Data is human.
The cloud makes it personal

Personalize customer
experience with the cloud

Data is human.
The cloud makes
it personal.

Personalize customer
experience with the cloud



Breathe life into your data

Breathe life into your data

Data is human. It evolves right along with customer behavior, and it has the power to make brand-customer interactions feel that much more personal:

“The brands that are most successful are the ones that empower human-like interactions, whether digital or inperson, that focus on the customer.” — Brett Wachter, IBM Services, NA Marketing Platforms Lead, Distribution Market

But when brands can’t use data meaningfully, it’s dead in the water. Your customers know you have their data, and they expect you to personalize their experiences.

“It used to be that we competed with the person who made a product like ours. Not anymore. Now we compete against the best customer interaction that they’ve had, with any brand.” — Deborah Leff, Global Leader and Industry CTO for Data Science and AI, IBM

Customers also expect options that speak to their needs, but in some cases this has been taken far too much to heart. The result is a hyper-fragmented, “all-too-human” assortment on shelf, with 20 different options in the toothpaste aisle attempting to address every single consumer preference. That’s just not sustainable, nor is it especially personal. While the old retail model tried to streamline and universalize, newer models aim for niche to a fault. Smartly harnessed, data can be used to thread the needle and accomplish a balance of the two.

Data needs to be aligned and integrated across the different arms of your organization — marketing, merchandising, supply chain, etc. — so that you can act upon it in key moments during the customer journey. That’s when data has true impact.

How do brands get there? With the help of the cloud.

seeing eye
Envision the perfect experience for your customers that brings your strategy to life
pencil overlaid on graph
Design your data architecture, to determine what existing pieces need to be moved, and what needs to be built
 stack of brick shapes
Build + Scale data operations across your organization to put data to work for your customer
Have questions about using data to tailor customer experience? Contact an IBM expert for a free consultation.



Envision the path to personalization

Envision the path to personalization.

Again, it’s no secret to customers that you have their data. A personalized customer experience doesn’t have to hide that. But there are a few common pain points in the way brands understand and engage with their data, and only 1 in 20 companies have extensively incorporated AI (link resides outside IBM) into their offerings.

As a core part of the IBM Garage Method , “Envision” practices keep teams focused on the customer and their priorities, giving development teams a repeatable approach so they can rapidly deliver innovative user experiences:

“Engaging a cross-functional group in this process ensures the final solution has value for the customer. By bringing technology and business stakeholders together, any company can accelerate their customer experience innovation.” — Gina Claxton, General Manger, North America Consumer and Travel Markets (IBM)

At the heart of the Envision process lies Enterprise Design Thinking, which attempts to render a fully articulated picture of the consumer.

Below are three key pillars:

1. Creating customer personas

Who are your customers? What motivates them?

To build true customer empathy, you need more brand-to-store and associates-to-consumers dialogue than ever before:

“No matter how advanced your technology is, you can’t make up for poor understanding of your customers.” — Nivi Chakravorty, Director, North America Distribution Marketing, (IBM).

Sephora continues to set the example in omnichannel. There’s no barrier between physical and digital store. They are effectively one and the same. And their communications are personalized across transactional and experiential touchpoints (link resides outside IBM), achieving “digital-to-store” conversions by getting customers to book in-store makeovers and fashion consultations. Digital interactions serve the in-person relationship and vice versa, with personal data flowing both ways.

What are your customers’ major pain and passion points?

Knowing that consumers increasingly want a hand in their brand experiences, Fox Sports partnered with IBM to let soccer fans create their own customized highlight videos from the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The 2018 FIFA World Cup. The FIFA World Cup Highlight Machine served as an AI-powered platform that allowed fans to browse and filter archived and current matches by year, team, player, and even type of gameplay, from penalty kicks to goals. That’s at once a collective and personal experience that lets the consumer define how personal it gets.

The store is the birthplace of personalized customer service. And now retailers are seeing the benefits of equipping store sales reps with tablets, inventory information, consumer browsing behavior, and mobile POS capabilities (link resides outside IBM). They understand when and how to upsell or cross-sell, and they’re primed to understand customer needs before they even set foot in the store. It’s easy to see this as a sort of bionic approach to customer service, but the result is far more human than that: customer delight.

hand moving a shape onto a virtual soccer game board

Wachter understands that the personal insight related to one customerpassion point or need can rapidly lead to another:

“A conversation with a customer around football can derive other insights like their propensity to drink beer and eat chips. It’s introducing more personal contexts to the relationship, even if the information is gathered by two different brand ambassadors interacting with the customer at two different times.”

2. Finding the beating heart of personalization

When do you tailor and personalize? How do you find and wade into the right moments in the customer life cycle?

The brands that do it best find ways to personalize customer experience at multiple touchpoints. Customers want a fully connected experience. But that doesn’t mean that every single touchpoint should give customers an experience unique to them. That’s just not worth the investment. The key lies in identifying those touch points that resonate most in each consumer’s life. Where does the most value exist for brand and consumer?

hand moving a furniture shape onto a virtual facility blueprint

If there is a common sweet spot, it’s that moment when customers show the most intention: when they’re actively searching for products or services and are thus most open to engagement with your brand. This behavior varies by region, by city, by season, by form of transportation (public or private), by the nature of store layout...a series of minutiae that collectively shape the macro picture of your customer.

In a retail environment of endless choices, it’s crucial to understand not just preference but the actual need state behind a customer’s browsing. Homegoods e-tailer Wayfair refers to this as functional need (link resides outside IBM), and they’ve developed an algorithm that lets them render a fully articulated picture of each customer, weeding through millions of products to serve up just the right communication at just the right time.

The beating heart of personalization can’t operate at a steady, unwavering clip. But the better you know your customers, the more you can identify when their pulse spikes, so to speak, to a key transactional moment.

The truth is that once you deploy your data, it’s that much easier to understand what these moments are.

3. Embracing an adaptive mindset

Personalization has to be adaptive, meaning you adjust to what the data is telling you at different points over time. Data is the stimulus you are reacting to, and getting a firm grasp of this data stimulus involves its own challenges:

Ensuring data quality

No matter how clean and comprehensive, data will never be perfect. But your customer isn’t an immovable object, and gathering data is an ongoing process. When your data is consolidated in the cloud, you have a far better means of quality control.

Activating insights

How do you operationalize the insights you have? By “building models that are going to drive personalization ideas, but then also continuing to improve and further tailor based on new data,” according to Daniel Lynch, IBM Product Marketing Lead, Cloud Pak for Data. In short, personalization needs to be adaptive.

The theme here is that bringing data to market is in itself a way to improve your data. To fly, you need to get off the ground first.

Have questions about using data to tailor customer experience? Contact an IBM expert for a free consultation.



Design the right data flow

Design the right data flow

By adding pieces and parts of technology over time, the data of many retail and consumer products companies has evolved into siloes. But your data can now be consolidated in one unified platform, easing the burden not just on data scientists but on the data itself. It’s more than possible to let your data breathe, as it were.

objects falling into a container

1. Collect

Data automatically comes in with every touchpoint. The question is whether or not you’re recording it meaningfully. By building a new warehousing platform, Nedbank was able to reduce the cost of data storage by 25-35% and greatly simplify data handling. There are even data warehouse options that help you manage structured and unstructured data with the help of AI.

data points on a graph

2. Organize

Do you have a multi-cloud environment? On-premise data storage? No matter the arrangement, your data needs to be in a place where you have safe, unhindered access. One of the largest commercial banks in the U.S., BBVA Compass established end-to-end data governance to cut risk, increase compliance, and bring stronger insights. Ideally, business users should be able to quickly discover, curate, categorize, and share assets and models with colleagues.

objects picked up on a radar screen

3. Analyze

Are you able to translate your data into concrete insights? Can you build consumer traits and personality models based on the data you’ve gathered? Boots UK was able to create actionable insights from their transactional data, increasing customer-tailored messaging by 70% to drive incremental spend by loyalty members. The ability to inject predictions into customer processes and modern applications can help optimize experience, as well as business value.

woman with makeup kit

4. Infuse

This is where personalized customer experience happens. If you think about AI being “infused” into your organizations, workloads, and applications, it inherently feels more human. Using AI conversational capabilities, the “Ask the US Open” chat interface heavily personalizes each fan’s US Open experience, acting as a virtual concierge. And when it comes to “infusing” analysis, AI can even interpret data for you.

Have questions about using data to tailor customer experience? Contact an IBM expert for a free consultation.



Scale used to crawl; now it’s born running

Scale used to crawl; now it’s born running

With the aim of true personalization, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your data needs to be perfect first. That can serve as a sort of paralysis, preventing brands from ever moving forward. This thinking comes from the old, linear economic definition: devote considerable time to figuring out your model, then lock it in and gradually increase output.

In Wachter’s words, “If you wait to enact your personalization program until your data is perfect and comprehensive, you’re never going to get on the field. You do what you can with what you have.”

Yes, ultimately you want top-notch data. But you can accomplish plenty with the data you do have, and trying to own it all yourself is just too slow and costly. The new way to scale is to make use of open technologies and architecture that let you rapidly learn and innovate. It’s likely your data is housed in different places, so you’ll benefit from a single platform that integrates data management, data governance and analysis for greater efficiency and improved use of resources. IBM Cloud Pak for Data allows for flexibility and innovation across your business — from unifying disparate data sources (across multiple cloud vendors) and ensuring data compliance to extracting actionable insights and deploying machine learning models much more quickly than was possible before. The result? Richer, more personalized customer experiences that allow brands to evolve right alongside their customers.





How can you create a seamless customer experience that feels personal? How can you turn customer data into customer delight? Your first step is bringing all of your data into view and making it accessible, whether it’s in the cloud or on-premise.

4 Key questions for you to consider:


  • What do you want your customer experience to look like in the next year? In five years?


  • Where does your data currently reside? In the cloud, on premise, within certain applications?
  • Are you missing data analysis opportunities in your current customer interactions?

Build + Scale

  • Can you exploit the combined processing power of those sources to achieve the speed, scalability and automation your business needs for today and tomorrow’s data demands?
Have questions about using data to tailor customer experience? Contact an IBM expert for a free consultation.