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Customization Is the New Black

Posted by Sachin Karweer

This is an excerpt of a new series of India’s Leaderspeak with TVNEWS4U LEADERSPEAK: Think Digital With HGS Interactive Business Head Sachin Karweer. It is reproduced here with permission.

In today’s CX-focused digital arena, businesses need a digital marketing solution that not only looks good but is also customized. In the past, marketing plans involved aimlessly posting signs, blindly handing out flyers, and buying limited advertising space in newspapers, hoping to better target the intended audience. Back then, traditional businesses communicated through their salespeople, who connected and aimed at building a real-life conversation with customers in order to understand what the customer wanted. Presently, we are in an age when consumers are tech-savvy and constantly connected to social networks. As a result, digital marketing is the best thing to happen to the advertising sector.

Customization is the new black

Marketing customization is a broad strategy that can involve as many channels and clever tools as possible — from customized direct mail and triggered email to specialized web content and ad retargeting. The choice of tactics for customization depends on the budget, business models, and the profitable use of resources. I always recommend that brands stand out from the pack by moving away from mass-blasts and toward more personalized communication.

Now that we’ve touched on the basics, let’s move on to the customization possibilities:

Customization starts with a comprehensive database. As a result of the deep data revolution, businesses embrace their customer data and improve their analytics implementations to truly understand their consumers. Tech-savvy digital marketers can now effectively measure how audiences behave online. These marketers can understand unique customer behaviors and traits using robust optimization roadmaps and high-caliber testing plans and processes.

Equipped with this intelligence, marketers can identify unique conversion paths, understand the role played by their websites and apps, and identify the factors that can transform their audience into a customer. At the end of the day, it is all about optimizing the customer journey by using this data and creating a frictionless, seamless experience.

There is power in the world wide web as a precision marketing tool. The concept of customization for customers, though not new, is certainly an art to be mastered by all businesses. The world wide web is the perfect marketing setting for precision marketing, because individuals can be uniquely identified, and a message can be tailored to them. However, you must note that full customization is required in order to ask questions, listen to each individual’s answers, and observe their actions on a website. This requires much more than customization technology.

Let me explain.

For the consumer to experience the unexpected, there needs to be a team of behind-the-scenes content creators who are constantly working on the development of the material. This way, the customization engine can actually customize content based on her or his profile. In a way, it’s almost like a conversation carried out between the content creator and the consumer through the website and other online platforms.

Here’s a great example of a customized digital marketing strategy well done: Burberry launched digital ads that responded to consumer interaction in an effort to endorse its latest online and in-store tailor-made scarf service. The Burberry Scarf Bar enabled customers to select from a range of more than 30 scarf colors and shades of thread to customize the product with monogrammed initials for the very first time. Burberry promoted this service with a short film across all digital platforms celebrating its scarf-making legacy with personalized digital ads sent to consumers who came in contact with them.

This campaign provided their consumers an effective platform for regular one-to-one personalized communication, with influencers and “top consumers” getting exclusive invites to events, thus giving them a platform to voice their suggestions regarding the product.

Experience the benefits of a customized marketing campaign. Customization has an impact across a range of other marketing campaigns. Businesses need to realize that consumers expect to be treated as individuals. One size does not fit all. Every consumer is unique with his or her set of demands or needs. Consumers expect the brand to pay attention to their specific needs. Establishing a social media presence across a variety of social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various apps is an effective way to reach them.

However, brands need to go that extra mile and win customers over through loyalty programs, recognition events, and special access to sales and other promotional events, based on their preferences. Brands have to create an impression that each and every consumer is special and unique.

Wow your customers with an individually oriented digital marketing strategy. While designing a digital marketing strategy, most businesses know that they need to keep in mind their target consumers, the product, the competition, and location, but it is crucial to pay very close attention to detail. It is all about focusing on articulated needs, as expressed by the consumers, or the perception of the business regarding consumers’ articulated needs.

There is a sea of change in the way customers interact with brands these days. They are beginning to take an active role in the product development, purchase, and consumption process in the digital landscape, which is an emerging paradigm known as customerization. How does a brand achieve this level of engagement? The secret is deep data, and there are several methods to acquiring this data, either through specialized teams following, monitoring and analyzing conversations on command centers, online forums, keyword analyses, questionnaires, data-mining, surveys, social media feedback, and other platforms. To be able to hear what your consumer needs, it’s important to be listening in on them.

Involve the consumer directly in the process of customization. This concept kills two birds with one stone, by engaging with existing customers and, simultaneously, drawing in new customers to your website. Let me share the example of Longchamp, a handbag company with a Facebook application that enables customers to turn into designers and share their handbag creations online. There are also companies that give customers a chance to create a virtual catalogue showcasing all their designs.

What companies can do is acknowledge and rank the most creative customers, making them design leaders. An example of this is The North Face. The outdoor product company has launched a design gallery for its Denali jackets created by customers themselves. Manufacturer Jeld-Wen has enabled customers to co-create and share door designs in real-time, serving as an inspiration. Now you can see how engaging customers through customization raises the stakes and boosts customer experience.

Leverage capabilities that can sustain a one-to-one personalized relationship. The personalization process creates higher expectations on the part of customers, as they expect the products or service they receive to match their needs and wants perfectly. If the process fails to meet the expectations, the loss is far greater than while buying a standardized product or service. Companies need to have effective marketing and manufacturing capabilities to sustain a one-to-one relationship and deliver what the customer wants efficiently.

This customization strategy can be supplemented with a process wherein the customer can customize the information and the products and services they would like to receive. It is crucial that businesses combine data-mining techniques, along with existing databases backed by customization strategies, once the business knows about a customer, or what the customer does while at its website.

Beware of the shortcomings of offering too much personalization. Not a lot of people like to talk about this, but it is important to note that there is a risk to customization, if not executed well. Too many options can leave the consumer confused. That’s the reason why most companies limit the number of features that can be tailored. There are several products where some customer segments have needs that are best satisfied by product customization but huge costs are involved in satisfying those needs. In such a scenario, both customers and businesses face a trade-off situation and customization has to be evaluated carefully.

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