proactively.
Not for a moment resting on their success, it is giants such as Nike and Netflix that are taking personalisation to new heights.
It is no surprise that Netflix leverages AI to power our recommendations. But few of us realize just how tailored the experience is for us. Tony Jebora, head of machine learning at Netflix, speaking at The O’Reilly AI Conference, New York, 2019 explained: “When you look at your page what you’re seeing is an experience that’s been designed for you from top to bottom. And the way it becomes unique is we use machine learning to figure out how to personalise the ranking of our entire catalogue of movies and TV shows.”
It was also revealed that Netflix’s machine learning team is developing an AI engine that can automatically generate trailers and descriptions that are more likely to appeal by analysing a given customer’s behaviour on the platform.
Nike is responding to changing behaviours and engaging consumers more personally and precisely by growing its list of vertical sub-brands, such as the ‘Nike Considered’ sustainable line of shoes. Responding to the current need for home exercise in the current context of Covid-19 Nike has even started running home workout sessions featuring world-famous stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo. The Living Room Cup is a digital workout series that offers consumers the chance to compete against Nike pro athletes through weekly fitness challenges directly from their own homes.
Build 1-to-1 relationships to drive richer experiences
By using the right data, at the right time, across the right touch points, organisations can drive greater personalisation in many ways, including:
Predictive personalisation – using AI can automate segment discovery and analyse which variations perform best for each segment.
Using historical personal information to provide optimised and personalised product recommendations.
Leveraging the data from every impression – potentially valuable data results are contained in every impression, including data such as device type, time of day, day of week, and IP-based geography.
Using your first-party customer data to personalise – recognizing loyal customers with special, limited offers increases conversions.
Using third-party data for more relevancy – this can be particularly valuable when used to create relevancy for visitors to your site.
We are seeing organisations leverage data to drive a more tailored approach to their consumers. Examples of this include creating personalised homepages, displaying recently viewed items (retargeting) and personalising product pages based on location. These are tried and tested methods. But, during this time of huge disruption, it will only be truly agile organisations, ones that are capable of analysing vast quantities of real-time data with AI and advanced analytics, that will be able to navigate, and innovate their way to winning hearts, increasing their brand trust and therefore their own relevance in the market.
No preference without desirability
More than ever, there is a burning need for brands to adapt to the needs and wants of both individuals and the communities they belong to. There is no preference without desirability, no desirability without relevance. The brands that thrive in the future will be those that broadly unite individuals and communities and adapt their brand initiative to the real-life perceptions and aspirations of consumers. Our habits change quickly, and organisations have to be ready to change with us.
If your brand or team are interested on how to develop a credible data strategy to reach each and every customer, then get in touch.
Ghislain Melaine is a consumer products and brand director at Capgemini Invent. Chloe Buckland is a consumer products and brand managing consultant at Capgemini Invent.