As a consumer, you’ve probably noticed online ads or suggestions that conveniently align with your latest interests. If you’ve recently typed “whiter teeth” into a search engine, for example, you’re likely to begin seeing ads for different brands of teeth whitening kits or for other dental care products such as toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash.
Remember the Christmas 2020 meme about announcing what you want and waiting for pop-up ads to appear? It rings true, as the modern shopper has now come to expect and even rely upon a certain level of artificial intelligent assistance when browsing for goods and services.
In turn, today’s leading brands—most notably in the online retail space—are exploring various trends in hyper-personalization, or the use of data to provide more targeted products, services, and content to consumers.
- Omnichannel bots
One area of opportunity for hyper-personalization experiences is through the use of bots across multiple channels. For example, it was once necessary to speak to a live agent to report that a package wasn’t delivered. Today, multiple “conversationless” options exist via text, messaging apps, and website forms to report the same issue. The customer is happy to complete a simple task via the channel of choice without involving a person, while companies leverage cost-saving bots to comprehend that type of information and to automatically put into place a request for redelivery.
- Bots, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, especially in email
“Email offers were segmented before,” explains Venu Gooty, HGS Digital’s Vice President of Digital Strategy and Transformation. “They were based on the characteristics of a person, such as those in a particular age group or zip code.”
But now they’re significantly personalized from individual to individual—and the kind of products displayed are almost entirely based on a person’s product browsing history, past purchases, and other characteristics they might have shared.
“You can personalize their experience to offer different products that are related to the type of shoes or clothes they’ve bought before,” Gooty says. So if you’ve just purchased a pair of a particular pair of snow boots, for example, you might see an ad for a ski jacket soon. And if you happen to live in a warm climate, you might even see an ad for a suitcase—because it’s clear that you’ll need to travel to a more wintry location to enjoy your new snow boots.
- Beacon technology and the Internet of Things (IoT)
Let’s say you’re standing in the toy aisle at your local department store, reading the packaging of a new board game. You decide not to purchase it and move on. Moments later you open a social media app on your smartphone and notice a digital coupon for that very game. This isn’t coincidence; it’s by design. Many retail stores supply their beacon-powered smart shelves with a radio frequency identification reader (RFID), which connects to an app through Bluetooth technology.
Beacons are used heavily in other types of advertising as well. Think of the big, outdoor billboards or the sides of bus stop shelters: using beacon technologies, what was once considered a staid form of advertising can become highly targeted, hyper-local, hyper-personalized messaging to and for consumers. Beacons are also effective in creating re-targeting opportunities, so that someone who has visited a website before is served an ad for that same website when they pass the billboard. Not only does this eliminate the fatigue-factor of seeing the same ads, but it also serves consumers content that is more relevant to them.
Similarly, beacon technology is used within event venues, theme parks, and other captive locations to personalize experiences as the crowd moves from one location to another. Users can monitor wait times at popular rides, receive notifications when a show is about to begin, and follow the most efficient walking routes between attractions.
- Visual search
Sometimes a customer is interested in a specific product but doesn’t know the name of the product or its manufacturer. Visual search, or the dragging-and-dropping of an image directly into a search engine, makes finding that product much easier.
Another option is to save an image to reference later. By the time that person visits the image’s source, an AI-engine has already identified it, directing the customer to a site where the product—be it a car, clothing, or a coffee mug—is available for purchase.
Visual search also has expanded applications around artificial reality (AR) functionality. Through interactive fitment offerings from newer furniture companies, you can upload a photo of your living room and then digitally move a potential new couch around to see how it would look in the space. The possibilities are endless from there; hyper-personalized recommendations can be delivered around matching pieces, accessories, discounts, and even pickup or delivery options tailored to your location.
- Customer data platforms
Perhaps today’s most valuable marketing tool for nearly any company is a robust customer data platform (CDP). After a CDP collects information about a customer from multiple sources including social media interactions, web activities, and mobile apps, the data is cleaned and transformed for use in cross-channel actions. This results in personalized marketing campaigns, often in real time. Read more about how CDPs work here.
Remember, collecting data is only as valuable as how you can use it to better serve your customer, so be sure to focus on how to make a customer’s life easier in a myriad of ways, not just when they’re shopping.
Although widely used in the retail space, brands across all industries are adopting hyper-personalization techniques to help them learn more about their customers, users, and members. With a smart strategy in place, your business will be able to more quickly provide extremely customized, highly valuable customer experiences that will build both brand recognition and brand loyalty over time.