What is Personalization? Practically?

So what does it mean in practice to add personalization to your customer experience?

Personalization is about the experience, how you make your customers feel- Photo via DALL-E

If you’re treating everyone the same (same messaging, same offers, same experience), then you’re spending the same budget and time to engage with them. This leads to an experience that’s just good enough for anyone but great for no one. To have any hope of providing a differentiated experience for your customer, you must figure out where each one fits within your business.

It’s best to think of these interactions using the analogy of a personal conversation. You talk very differently with someone you meet for the first time versus the 2nd, 3rd, or 10th time, and different still than your closest friends.

Personalization is about making this very crucial distinction.

Personalization in your customers’ experience is less about getting their name in the right field in an email. A good start, but stopping there misses the real opportunity to create a deeper connection with your customers. No one will love you just for that.

Instead of focusing on the technical details like identity resolution and 1st party cookie management, start by framing your interactions as if they were a series of conversations. Use these conversations as an opportunity to listen to your customers, not just repeat your message. Look for opportunities to guide that conversation when you’re listing, whether that’s literally in your person-to-person interactions or, more frequently, in their behavior.

A few key principals (HT to Neil Hoyne’s excellent work Converted):

  • Keep it relevant- One example is that most digital experiences are the same whether it’s the first or the 100th time. Certainly making navigation easy and consistent is part of that. Still, there is a tremendous opportunity to at least start changing your messaging or suggested content based on the number of times you’ve met.

  • Not going after customers you don’t want- Your products and services aren’t for everyone. Some customers are a poor fit or have needs you can’t meet. When you can identify them, stop spending money to advertise them after that point in the conversation.

  • Anticipate what’s next- Especially for your existing customers, look for signals that indicate a specific customer need, like repeat visits to your loan rates page. Also, look at customers that left or at least stopped being attractive. Start by examining indicators that might predict change, like web/app usage, card transactions, or average balances. Experiment with outreach or promotions that would payoff for a retained customer.

  • Don’t optimize too early in the process- While efficiency and driving down cost per customer are valuable outcomes of personalization, remember that not all customers are or act the same. There are plenty of “penny wise/pound foolish” stories around optimizing metrics like Return on Ad Spend at the expense of overall revenue. Measuring performance against margin or Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) helps avoid this problem.

Your time, the time of your team and the budget you have to spend are all limited. Maximizing the return of this effort requires picking where to focus it all to where it will make the most difference to your customers. You must know when and where to lean in and when to pull back. It can be a difficult balance to keep, but one that separates the top performers in any market from the just good enough.

Are you looking to make personalization a reality for your institution but not sure where to start? We’ve put together a free guide on overcoming the biggest obstacles in adding personalization for community FIs. Click here to read it now.

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