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Jun 28, 2023

Context is King: Deliver a More Personalized Customer Experience (CX) Through a Contextual Understanding

Context, according to Merriam-Webster, is the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs. It is an understanding of where that something belongs in its immediate surroundings, whether a person, an object, the written or spoken word. It is why “that’s taken out of context!” is so dispiriting; without a mutual understanding, there’s chaos.

In the world of customer experience, context refers to an accurate understanding of a consumer within the setting of a broader customer journey. It is having all the information that’s needed to truly understand the customer at a given time and place, and to then use that information to deliver a hyper-relevant experience that reflects a current understanding. Context is crucial to providing a customer with experiences that drive retention, loyalty and lifetime value. In a recent Dynata survey commissioned by Redpoint, 80 percent of consumers surveyed said that they are more likely to purchase from brands that demonstrate a personal understanding by sending relevant, personalized offers. Context is a large part of what makes that possible.

Context and Real Time

Relating “interrelated conditions” to a superior customer experience, what’s relevant is that those conditions can be as numerous and varied as a businesses’ customer engagement technology can gather and support. It stands to reason that the more information about a customer a system can gather, the more relevant the resulting CX.

Increasingly, real time is becoming an “interrelated condition” important for layering the needed context for a complete understanding of a customer across an omnichannel journey, and demonstrating that understanding through a personalized CX.

Consider a product recommendation engine that generates recommendations based on a customer’s purchase history. If transactional data is fed into the system on a weekly batch load, a recommendation is not as likely to resonate with a customer as one that makes a recommendation based on a real-time, unified profile of a customer that includes all behavioral, demographic and psychographic data, and maybe even includes factors such as time of day and the weather.

It’s not just the volume of data that provides context, it’s when that data is made available to marketers and business users; the longer the lag, the less context for how that data relates to an ongoing customer journey.

A Proactive Connection

Providing a real-time understanding of a customer across an omnichannel journey is what separates the Redpoint CDP from many customer data platforms with a somewhat different understanding of “real time.” By bringing all possible information and relevant data about a customer, household or entity in one place, Redpoint provides the context needed make the most informed decision and create the most compelling experience for the customer at the precise moment of engagement. The Redpoint CDP handles not only the data orchestration side of things, but also does real-time data capture for context as well as real-time decisions to deliver a response, i.e. content for an app, open-time email or website.

Conversely, when an understanding of a customer is formed through multiple systems, a real-time concept becomes more nebulous, dependent as it were on coordination. A website personalization tool, for example, will gather session information from a particular device and call out to a CDP to attach the information to a unified profile for the purpose of delivering personalization on that channel. Often, though, there is an expectation that a CDP will feed the tool information on a need-to-know basis, i.e. when a source system is updated. But is that a nightly feed? Weekly?

Even a hyper-personalized website experience based on the most up-to-date customer data, however, is still siloed in that personalization is limited to one channel. The importance of context is easily understood if a customer who just received an online offer then contacts the call center – and the call center either unaware of the new offer or, worse, makes an offer at odds with the previous one.

The rg1 approach is to continually gather everything to create a persistently updated Golden Record that is perpetually accessible and available to all users and channels, ensuring context by proactively connecting to all systems. In a dynamic customer journey where a customer moves from one channel to the next at will, marketers can’t always be certain what information about a customer will be relevant until the moment of interaction. With rg1, though, information is always updated. Always available. And always ready for use.

Redpoint’s Approach to Real Time

The Redpoint CDP’s approach to real time includes pre-decision and post-decision pipelines, which is where additional contextual information is gathered the moment preceding and following a decision. Immediately preceding a decision, a call can be made through an API to gather additional context, whether it’s a model, a weather update, a credit card check or another piece of information that is then loaded into the customer profile to layer in real-time context. The post-decision pipeline is where a decision can be manipulated, such as being sent to multiple systems or channels. Importantly, the pipelines are stackable, meaning they enable more than one decision.

The pipelines enhance contextually relevant experiences because they’re built around dynamic rules that permit content to be switched out up to the moment of interaction.

For a hospitality company or an airline, perhaps a guest digitally checks in. Based on the context in that exact moment – is their room ready, has their flight been delayed, is there a storm on the way, is there construction at the drop-off area – the pre-decision pipeline could call a machine learning model (Redpoint’s or a client’s) that returns real-time recommendations optimized against the decisions built into the platform. A resulting decision, then, is based on everything there is to know about the customer – does the customer prefer an SMS or email, what offers have they redeemed in the past, what is their lifetime value, are they a candidate for churn – as well as the immediate context.

This capability prevents mistakes that, lacking real-time context, are sometimes made even with the best intentions. Consider a hotel that triggers an offer for a city walking tour when a new visitor to the destination checks in. Sounds great. But if you make the offer when the guest checks in during a three-day monsoon, you will introduce friction into the customer journey. With a real-time contextual understanding, the offer might be switched out right up to the moment of check-in, perhaps an offer for a museum tour instead.

A post-decision pipeline works in the same fashion, providing marketers and business users with the opportunity to nuance/repurpose a decision before it is presented to a device, app, website, tablet or even in person. This might entail using generative AI to change the tone of a welcome greeting, as an example, or otherwise massaging a decision to optimize it for the intended recipient. The goal is to simply provide as meaningful a contextual interaction as possible, making it appear from the customer’s view as if they’re engaging with a person – even across digital channels.

Redpoint also offers greater flexibility by virtue of being agnostic to the consumer of the decision result, i.e., there is no restriction to keep the message “as-is.” The content delivered, in other words, does not have to be the content shown. There is flexibility to use the content optimized to enhance the experience where the message is being delivered, such as using thumbnail images on a mobile app vs. a gallery display on a landing page. The decision call and result are the same, but a marketer or business user doesn’t have to worry about fixing the result to one channel.

An interesting dynamic about contextual experiences is that the more they’re successful, the more context can be built into subsequent decisions. The result of the decision – did the customer buy the product, sign up for the tour, download the app, etc. – can be used to inform a subsequent decision the next time an offer is presented, either to the same customer profile or to alter the pre-decision or post-decision content.

Consistent, Contextual Relevance

With the Dynata survey, we’ve seen that relevant, personalized offers delivered to a customer in the right context drive repeat business. The opposite is also true, i.e. negative experiences drive customers away.

In 451 Research’s Voice of the Connected User Landscape, Quantifying the Customer Experience (2022), nearly 9 in 10 consumers said that having a negative experience (in-store or online) makes them less likely to interact with a brand/retailer again in the future. Asked what constitutes a positive experience, 43% defined it as consistency across a brand’s website, retail store, mobile app and call center.

Layering real-time context across the experiences that span an omnichannel customer journey delivers the consistency – and relevance – that delight customers and result in greater loyalty and lifetime value.