5 ways to navigate the Waves of Personalization

In today’s fast-paced, digital landscape, individuals may encounter up to 10,000 brand interactions per day. Many of these claim to be personally dedicated to you. But in the end, how many of those encounters can you truly remember? Brands are fighting for your attention and attention has become the hidden currency that shapes our lives. Much like our energy and money, we carefully allocate our attention to the people, content or experiences that earn it. But unlike these tangible resources, attention cannot be stored for future use; it’s a depleting and non-renewable asset, and brands are stepping up their game to claim it.

Building meaningful and personal connections between brands and customers is easier and yet harder than ever. Big technological and social developments have an observable effect on the playing field of companies, causing waves of personalization. With each wave come new possibilities to personalize, but ultimately the effects are gradually diminishing as other brands catch up. Companies have been riding these waves for decades, but each one seems to become increasingly difficult to surf.

Customers are more aware than ever of how their personal data is used and demand greater transparency and control over it, leading to the wave of trust. The challenge that arises from this wave is the Personalization Paradox, the balancing act between customization to meet customer needs and maintaining privacy and data security. While privacy and cookie laws are already strengthening the customer’s position, companies must also recognize that trust is not an option; it is a crucial element that forms the foundation for the success of every customer relationship.

Just when marketeers seem to have a handle on the challenge of the wave of trust, another one unfolds. Customers are seeking authenticity, emotional resonance, and trust in their interactions with brands – the wave of authenticity. This need may not sound novel, but the challenge lies further from shore, marked by ongoing AI developments that rise customer expectations once again. As marketers start to collaborate with Gen AI tooling to produce contextual and personalized experiences at an unprecedented speed, authenticity will get more attention. These experiences are personalized, but they might not feel ‘personal’ anymore to customers. Combining this feeling and the perception that the use of AI often lacks transparency, a question arises: Will customers still feel a genuine connection with your company or brand if they are mostly interacting with AI? While AI excels at delivering personalized content to you (or your bot that maybe reads or views it for you), the ability to empathize and have interpersonal communication skills is something that only humans possess. The future of keeping your customers satisfied and staying relevant as a company is about striking the right balance between AI-powered interactions and a human touch.

The importance of preparing for the next waves of personalization has never been greater. From front-line marketeers to top-line CMOs, there is a great challenge ahead to navigating new developments to build meaningful connections. Success in this evolving environment will favor marketeers who can adapt and innovate so get started with these actions:

1. Embrace new technologies but don’t get lost

Customers nowadays expect a personalized experience and technologies like machine learning, AI, and data analytics are enablers that tailor products and services to their individual needs and preferences. Companies that fail to embrace new technologies and platforms risk falling behind. The initial steps toward personalization seem relatively simple, but as technology and data processing become more complex, the associated challenges and technical requirements grow. Investing in too many technologies or complex systems can lead to inefficiency and high costs so it is important to find the right balance between technology adoption and practicality. To avoid getting lost, do not feel the need to just go “all in” on personalization all at once. Test and learn to see what works for your business so you make your investments worthwhile.

2. Keep two-way data transparency on top of the agenda

Customers of today expect full transparency within and across brand experiences. Transparency is a driver of trust and as mentioned before, companies need to understand that gaining trust is like building a long-term relationship. “Zero-party data sharing” will serve as the indicator for this relationship. Zero-party data is information that consumers willingly and proactively share with companies. For example, someone signs up for an account and answers a question about their favorite sports. In essence it is transcending conventional data collection boundaries, and adopting a model in which consumers actively participate as collaborators. Companies that can effectively collect and leverage zero-party data can provide more personalized and relevant experiences while respecting customer privacy and preferences. A win-win situation.

3. Personalization is not about cost saving

A common pitfall in personalization is equating it with automation. Rather than prioritizing a deeper connection with customers through relevant content, products and services, companies tend to be more focused on the cost-saving benefits of digitization and the reduction of customer service teams. Consumers are very sensitive to performative “human” experiences that are not real so when robots pretend to be people, people get turned off. When scaling personalization with technology it often does not feel human at all. To excel in personalization, do not just integrate technology solutions into your channels. Instead, consider going the extra mile by sending handwritten notes after a purchase, welcoming customers by name when they enter a store, or offering unique and tailored recommendations via email based on a customer’s previous purchases. These efforts take investment but will pay you back in loyalty, trust and, on the long run, relationship with your customers.

4. Bring back ‘human’ in digital experiences

Rapid advancement of technology often outpaces human capabilities. While technology evolves swiftly, it is harder than ever to keep up with technology-related skills and apply these newly developed skills in your work. Only 44% of marketeers indicate to have an adequate skill set in areas such as AI and machine learning, or data analytics and data science (Ensuring current and new talent is equipped with at least a baseline of data and creative skills, while allowing room for specialism, is essential to stay relevant.

Not in every domain technology outpaces us as humans. It is very challenging for automated systems to completely replicate essential human soft skills such as authenticity and empathy. Customers’ need for authenticity is pushing marketeers to strengthen soft skills to ultimately bring the human touch back in their work. Adopting the human factor into your proposition is essential because it can help build emotional connections and trust, adapt nuances, and facilitate feedback, which in turn can increase customer satisfaction and help build lasting relationships.

A recent rebranding by Tele2 and T-mobile, now known as Odido, shows that companies see the importance of combining technology with human touch. With one of their sayings, “We laten je graag zien dat het beter kan, menselijker” (translated as “We are happy to show you that it can be better, more human”), Odidio recognizes that technological advancements are important to customer experience and their telco product, but that their human commitment for their services is what truly sets them apart.

While upgrading your skills as a marketeer, do not underestimate the power of your soft skills to give that human touch that helps set your brand apart in the eyes of your customers. Embrace and reveal your imperfections and setbacks because, in the end, it’s these experiences that make us human.

5. Do not wait for the new generation to hit the market

While many marketeers are still figuring out how to deal with Gen Z, the next generation, Gen Alpha, born between 2010 and 2024, is emerging. This generation is the first to grow up with AI, mixed reality, and spatial computing as the norm. Gen Alpha naturally embraces hybrid experiences and expects instant personalized interaction where the virtual world seamlessly interactions with the physical. Do not wait around and already start evaluating how to scale and build inclusive, comprehensive, and human-centered experiences in a fully hybrid way for this upcoming generation.

The current momentum of the wave of trust and the wave of authenticity provides brands a chance to get ahead of competition. These actions will help marketeers from all levels prepare for the waves that hit the shores already and the waves to come. Do not sit it out, but instead grab your boards to ride the waves of personalization.

Are you ready to ride the waves of personalization?

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About the author: Tim van der Galiën is Senior Manager in Customer Transformation at frog, part of Capgemini, one of the partners of the DDMA Decision Makers Network. As one of our partners Capgemini plays a significant role in the organisation of the 2023 edition of DDMA NEXT on November 30th, and our bienniel Decision Makers Breakfasts. Tickets for DDMA NEXT are available at: ddmanext.nl.

Everybody is a CMO in the future organization

Marketing leaders are always on the lookout for the latest trends and are increasingly focusing on continuously changing consumer patterns. In essence, we try to predict the future. But are we able to predict the future and create a future proof organization?

Capgemini is sponsor of DDMA NEXT and the DDMA focus theme ‘Marketing team of the future. Click here to read more interesting marketing insights from Capgemini.

Who could ever imagine hundreds (if not thousands) of delivery guys on the streets, racing against time to deliver your groceries as fast as possible? The level of expectations of consumers are rising, and so is the demand for engaging in contextualized content across channels. This means that marketing organizations need to play a different role to keep up with this pace. Organizations must become completely customer-centric; marketing should be embedded in the whole operating model. To meet the golden customer-centric standard, all employees – regardless of role – must have the customer knowledge that a marketing leader has. So, does this mean that everyone must become a CMO to create a future-proof organization?

What we see at companies

As a marketing organization, it is challenging to keep up with expectations and it means that you must rethink your modus operandi. What we see in different organizations is that functional structures have created siloed, unharmonized departments. Today’s marketing teams are often organized on a channel or category-based structure. However, because of the increasing need to adapt to customer needs and serve them with consistent and relevant content, there is a visible shift in marketing operating models. Looking at firms running at the forefront of marketing, we see the ongoing pursuit of centralizing local marketing operations to drive operational efficiency.

Tempted by the typical benefits of centralizing any business function (e.g., economies of scale, greater control), especially B2C CMOs forego the creative power installed within local offices. Moreover, by transforming traditional marketing departments into customer data hubs that continuously act on new insights or value pools, the responsibilities of the marketing department are fundamentally changing. This is as more and more firms are formalizing customer experience into official roles and functions. Hereby, transferring traditional marketing responsibilities throughout the organization, yet progressing on the marketer’s biggest asset: real-time data usage. Today’s CMO (and therefore, the marketing organization) will become more purpose-led, data-driven, human-centered, and collaborative than ever before.

The role of a CMO in the new marketing organization

The role of the CMO has evolved in new directions and expanded beyond traditional brand-building. 90% of CMOs have some level of responsibility for business strategy, its tactical execution, and business-model innovation. With the right digital tools and digitalized processes, the modern CMO can take over as orchestrator of the Connected Marketing ecosystem to drive a truly value-adding customer experience.

Understanding marketing from an ecosystem perspective reduces complexity and supports the CMO in managing in four areas:

  • Data-driven – Creation of benefits beyond brand values
  • Responsive – Collaboration between departments
  • At scale – Services rely on business and IT interplay
  • Personalized – Unified and trusted data

The six critical focus areas for a data-driven marketing environment

Keeping up with complex future marketing trends is not enough, CMOs must address the need for restructuring within their organization because of the necessity of data-driven skills, collaboration, and automation. Most firms struggle in transforming into these new-age marketing powerhouses. Therefore, we identified six focus areas critical to a CMO’s preparation for a data-driven marketing environment:

  1. Create a clear vision for the marketing strategy
    • Ensure data-driven capabilities are at the core of the strategy
    • Define the roadmap for transformation
  2. Reimagine the customer journey with real-time engagement
    • Implement a customer-data platform
    • Utilize customer-listening tools to understand the intent
    • Have a clear content-management strategy and solutions
    • Use automation tools for delivery
  3. Ensure talent is equipped with a baseline of data and creative skills while allowing for specialists
    • Recruit or upskill marketing talent
    • Focus on developing an analytical mindset
    • Upskill on digital and performance marketing
    • Develop a learning curve
    • Establish a center of excellence
  4. Accelerate collaboration across the marketing ecosystem
    • Collaborate with key functions (IT, sales, finance) and external partners
  5. Implement a framework-driven data collection process
    • Create a data collection framework
    • Consider data from emerging digital touchpoints
    • Unify internal data silos
  6. Integrate long-term brand building and short-term marketing engagements
    • Build-in brand building with short-term marketing initiatives
    • Allocate separate budgets for long- and short-term marketing engagements

What are four ways to help your organization in building a future-proof marketing organization?

As traditional organizational structures within the marketing ecosystem must be reinvented to keep up with managing the content explosion, fast customer reactions, and technological advancements. CMOS need to train and structure their teams differently, collaborate with external partners and find the right balance between consistency and independence. The organization needs to be structured such that it supports the marketing ambitions. But how do you do that?

“Unifying your marketing organization is the first step in building future marketing ecosystem”