Personalization is the norm in our digital world, it’s no longer just nice to have.
Emails that speak to customers by name, reminders about specific products left in their shopping cart, and highly targeted display ads are all standard fare.
What’s not so standard—and what’s proven much more challenging for brands to execute—is omnichannel personalization. What is it, and why is it a key component to delivering an exceptional customer experience?
You’ve heard of omnichannel, but what Is omnichannel personalization?
You’re familiar with personalization—the use of customer data to tailor experiences to specific profiles and needs.
And you’re familiar with omnichannel—a structure where brands have multiple, intersecting lines of communication by which they can interact with customers.
With omnichannel personalization, customer data is used interchangeably and universally across all channels, both online and offline. The result is a highly personal, boundary-free customer experience.
Here’s what that might look like.
- A customer purchases movie tickets online
- A few hours before showtime, he’s sent an SMS reminder that he can pre-select seats
- As showtime approaches, he receives a push notification that, based on current traffic conditions, now is a good time to head to the theater
- When he arrives, a virtual kiosk directs him to the correct theater
- The theater’s mobile app allows him to order concessions without standing inline
- After the movie, he receives a follow-up email with recommendations for upcoming releases he might be interested in
If that sounds like a lot of moving pieces, it is—but it pays to invest in getting it right.
According to research by McKinsey, companies that can achieve personalization of the customer experience across physical and digital channels—omnichannel personalization—can increase revenue by between 5 and 15% across all customers. That’s a major bottom-line impact.
Now that we’ve defined omnichannel personalization and why it matters, we’ll take a closer look at how to create an omnichannel framework that uses customer data for better personalization.
Steps to achieve omnichannel personalization
1. Agents must be trained for it
You’re well aware that your customer service agents are the front-line representatives of your brand. However, like everyone else, they fall into patterns and habits that, over time, can become stagnant. Delivering omnichannel personalization likely means you have to do things differently than you have before, and it will take a concerted effort from everyone on your customer-facing team to make it happen.
Thankfully, technology facilitates a smooth transition, with convenient features that enable personalization at scale while making agents’ lives easier in the process. Dynamic scripting, for example, populates scripts with a customer’s details and takes the guesswork out of service interactions, increasing positive outcomes. A unified CRM brings data from all sources together in one place, eliminating tedious clicking and toggling between different applications to access the necessary customer information.
2. Your approach to channel structure needs to change
We’re used to thinking of channels independently and creating strategies for them in the same way. The team responsible for maintaining your website, for example, is likely separate from the one that runs your social media accounts and the agents that interact directly with customers.
Delivering omnichannel personalization means removing these silos and rethinking the structure of your channels so they work in tandem. Teams must be aligned on goals and share ownership of one another’s results.
3. AI is a primary component
The old way of doing things was to layer AI on top of existing systems. To be sure, this is better than not leveraging AI at all. Instead, though, it’s better to build an omnichannel framework where AI is at the forefront rather than incorporated as an afterthought.
Omnichannel personalization uses AI to anticipate the customer’s next move, making the right recommendations on the right channel at the right time. All the while, performance is measured and analytics are fed back into the system to help it get more and more accurate with time.
One big caveat to successful omnichannel AI implementation is that it must be measured everywhere—both on and offline, which proves more challenging than measuring digital channels alone. Tech-enabled brick-and-mortar store associates, facial recognition technology, and geo-fencing are just a few of the available tools to help us track what happens when a customer moves from a physical location to our virtual channels and back again.
4. Customer data has to be able to flow freely
One big difference between channel-specific personalization and omnichannel personalization is that with the latter, all available data is shared between all channels. It’s a 360-degree view of the customer, incorporating demographic details, purchasing history, previous brand interactions, communication preferences, and more. All of this data flows freely from one marketing medium to the next—your CRM, email platform, social media channels, contact center software, and so on.
To unify data from any source, you need a framework that’s built for omnichannel personalization rather than trying to cobble your disparate systems together one by one.
5. High-tech and low-tech need to work hand in hand
So far we’ve covered strategies that are squarely in the high-tech camp, like artificial intelligence and unified CRMs. To execute omnichannel personalization at scale, however, buy-in is required from both the high-tech and low-tech worlds connected to your brand.
As omnichannel frameworks lean heavily on APIs to get things done, developers must work hand-in-hand with marketers, and customer service agents must be versed in data-analytics speak. Customer service must be able to tell the dev team, ‘we need our app to be able to do X, Y, and Z,’ and developers must step in to make it happen.
6. Adopt a culture of experimentation
New technologies are emerging daily. It’s hard to know which channels will deliver returns for your business or how they might fit into your overall customer experience unless you try them out. If you don’t experiment, you could be leaving revenue on the table or missing the boat on major industry developments, like the shift to mobile-first or the adoption of AI.
Connected in-store kiosks, facial recognition technology, and dynamic mobile apps that change with the user are just a few of the exciting new tools that are currently pushing the boundaries of the customer experience.
One thing is for certain: there is no single customer journey. Yours, then, should be constantly evolving, measured as you go so the omnichannel experience can be consistently improved with more accurate, refined personalization every step along the way.