Contextual Relevance and the Customer Experience

Personalization is on the waning end of the hype cycle, but there is still a lot of misinformation about what personalization in the context of the customer experience means. Personalization has to go beyond knowing purchase history and suggesting new products or services, it has to know enough to become HELPFUL. In order to deliver a helpful personalized experience, you have to be contextually relevant. Being contextually relevant means delivering the information necessary to help a customer accomplish her or his goals relevant to your product or service appropriate to:

  • Space/Time location
  • Stage in the cycle(s)
  • Behavioral patterns
  • Channel
  • Device

Being contextually relevant means delivering the tools and information necessary to help the customer accomplish their goals relevant to your product or service in relation to where they are physically, the time of day in which they are interacting with you, what stage of the cycle (or cycles) of interaction they are in (awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, consumption, support, repurchase, onboarding, etc.), and what their behavior is (soliciting friends opinions, nervous trepidation at the prospect of purchasing, etc.) at that specific phase in the process. Companies that can deliver the right information at exactly the right time via the appropriate channel will be able to finely tune the customer experience to drive conversions and loyalty.

Personalization Beyond Tailored Offerings

Customers expect all interactions to take into account their purchase history, history of interactions with the company and behavioral considerations such as social sharing and peer input. Companies are getting better about providing tailored offerings but fall short of expectations during non-sales related interactions like support calls, training and follow up purchases. Companies that can link customer data across back-office systems and give staff a single view into customer interaction history can provide the contextually relevant, personalized experience that separates them from competition.

Optimized for mobility

In the world of customer experience, mobile refers to the state of being mobile. Not to the mobile device. A great experience requires that experience to be delivered where I am. Time and location are no longer relevant, the experience is always on and always there. Currently, this applies to desktop, mobile phone, and tablet interactions. This will expand to include delivering experiences using wearables, implantables and un-owned devices like kiosks. The experience must be seamless between devices and channels. Companies need to understand where the customer is when interactions with their company are taking place. Customers may be at the office on a desktop computer, on the train with a laptop, walking around town with a mobile phone, or lying on a couch with a voice assistant. In each of these scenarios motivations and goals are significantly different. For example, the mindset of a person at the office is much different than the same person leisurely walking about town. As devices such as wearables and IoT devices proliferate, the specific device is becoming less relevant than the customer's motivations and goals at a particular point.

Customers Pick the Channel

Companies no longer get to define the channels customer must use to communicate with them. Customers expect to access all information and every service anywhere the company has a presence. Customers expect to shop, research and get support on Twitter, Facebook, email, websites, 1-800 numbers, in person (where brick and mortar are available) and they expect their information to follow them across every channel and interaction. Doing so requires companies have an open and flexible IT architecture, a detailed understanding of the customer journey and an ongoing assessment plan to inventory available channels, determine whether or not to have a presence on new channels and score the experience providing on channels where the company has a presence.

Personalization doesn't mean using purchase history to deliver recommendations. Contextual relevance, the delivery of services tuned to a customers time, place, device, cycle stage, behavioral pattern, and channel are imperative for delivering the most useful information, and best experience, possible.