They say you never know what you have until it’s gone and I think in the last few weeks we have come to realise that is true.
Through any crisis humanity reveals the best and worst of itself. Our capacity for selfishness as well as our capacity to help others, sometimes simultaneously. It’s the nature of the human condition that even though we see the flaws in our nature, we endure them because they are made up for by often the simplest of gestures from others.
Why is it that these simple things, these small acts of kindness, that moment that someone takes out of their day to ask how we’re coping should mean so much to us? Well, it’s because those small gestures demonstrate the underlying intent of others. It’s a reflection of their good will, their consideration and their care. That in turns reassures us that we ourselves are worth caring about. It makes us feel good about ourselves and about others.
So, when consumers are forced into an almost exclusively digital relationship with the companies they buy from, how do we make sure they prefer to shop with us rather than with somebody else?
For some time now personalisation has been a focus for many businesses trying to build a relationship with their customers. In just about all cases, more personalisation and more relevance is a way forward, and can deliver proven results. However, like many things, personalisation is easier said than done. It’s an iterative process, built on data, testing and insight and used to continually improve the relevance of the customer experience. In the days before COVID-19 this would have been enough, but I’m beginning to suspect that in the days since, there is now more at play.
I’ve been watching how businesses have behaved since the global Coronavirus pandemic made its presence known. Some have nakedly treated the circumstances as an opportunity, and it really comes across as opportunism. Very quickly I feel disengaged. Others have taken drastic action, perhaps out of necessity, but handled it very poorly.
On the other hand, others have acted with intuition such as German discount supermarket, Lidl which demonstrated fingerspitzengefül you would not expect from a cut price retailer by being the first supermarket to establish exclusive shopping hours for elderly customers that were struggling to buy essentials in the face of panic buying. My local butcher, recognising that COVID-19 has had a direct impact on the finances of their customers, chose not to exploit the increased demand for food but instead to discount a range of basics.
When we consider personalisation in this context it seems that a company’s motivation to deliver personalised and relevant experiences becomes more important than the technical capability to do it.
Why do I say it’s more important? Well, while It’s good to use statistical analysis to drive personalisation to boost sales, the data for that personalisation increasingly has to come from first party data. In about two years’ time the age of the third party cookie will be over. This brings first party data and the customer data platform (CDP) to the fore. If we need to earn that data, who are we most likely to earn it from? Here’s a clue, it’s not going to be from people that saw us act like we were trying to monetise a global pandemic, nor from a company that doesn’t care for its own people, never mind its customers. It will come from customers that trust us to act with integrity and who they believe might have their interests at heart. In a few months, when the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, these impressions will remain.
The opportunity for personalisation is not just to make experiences more statically relevant, but also to make them more personally relevant. This may be by factoring in the current zeitgeist or even recommending something that might, on this occasion save the customer money, rather than upselling them, in exchange for greater lifetime value. I think the combination of personalisation, technically well executed, with the genuine intent to do the right thing for your customers can be very powerful indeed.
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