by Bob Barr

How digital can help create experiences that are truly personal

Mar 30, 2017
AnalyticsDigital TransformationInternet

Personalization in the digital age starts with a mind shift: It’s not about what people choose and buy—it’s about why they do it

digital transformation shopping cart
Credit: Thinkstock

Each of us has access to more than 10 million products from anywhere at any given time via smartphones and other devices. And companies don’t miss any opportunities to tell us what we personally are supposed to need and use.

Typically, this boils down to this: “Many people who are your age or have similar shopping habits were interested in these products or services.” Sometimes, this approach to personalization is helpful, but most of the time, it falls short because it doesn’t get to the bottom of why something is truly relevant to the individual customer.

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In today’s digital world, companies no longer need to rely on this segment-centric and wisdom-of-the-crowd approach. With the technologies at hand, we have the ability to instead look at how individual customers interact with specific products and services and what features they prefer.

In short, companies can now shed light on a person’s unique needs, wants and preferences and use these insights to create highly individualized experiences that go way beyond recommendations.

How does it work?

Think of it as the sequencing of a customer’s genome.

It starts with taking advantage of the changing data landscape, such as the significant increases in accessible data and advancements in algorithms. The technology now allows us to deconstruct each interaction a customer has with a brand, such as purchases, emails opened, events attended and social posts they like.

From there, we can also capture the DNA of each product or service composed of ingredients, features, specifications and ratings—and map them to the individuals’ interactions and choices made. Are they brand fanatics? Do they prefer certain colors, styles or features? Do they have unique needs for allergies or accessibility? This will allow companies to move away from the simple what to understanding the why

Why do it?

You should offer user-specific suggestions because it helps customers, which in turn helps the business—today more than ever.

People are becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products in the market. This abundance of choice is having a detrimental impact on brands. Research shows consumers are more likely to make poor decisions, be less satisfied and switch stores entirely when confronted with too broad a choice. Just consider that 39 percent of consumers told Accenture Interactive they have left a website and made a purchase on another site or in a store because they were unable to cope with all the options.

How does the ‘genome’ help customers?

Companies that decode the individual motivations and passions of their customers will be able to provide experiences that are truly personal.

At the most basic level, they will be able to provide product and service recommendations that are much more relevant to the people receiving them.

But the opportunity is much bigger. Imagine offering what you know about customers back to them—for example, services acting like a digital personal assistant, concierge or shopper.

Ultimately, the “genomes” will bring forth a unique enterprise asset—an asset that is richer, more dynamic and at a much greater scale than traditional market research. This collection of voices will be invaluable intellectual property. Companies can drive new forms of innovation from it across marketing, merchandising and service design—products, services and, most important, experiences.

Today, experience is the new battleground. Brands must create experiences that are curated to the individual. Shifting their thinking from the what to the why when it comes to customers’ choices will be an important first step to success.

I would like to thank Jeriad Zoghby, global personalization lead at Accenture Interactive, for his contribution to this post.