2021 is the year of personalization. Today, it’s not just good enough to offer quality customer service when the client reaches out to you; you need to go out of your way to reach the customer. You need to make the customer feel like you know who they are—personally. One of the best ways to do this is to integrate personalization into your customer journey.
What is the customer journey?
The customer journey is the path a customer takes when they interact with your company. The steps along the journey vary depending on who you ask. In this instance, we’ll take a look at HubSpot’s stops along the customer journey.
- Awareness – The journey starts with awareness. The customer wants to purchase something, and they become aware that your company provides that item or service.
- Consideration – Up next is consideration. The customer looks at your website or services and considers whether or not to buy.
- Decision (or Purchase) – The customer decides to purchase the item. They receive a confirmation, and then they receive the product.
- Retention – Once the customer makes the purchase, you need to do the work to retain the customer. That means dealing with any issues that arise from the purchase and making sure the customer is pleased with the purchase. Retention also includes following up with the customer to try and bring them back for another purchase.
I’m going to add one other stop that HubSpot doesn’t have—loyalty or advocacy.
Loyalty or advocacy means that you’re not working just to retain the customer; you’re working toward something more. You want to instill such faithfulness in the client that they talk about you to their friends and family. They recommend you to others.
Personalizing the Customer Journey
During the final two phases—retention and loyalty/advocacy—you can do the best personalization of the customer journey.
The only way to personalize the customer journey is to collect data. While this can sound like a dirty word to some people, the truth is, data collection is how marketers make sure that they’re meeting their customers’ specific needs.
When you collect data about your customers, you must follow the state and federal government rules. Some states have created privacy protection laws that outline what data can and cannot be collected about customers. Stay within the confines of the law.
Other than that, data is fair game.
One of the best ways to collect information about your clients and website visitors is through cookies.
According to internet security company Kaspersky, “Cookies are text files with small pieces of data — like a username and password — that are used to identify your computer as you use a computer network. Specific cookies known as HTTP cookies are used to identify specific users and improve your web browsing experience.”
You are required to tell customers that cookies are at work on your website. Usually, companies use a pop-up and an opt-out form when someone visits their site for the first time. If a customer opts-out, then you cannot collect their data. If a customer chooses not to opt-out, then you’re allowed to collect their data.
An easy way to learn more about your customers aside from cookies is to track their transactions. With each transaction, you’re building a better picture of the type of person that you’re working with.
Does a client reorder toilet paper every three months? Then a reminder email before the three-month reorder mark is a perfect solution.
Did the client just purchase the first book in a book series? Then send an email suggesting the second book in the series along with similar books.
Transaction data can give you insights into what a customer may be interested in purchasing next. With this data, you can anticipate the customer’s next step.
Surveys and Polls
If you want to collect new data from current customers, surveys and polls are a good way to go. This is an upfront way to learn what a customer likes and dislikes, which will in turn help you segment them better.
To incentivize customers to complete the survey, consider offering a discount or free shipping on their next order.
You should always keep the surveys short, one minute or less. People don’t want to spend five minutes or more answering a bunch of questions.
Engagement data is also called interaction data. This is every place that a customer interacts with your company.
According to Insightly, “Interaction data is particularly useful for informing decisions that pertain to the buyer journey. Pageviews, ebook downloads, social shares, email inquiries, and demo requests are common examples.”
Keep track of how and where customers are interacting with your brand. Are 40-something moms more likely to interact with you on Facebook, while 20-something singles interact with you on Instagram?
Use this information to hone your marketing.
Go Further than Segmentation, Achieve Micro-Segmentation
All this data will help you enter a new phase of customer segmentation.
Previously, you would divide your customers into segments to personalize your marketing. You may put the men in their 40s in one category and the women in their 30s in another. You would then create marketing plans around those groups.
Today, that’s not enough.
Now you need to strive for micro-segmentation, where you learn not just the age and gender of a customer but also their favorite color or favorite television show.
“Segmenting is the process of using the data to organize customers with similar characteristics or shopping needs together. After you’ve grouped your customers into different personas or segments, you can then apply specific personalization strategies to them,” Harry Thakkar, a partner at Avatria, told CMS Wire. “Note that the more signals you can use to segment your customers, the more accurate your personalization will be–buying diapers once may not mean the customer has an infant, but buying diapers consistently over six months is a better indicator.”
You’re still segmenting your customers; you’re just putting them into smaller and smaller groups so that you can become more and more personalized with your marketing.
Meet the Customer Where They Are
Another way to personalize the customer journey is to meet the customer where they are. Each customer uses different social media channels. Some customers only like to see email and text. Other customers tend to reply to messages on Facebook or Instagram. Every customer uses different avenues for communication.
Don’t wait for the customer to find you. Instead, go to where they are. This is what’s called multi-channel marketing or omnichannel marketing.
When you meet your customers where they are, you’re letting them know that you’re a brand that understands them. You’re a brand that knows they like Instagram or Facebook or prefers text to email. This can make a customer feel as though your brand is like-minded. A customer is often loyal to a brand that understands them.
Multi-channel marketing can be a complex strategy to employ, so before you jump into the deep end, check out this previous post on how to run a successful multi-channel marketing campaign.
While personalizing the customer journey will be a lot of work upfront, what you gain on the backend is invaluable.
A loyal customer not only continues to buy from you for years to come, but they are also instrumental in bringing future loyal fans into the fold. That’s something your business can’t afford to miss out on.
Written by Erika Towne