Creating Impactful Personalization for Digital and Non-Digital Services
As the last installment in this review series of our final webinar from 2021, Leveraging Data to Drive Increased Personalisation and Empathy, we are going to see what is considered a good approach for creating a personalized journey in any industry.
Our guest speaker for the webinar’s third and final presentation was Armin Gulber, co-founder and Design, and Digitization Lead at Nextwit, an agile start-up that helps companies big and small from a broad spectrum of industries in delivering intuitive data and digital initiatives.
And that’s the topic he chose to discuss quite elaborately, providing an insightful perspective on how to effectively personalize digital (and non-digital) services.
THE CHALLENGES OF PERSONALIZATION
To better illustrate how most companies view personalization schemes, Armin used the analogy of a ship cruising the sea to find a bountiful island where it could land.
Once it locates such an island on the horizon, it first has to navigate some treacherous, rocky waters before arriving at its destination.
For a company initiating a personalization journey, the island is a combination of lucrative prospects, increased revenue, and improved organizational efficiency. And the rocks surrounding this place are the challenges and perceived obstacles that, if surmounted, will lead the company to achieve its business objectives. Such “obstacles” also include figuring out appealing offers for customers and designing a UI that users will love.
However, most ships and their crews can’t see what’s going on under the waves and are oblivious to such factors.
The same applies to most companies that are ready to embark on a personalization journey but are not mindful enough of such “hidden” challenges and aspects of personalization.
So, what’s under the water, exactly?
- Open-minded culture: It’s one thing to get everybody on board with a personalization project, but people working on it have to feel that this is going to help and be open to change on an organizational level as well. Personalization is not exclusively about number crunching, and to succeed, companies must be perceptive and learn what their customers want exactly.
- Explored and identified customer needs: Indeed, this is probably the most important prerequisite for personalization, yet it’s also the most overlooked aspect as well. The whole point of the journey is to provide a personalized experience to customers, yet it often occurs that companies focus too much on business goals without considering customer needs.
- Robust and clean data: Whether our services are digital or not matters little in this regard, as well-structured and clean data sets will always be essential elements for transforming those services into personalized experiences.
- Future-proof infrastructure: Legacy systems make it all but impossible – or highly difficult, at the very least – to achieve the desired business objectives. A spaghetti infrastructure will make the whole process much harder than it should be. Instead, a streamlined architecture design and some sleek, purpose-built tools of the trade will deliver results.
RECOMMENDED APPROACH TO PERSONALIZATION
Now that we’ve scouted the waters surrounding the island and know what lies beneath, we need a course of action to reach our destination safely.
Armin brought forward Nextwit’s suggested order for approaching personalization:
- Business objectives: Define early on the “why” of personalization: what are the goals the company wants to achieve through this project?
- Explore customer needs: Learn how your customers go about their business when using your systems right now, how they deal with their challenges, what their exact issues are. Then start mapping out ways you can help them with their problems and come up with viable solutions and alternatives.
- Robust and clean data: Through well-structured data, you can understand what’s needed to build and deliver propositions that your customers want or provide them with trustworthy and relevant information.
- Appealing offers: Specific propositions that can be tailored to individual customers from the patterns of collected and processed data. These are the offers the company needs to communicate to its customers in a personalized way.
- Loveable UI / UX: While highly important, and it helps immensely with Customer Experience and customer satisfaction, the deeper layers of system design have to come first.
- Future-proof infrastructure: This stage is all about selecting the right tools and software that best serve the processes you want to create.
- Open-minded culture: Last but not least, you need to figure out how to incorporate the mindset of personalization on an organizational level. What Nextwit discovered is that companies need early successes to change the company’s culture. Without tangible benefits and results that make people open and positive about these changes, it just won’t succeed.
A FEW CAUTIONARY TALES
Armin brought some case studies as well to show how the failure to meet these personalization perspectives can derail, delay, or disrupt a personalization journey entirely.
Merging Service Providers
Missing aspects: Open-minded culture, Robust and clean data, Explored customer needs
Two service providers went through a merger and began looking for synergies straight away. As a business objective, they wanted to increase revenue by targeting and reaching each other’s customers. They implemented a rushed communication campaign and tried to provide appealing offers but didn’t realize that they’d had raw, unrefined data about their customers’ needs and interests. Offers were dispatched to the wrong segments, some customers received the same offer over and over again, which ruined personalization.
Their personalized eDM campaigns eventually failed due to low conversion rates and bad CX.
Digital Content Provider
Missing aspects: Future-proof infrastructure, Robust and clean data, Explored customer needs
The company sought to launch a new app and was very confident about its understanding of personalization. They were fully focused on creating a shiny frontend for the app but didn’t do much with the spaghetti architecture in the back. A jumbled IT stack makes the use of data in personalization schemes difficult and overcomplicates processes of measuring and monitoring results and KPIs. Furthermore, as customer needs were not explored, the company failed to realize that their users were more interested in the quantity of content than how it was presented through recommendations.
In the end, the management seemed doubtful if the new app would deliver the financial results they’d hoped for.
Financial Service Provider
Missing aspects: Future-proof infrastructure, Robust and clean data
A mammoth financial service provider wanted to increase operational efficiency by moving all its data to digital channels, as it was struggling with its legacy systems that also severely limited customer options. They intended to launch digital self-care solutions which required the presentation of personalized information, however, due to technological debt incurred through said legacy systems, it led to a host of issues, including cases where customers found misleading or incorrect data about services (e.g. billing). The company meant well, but its systems were so obsolete that it made the smooth transition to digitally personalized solutions all but impossible. Instead, they should have started the process with data cleansing; using data virtualization tools that could bundle up all the fragmented data and organize it, which wouldn’t be a huge investment when done smartly.
Physical Industry (Agriculture)
Missing aspects: Open-minded culture, Robust and clean data, Explored customer needs
Slowly, most companies in physical operations are starting to realize they generate enormous amounts of data that can be utilized in their sales processes. Such was the case with a company dealing in agricultural products; at first, they didn’t want to understand that personalization could help their efforts. They knew they had the data and sought to provide a digital solution with great UI but overlooked that they could take it a step further, see what their customers are doing, and tailor the solution to their needs. In this case, by processing data about generations of seeds, soil composition, weather, and more, then comparing such patterns to data gathered from the fields of neighbouring farmers, they could help their customers pick the best seed, soil, equipment, and agricultural technique that best suits their unique circumstances.
Data can be easily applied to digital surfaces for differentiating experiences , so prototyping with real data can help in these situations to get a better grasp on customer needs.
AN ITINERARY FOR PERSONALIZATION
All in all, if you consider all seven perspectives of personalization, even those that are “hidden” and can’t be perceived as easily as frontend and coming up with good offers, the journey itself from inception to implementation and launch shouldn’t become a multi-year project.
As a closing, Armin explained Nextwit’s tried and proven approach that they suggest to their clients:
- Solution health check: New ideas or existing solutions can be reviewed from business, design, and data perspectives within 2-4 weeks.
- Rapid prototyping with data: Test your concept with data-driven prototypes and tools to learn what works well. Modify the concept if needed and plan the implementation.
- Launch, measure, and iterate: Create a culture that supports product innovation fuelled by customer feedback and data.
Nextwit can help in all three stages: workshop facilitation, research, and data modeling during the solution health check, by providing prototype construction and data virtualization when prototyping, as well as creating or tweaking decision-supporting tools and providing training post-launch.
If this last blog post on our final 2021 webinar piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more, head over here and watch the presentations at your own leisure!