Experience-Based Marketing: How to Get It Right with Personalization and Data
What kind of experiences are you providing the people you want to reach? That’s the question marketers are asking themselves as technology provides an ever-growing variety of ways to interact with customers before and after the first sale.
It’s still essential for marketers to tell a compelling story. But that alone is no longer enough. Instead, leading companies are gaining an advantage by creating personal, meaningful, and memorable experiences for their audiences. To make this marketing approach work, personalization and data are two of your best friends.
What It Means to Focus on Experiences
In experience-based marketing, the goal is to transform every interaction with a potential or existing customer into a compelling experience. Such interactions may happen when customers visit a store or research products online. But you can also draw in customers by providing novel, unexpected encounters outside of a transactional context—whether that means staging a live event or providing entertainment through a mobile app. Doing this successfully positively impacts customers and makes it more likely they will share their experience with others.
4 Keys to Crafting Great Personalized Experiences
By definition, customer experiences are personal in nature, reflecting individuals’ wants, needs, emotions, memories, and stories about their own lives. As a result, a high degree of customer personalization is essential for experience-based marketing to become a reality.
If you’re diving into experience-based marketing, here are four customer personalization principles to follow.
1. See the world from your customer’s point of view.
You already know who your most valuable customers and audiences are. Now you need to find out what they want, how they feel, and how they really interact with your company’s products and brand.
That requires a concerted effort to see their encounters with your company through their eyes. It also requires sophisticated segmentation, based on detailed information about individual customers.
2. Foster deep engagement, not just transactions.
Experience-based marketing isn’t just about making transactions faster and easier. Rather, it requires ongoing engagement with your most valuable customers, creating a relationship beyond the sale.
Mobile apps and loyalty programs can be particularly helpful in creating engagement—for example, by providing customers with useful or entertaining content, fun activities, or a community of like-minded people.
Gamification is also a way to create memorable experiences. For instance, Japanese mall giant PARCO created a store-walking game to make shopping more fun while also encouraging customers to visit more shops.
3. Seek a balance between automation and human touch.
Thoughtful use of automation is key to delivering targeted, personalized experiences at scale. With machine learning and AI, artificial systems can learn the behaviors and preferences of many individual customers and adapt to them over time.
Nevertheless, even the most advanced software can’t match the general problem-solving and emotional intelligence of human beings, or the emotional impact of human interaction. For instance, AI-powered chatbots have a growing ability to deliver personalized online service to each and every customer, but customers may grow frustrated if they can’t access human help when they need it.
In short, human touch remains essential to many aspects of the customer experience (CX). Rather than replace human beings, automated systems and AI can free up humans to excel at what they do best—and vice versa.
4. Break down silos and unite your organization around a common goal.
By default, businesses tend to chop up responsibility for customer experiences by function. As a result, different internal teams handle different stages of the customer relationship.
Customers, however, don’t divide up their experiences in that way. Instead, they experience each interaction with your business as part of a single, continuous relationship evolving over time. And in a competitive marketplace, they expect these experiences to be coherent, convenient, and authentic.
To deliver seamless personalized experiences, marketers need to work closely with sales, product design, and customer service. And companies need to break down the organizational barriers that often prevent this level of collaboration.
Putting It Together with Data
Data is the fuel that powers successful experience-based marketing. Not only do human decision makers require the right information about their customers and audiences, but automation and AI are only as good as the data they ingest.
Here are four key data practices for creating great customer experiences.
1. Use ongoing data collection to hone every customer experience.
Demographics and location alone won’t provide the level of insight you need to create truly personalized experiences. Instead, you’ll want to draw on omnichannel customer data that gives you a more unified view of your customers, including data on their purchasing behavior, lifestyles, and social media activity.
First-party data collected by your company tends to be the most useful kind of data. Mobile apps and customer loyalty programs are especially rich sources of first-party data as are point-of-sale systems and customer relationship management systems (CRMs). It’s also important to consider individuals’ self-reported data about their own experiences, such as responses to customer satisfaction surveys. All data can fall out of date and requires constant updating and validation.
2. Take data collection into the real world.
Purely online data collection can only take you so far. Data on the physical environment and customers’ offline behaviors, by contrast, can extend your ability to influence their everyday experiences in real time.
For example, PARCO implemented rooftop sensors that gather data on the weather near its affiliated stores. PARCO’s systems then combine this data with geolocation data to send targeted offers such as rainy-day specials to nearby shoppers. And with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), marketers will have growing access to data on customers’ interactions with the physical environment, such as their in-store behavior.
3. Emphasize well-executed, data-driven customer personalization.
While data and customer personalization are powerful tools, they may not always deliver the differentiated customer experience (CX) that sets your business apart. Faulty or incomplete data could lead you to target the wrong group of customers, or send the right message at the wrong time.
Above all, marketers need to provide experiences that individuals actually desire and avoid overly intrusive, creepy behavior. If customers feel a company is stalking them online or offline, that’s the opposite of a successful experience.
4. Use data to create a single, actionable view of every customer.
To put experiences at the center of your marketing, it’s critical to distil your data into a useful, accurate picture of individual customers. Such a detailed profile will help you refine your segmentation and tailor interactions to customers’ actual identities, needs, and desires. Cross-team collaboration is also likely to be far more productive if every team is working off a shared, unified view of the customer.
Creating Data-driven Customer Experiences
Customer data platforms (CDPs) help marketers deliver the personalized experiences their customers crave. An enterprise CDP can generate a single, unified profile of each individual, drawing on every data source in your organization. The right CDP will also use sophisticated analytics and AI to provide you with actionable insights about customers. This level of data-based intelligence puts you in a far better position to create experiences that leave customers wanting more.