Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

COVID-19 makes personalisation more important than ever

By James Hall, Commercial Director, Striata UK

When COVID-19 struck and countries around the world went into lockdown, the reaction by most companies was to immediately send out communication to their customers. As a result, people’s inboxes were flooded with generic messages about how important they were and how each company would “be there for you during this difficult time”.

The only real impact of this kind of messaging was that people got an idea of how many email lists they were subscribed to, before removing themselves from as many as possible. There were, however, a few that realised just how important hyper-personalised customer communications have become.

And, as society returns to varying levels of normality, these are the organizations that won’t only survive, but will thrive in the new normal.

Beyond personalisation

What most of these organisations have gotten right is understanding that personalisation has moved some way beyond simply getting your customer’s name right.

In order for customer communication to be effective, it cannot simply exist for its own sake. Now, more than ever, companies need to ensure that any communication they send their customers is aligned to each individual’s personal circumstances and needs.

With people spending more time at home and having more time to read anything sent to them, they’re far less likely to be forgiving of any communication that doesn’t appeal to them. The wrong communication to the wrong person, on the wrong day, may end up costing you a customer. That’s something no company can afford at a time when retaining every customer is vital.

Changing tech

Fortunately, a raft of emerging technologies have made it easier than ever to deliver personal, relevant customer communication.

Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, has an important role to play. In the customer communication space especially, AI-based systems are useful for predicting user behaviour and providing content based on that prediction to prompt the user’s next action.

Organisations are already seeing the value AI provides in this regard, integrating it into email, billing, and mobile payments, all of which contain forms of customer communication.

AI is also driving the use of chatbots, which appear on websites and instant messaging services, as automated virtual assistants.  Not only are chatbots useful for customer service,  but also for enriching the self-service aspects of invoicing and payment collections. 

Voice technologies will also play an increasingly important role in customer communication. By 2020, Gartner predicts that 30% of web browsing will occur without a screen. And 55% of American teenagers will use speech recognition, daily.

It’s only natural, therefore, that customers will want to interact with organisations via voice. Any organisation that invests in integrating voice technology into its customer communications now stands to give itself that extra edge over its competitors in the future.   

Data matters 

If an organization is going to integrate these technologies successfully, it needs to ensure that it couples them with real-time data to deliver more relevant content, product and service information to each user. The more information an organisation has on each customer, the more meaningful and valuable its communication will be.

And, as we’ve already established, that’s more important in a post-COVID-19 world than ever before. With the global economy struggling to recover, people are more conscious of where they spend their money. And when they do spend their money, it’ll be with the organizations that have built up trust and loyalty. There is no better way to do that than with hyper-personalised customer communication.

Centring the customer

While data and technology are immensely useful, they can’t help an organization achieve its communication goals on their own. What has always been true, and what COVID-19 has thrown into sharp relief, is that the customer needs to be at the centre of all communication efforts.

That means asking customers directly what content they want to receive, when and how, rather than simply relying on data. This dual approach enables the organisation to combine preference and engagement data (technology), with input obtained directly from the people best suited to design the process: customers and employees (humans). By taking this integrated approach, organisations can ensure that they provide customers with the kind of communication they want.

In doing so, they give themselves the best possible chance of surviving COVID-19’s economic travails and thriving in the future beyond it.