I’ve had a good look in my crystal ball and when it comes to the evolution of customer experience, I reckon one trend in particular is going to dominate this year: personalization.
But here’s the interesting thing: this isn’t a new trend. In fact, the Cloud IQ team released research documenting the rise of personalization as a customer trend way back in 2017. At that point they found that 69% of all consumers across the UK, U.S, and Australia want more personalized experiences and in 2018 Accenture Research found that an incredible 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide such an experience.
So far though, not enough businesses are listening to the research. Or if they are listening, they’re not quite nailing what personalization means to the consumer.
On the bright side, now you know that personalization is what customers want in theory, all you need to do is keep on reading to find out what it actually looks like in practice, and figure out how to apply it when you’re building your own customer experience.
Ask any marketer to describe the personalized experience and they’ll start talking about things like artificial intelligence, voice commands on Amazon Alexa or Google Home, and they’ll tell you all about The Internet of Things.
But here’s what the personalized experience is really about: sofas.
I have my tape measure out because I need to buy a new sofa for my Florida room. Now, for those of you who don’t live in the sunshine state, a Florida room is kind of like a conservatory or solarium where Floridians spend their nights and evenings watching football on the TV and just enjoying the sun, salt air, and sea spray.
And because it’s a blend of outdoor and indoor living it needs a sofa that can handle the outdoor elements while also being super comfortable. Which, as it turns out, isn’t too easy to find. In fact, we’ve only managed to find two couches that tick all of our boxes: one from Crate & Barrel and one from Arhaus.
Like most folks we want to test out the sofa before we drop a few thousand dollars on it so I call Crate & Barrel and Arhaus to see if our local branches actually have the furniture in store for us to try. Crate & Barrel tell me no, which is cool because they’ve just saved me a 45 minute drive…but when I call Arhaus they tell me that yes, they do have this particular model in store and of course I’m welcome to come and try it out. Awesome!
Only, when we get there, there’s no couch.
We look for it and can’t find it so we ask a sales associate to point us to the Spinnaker sofa so we can give it a test run. And she tells us that they don’t actually have it in store. They never have…but she’ll happily order it online for us. Which is very kind of her, but then we could have just ordered it at ourselves, from the comfort of our other couch, without having to make a 45 minute trip each way.
It’s incredibly frustrating because as a consumer what I wanted was a personalized experience — no matter how great their online ordering system is, or how willing the sales associate was to help me place my order, what I really needed was for Arhaus to nail the basics.
I needed them to understand the 4 Rs…
If we’re truly going to provide a personalized experience, we need to put aside the marketers’ take on things, and base our customer experiences on what the consumer thinks a personalized experience should be. And generally speaking, consumers want 4 things; they want what I call the 4 Rs.
First up: received. 59% of customers want to be heard and understood, they want to be received. After my simple phone call to the Arhaus store I thought I had been heard and understood and that was enough to make me jump in the car and drive 45 minutes to go sit on a sofa. So that call was a pretty simple investment for an expensive, non-returnable purchase…and if they’d actually had the sofa in stock, they’d have made a great start at creating a personalized experience.
Which brings me to the second R: running the show. 57% of customers want to feel like they’re in control of their experience. On our way to the store we’re feeling pretty confident and we even decide that if we like the couch we’ll buy it on the spot because we’re so excited about our Florida room. We feel like we’re in control.
R number 3: remember. 60% of consumers wish that the brands they buy from remembered them. It’s such a simple thing but it’s something that so many businesses fail to get right. Would it have improved our experience if the sales associate we spoke to on the phone had passed the message on that we were coming to view the sofa? Well, the outcome (no sofa!) would have been the same, but sure, we probably would have felt a whole lot better about the whole thing, especially if they were expecting us and ready with an apology for having wasted our time.
Which brings us nicely to the last R: relevant. Yes, we want to feel like we've been received, that we've been understood and listened to. Yes, we want to feel like we are running the experience. Yes, we want to feel like we've been remembered. But the fourth R is the real kicker — 77% of consumers want relevant experiences, offers, content, and rewards. For anyone with a physical location, a relevant in-store experience is an absolute must-have.
And it all starts with your team and with your training. My Arhaus experience was completely irrelevant because they didn’t have the one item I was looking for. And proper staff training would’ve fixed the issue — they would have had sales associates familiar with the stock they’re carrying, who know how to direct customers and deliver a great, relevant experience whether it’s over a short phone call or an in-person visit.
So when you break it down and look at the 4 Rs, personalization isn’t a hot new thing at all — it’s a timeless business truth about getting back to basics and giving customers what they actually want.
The amazing thing is, it doesn’t have to be all that hard and the pay off can be huge. Companies with highly engaged employees, employees that follow the four Rs of a great personalized experience, actually outperform their competitors by 147%. Why? Because those employees provide a highly personalized, relevant experience, because they make customers feel heard, understood, remembered, and in control.
So the next time you’re stressing about artificial intelligence, voice command, marketing automation and all the other stuff that promises to deliver a technologically advanced experience, maybe spend a bit of time on the basics instead. Focus on the 4 Rs and giving customers exactly what they want and you’ll be bang on trend for 2020!
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