Why Is Context the Future of Customer Engagement?

Aaron Brennan | April 5, 2018

More than 60 percent of consumers are always on and addressable. Their mobile devices have trained them to expect immediacy. And more than half of customer journeys are multistage. There’s no more linear buyer’s journey; consumers jump in anywhere. In some cases, for example, consumers may start with search, check out various providers’ sites, get offline recommendations, click through a retargeted ad, but then make a purchase in-store. In other cases, consumers may see a promotion on a social site, research that provider online, visit the store, and then showroom for the lowest price online, which leads them to select a similar item from a competitor.

Eighty-six (86) percent of consumers say they would pay more for a better brand experience, according to a study by American Express. Conversely, most consumers – anywhere from 67 percent to 89 percent, depending on the study – say they would switch providers after one poor experience. And they do.

Frost & Sullivan estimates that, globally, companies lose $300 billion annually by providing poor customer experiences. So, how do marketers address those demanding consumers in a real-time, multichannel world? Contextual personalization.

Contextual personalization allows marketers to deliver relevant messages to consumers at their moment of need through their preferred channel. It works like this: Marketers gather actionable customer insight, such as behavior, interaction, and preference data to create a rich view of their individual customers. Marketers then:

  • create campaigns featuring messaging and offers based on that insight (i.e., customers’ needs and interests),
  • deliver those messages and offers right when customers need them (e.g., when they’re looking for a solution to a problem or are ready to purchase an item or service they’ve expressed interest in),
  • through the channel they prefer.

Here are three steps marketers need to take to lay the groundwork for contextual personalization at scale.

Get Agile

To be agile, brands need to have the ability to move quickly at the cadence of the customer, including with short processes for them to get where they want to go. Over the next five years, $800 billion is going to shift away from 85 percent of companies that can’t deliver personalized experiences to the 15 percent that get it right, according to BCG Boston Consulting Group.

Marketers’ personalization efforts are stalled by an overabundance of manual and triggered processes. They need to make most of those processes more dynamic and adaptive; for example, by using machine learning. Marketers can use machine learning to deliver the next best action and to orchestrate campaigns and interactions across touchpoints. It’s all about speed, agility, and omnichannel optimization in the real-time world.

Bridge Siloed Engagement Systems

Sixty-two (62) percent of companies have six to 20 engagement systems – all with their own set of business rules, data, processes, and system of record designed for those processes. The more engagement systems, the greater the proliferation of data. What’s lacking is an enterprise view of the customer. Only 60 percent of marketers have a complete view of their customer.

The solution is a customer data platform. A CDP is a living, breathing agile source of structured and unstructured data from across channels and devices. It’s the golden record; the fuel that drives customer engagement and decisioning. Marketers can use a CDP to help understand customers and deliver compelling, contextually relevant experiences.

Connect Marketing Technologies

There are two approaches to thinking about technology: a walled garden and an open garden. The former requires ripping and replacing to make major changes; 44 percent of marketers spend 25 percent of their marketing budgets ripping and replacing systems. The latter enables integration through APIs. Systems can get swapped in and out.

Additionally, open gardens allow for contextual personalization at scale by providing the flexibility to connect systems as needed. This is important because marketers can’t always predict where in the enterprise the data they need will come from.

An open garden approach enables scalable performance. It speeds time to value. Marketers can’t spend a year in the traditional waterfall approach. They need to think in weeks and months. An open garden approach allows for more rapid deployment, because integrations and updates are through APIs and connectors, as opposed to ripping out and replacing systems and tools. An open garden approach also allows companies to use best-of-breed tools for each channel as opposed to using sub-optimal tools just to try and engage at the speed consumers want you to engage at.

Ultimately, marketers are trying to create compelling experience across touchpoints. Doing so requires connected data and technologies, agile processes, and wherever possible, automated decisioning. Only then can marketers respond to customers in milliseconds, and deliver contextually relevant personalization at scale.

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Aaron Brennan
Aaron Brennan

Aaron Brennan is a senior product marketing manager for RedPoint Global.