Personalization is getting an increased spotlight in the customer acquisition process. Marketers know outreach efforts need to be targeted, personalized and relevant to get consumers interested in their brand and take the leap to making the purchase. However, the post-purchase period and ongoing customer relationship is often a missed opportunity. Applying the same level of extreme personalization to the post-sales experience increases customer satisfaction and turns those customers into long-term fans.
Effective post-purchase personalization starts with the right digital tools. Today’s customers are highly connected; Forrester reports that 70 percent of customers use a smartphone and, overall, people own an average of 4.3 devices. Appealing to the connected customer doesn’t stop with acquisition. Today’s companies need to consider how to carry a highly personalized experience into their customer relationships – from how they handle purchase follow-up to the way their loyalty programs are constructed.
Pivoting to Personalized Loyalty Programs
Companies know it costs less to retain an existing customer than it does to attract a new one – the Harvard Business Review suggests as much as 25 times more expensive. This drives the investment in loyalty programs. From a “buy 10 coffees get one free” program to sophisticated, exclusive access to events from credit card companies, marketers are working to provide additional value to their existing customers. However, just as generic promotions aren’t as effective for acquisition, many companies are finding their loyalty programs must also be personalized to drive retention.
Personalizing loyalty programs is all about building deeper relationships with already acquired customers, and the one-to-one approach of personalization shows you care. Business News Daily reports that 56 percent of consumers surveyed felt personalized incentives improved their relationship with a brand. The same study found that 63 percent of consumers wanted their incentives based on past purchasing behavior, versus other factors like location. Whether you’re offering discounts, points for redemption, increased status or exclusive content, a customer’s demographic and behavioral data will help create a program that’s more relevant and resonant to their particular needs. Anything less will fail to yield the ROI you’re looking for.
Personalized Post-Purchase Service
At another level, personalization is impacting how customers are handled in the post-purchase service experience. When your marketing efforts are highly personalized and the sales process is specifically tailored to a unique consumer’s desires, that personalization can’t end when the customer clicks “buy.” A lack of continued personalized service can cause a disconnect in the experience and make your customers feel undervalued. Companies like Narvar – a post-purchase personalization platform being used by large retailers like The Limited – are stepping in to help close that gap. Businesses are personalizing the immediate post-sale experience by taking actions such as:
- Offering order tracking, to show where products are at any point between purchase and fulfillment.
- Providing visibility into tracking, so a consumer can see where their package is at any point between shipment and delivery.
- Offering personalized product recommendations at a steep discount during or after the purchase.
- Simplifying the process for seamless returns and finding out what went wrong to improve sales intelligence.
- Focusing on post-purchase communication through a range of different channels, from SMS to email, to ensure customers are happy with their purchases and offer any assistance that might be needed.
Personalizing the Digital Experience
Digital personalization has to extend throughout the customer lifecycle. ConversionXL reports that 63 percent of companies don’t have the capabilities to personalize experiences in real-time. However, Forrester notes that companies are rapidly increasing their investments in this area, and it’s paying off. Accenture Interactive found that 65 percent of customers were more likely to shop at retailers that remember past purchases. Amazon – which in many ways is focused on building a better recommendation engine versus selling products – is setting the standard for what customers expect, even from smaller and mid-size businesses. As a result, companies are focusing on the post-personalization digital experience in a number of ways:
- Using past purchase behavior to drive product recommendations and email outreach.
- Personalizing content streams for customers, such as showing how-to videos related to product purchases, or targeting content distribution by content area.
- Taking a data-driven approach to personalize the upselling and cross-selling processes.
In addition to strategically evaluating their digital presence, operations, and formal customer outreach programs, companies need to invest in the talent and systems to make personalized customer support a reality. A more personalized customer experience requires stronger collaboration internally, the right technology systems, and a commitment to delivering personalized service from end to end on the customer relationship.
However, it pays off. From improved brand sentiment to real bottom-line results, increased customer loyalty is worth the investment. When a brand creates the sensation that they’re “with you” even after you’ve received your product – and care about the consumers’ personal experience – that deepens loyalty and draws buyers back again and again.
Liz Alton writes about digital marketing and her work has been featured on USA Today, Forbes, Inc, Harvard Business Review and Entrepreneur. Her specialties include all things marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud and mobility. She holds a Bachleor’s degree in journalism from University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and an MBA from Western Governors University. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Journalism from Harvard University. Liz is a paid contributor to THINK Marketing.