2014 was undoubtedly the year that personalisation became mainstream. Organisations began to take full advantage of the ability to target their users with more relevant offerings and those users began to accept and even expect personalised and meaningful interactions with brands. Moving into 2015 however, digital marketers need to ensure that they are taking this interaction one step further to truly transform the customer experience. This will be the year of contextualisation.

Marketers want to be able to deliver the right experience, at the right time, to each user, regardless of device. Actually delivering these digital experiences has become more complicated as customers interact with companies across a variety of touch points (web, mobile, social, commerce, in-person). Pulling together this fragmented world of customer interaction and utilising the data created by each individual in a smarter way to deliver tailored and customer-centric experiences, requires a deep understanding of a customer’s context.

To create contextual experiences for each individual, the assumption is that they need to have signed up for a newsletter, purchased a product, filled out a registration form, replied to an e-mail campaign, or responded to some other call-to-action previously to provide you with some personally identifiable information (PII). This is definitely the case for “known” users since you are likely to have some data on their previous purchase history or other basic details of their profile. However, for the vast majority (generally 95-98%) of ‘silent’ customers who have never registered with you and browse your sites anonymously, this is not the case.

‘Silent’ visitors still say a lot with their behaviour, from site search keywords, browsing habits, geographic location, language preferences, referring sites, to the type of device they are using. These visitors are leaving a picture of themselves ready to be pieced together. Assembling this data into a unified profile for each individual visitor provides an integrated view of your customer and makes the job of creating and providing the most compelling content for each user much easier and faster.

The latest digital engagement tools make contextualisation possible by combining real-time segmentation and personalisation technology with situational, behavioural and historical targeting data to help answer the following questions: Who is the customer? What are their past browsing habits? Via which channels have they interacted with you? And how? Where are they located? What are they doing now? What situation has led them to be on your site? Sharing and capturing this data across all existing data sources (e.g., CRM, marketing automation, e-mail marketing systems, etc.) and touch points (e.g., web, email, social, call centre, online store, offline database, etc.) helps to create a progressive, rich visitor profile that can be used for greatly improved targeting. Many organisations have a wealth of ‘big’ data available to them but this data is often held in separate silos that makes it difficult to leverage. It makes the goal of creating a single view of the customer that much harder. Companies need to ensure they are adopting an omni-channel approach that enables them to unlock and integrate all their data across any channel and use it in smarter ways.

Taking an omni-channel view of the customer and utilising both implicit and explicit user information enables more dynamic and predictive user experiences. Contextualisation allows us to identify anonymous users and understand what they are doing and what they want prior to them ever becoming a customer. With this information at their fingertips marketers can much more easily manage the offers they show to each individual and learn what will resonate with each individual - whatever stage of the journey they are at.

This may seem like a logical process, but many brands are still falling far short of the target of creating contextual digital experiences. This is because they are failing to harness the customer data correctly to know what the user wants and needs at any given moment. Forrester Research has cited that only 41% of customer experience professionals use customer research when designing their customer experience projects. By not taking a single view of the customer based on the data available, these brands are sending the message that they don’t care enough about the individual customer.

Conversely, those organisations that are already embracing contextualisation are able to give each customer a much more personalised and relevant experience. Great examples of contextualisation can be found in many sectors: The financial services company that uses its ATMs to deliver personalised messages and offers to its customers based on their current life events, such as a new baby, buying a new car, or purchasing a new home. Or the pharmaceutical company that customises the web experience for each user based on which email campaign they have responded to. It is this type of contextual engagement which can trigger the emotional responses that lead to brand engagement and loyalty.

In an increasingly competitive world, contextualisation can give marketers the key to unlocking great, engaging experiences for every potential and existing customer.


By Maria McCann, Field Marketing Manager at Acquia.

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