It’s pretty clear who now controls the relationship between brand and consumer. Empowered by technology and emboldened by a fickle and fast-moving digital culture, consumers have taken charge in an on-demand world.

As a result, consumer expectations of brands have gone through the roof. They demand brilliant, relevant, and hyper-personalized experiences – on the channels that suit them, and at the times that suit them. These expectations aren’t confined by service or sector either: what people get from Netflix, Google, and Uber, they now expect of their bank, airline, and utilities provider, too.

Brands have had to respond. Gone are the days of linear customer journeys and one-size-fits-all marketing campaigns. Today customer experience (CX) is king – and consumer-facing companies must create brilliant experiences for their customers, no matter the time, place, or platform. So rapid is the pace of change that Walker has forecast CX to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

McKinsey data shows that personalization can deliver   up to   5 to 8 times   the ROI on marketing spend, and   lift sales by 10%

Personalization, then, has evolved out of necessity – to keep pace with rapidly growing and changing customer expectations. But it also presents a mammoth opportunity for business. Personal, relevant, and valuable experiences for customers in turn lead to improved engagement, lower acquisition costs, and accelerated conversion for businesses. The commercial case couldn’t be more clear – with McKinsey data showing that personalization can deliver up to five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and lift sales by 10% or more.

As you would expect, any big consumer brand worth its salt has set out on mission to make personalization and customer experience work for its business. But many are still struggling to translate this ambition into action.

The challenge is that personalization isn’t something that can just be ‘turned on’. Many organizations have tried – and failed – with off-the-shelf tech that promised to plug-in and just make omnichannel personalization happen. But after rounds of investment they’ve been left disappointed. Customer engagement still locked in channels. No real-time. Marginal uplift of customer experience and bottom-line results. The end goal is clear, but while buzzwords such as real-time, omnichannel and 1:1 have hit the mainstream, true personalization still feels a way off.

Understanding the brain behind personalized marketing


A big part of the solution lies in something that, to date, has avoided much of the hype: decisioning. Decisioning is a technique that blends data, rules, and predictive analytics to make smart decisions about what to talk to customers about, on what channel, at any given time. Put simply: it’s the brain that lets personalization deliver on all the promise.

While tech plays an integral role, decisioning isn’t just a digital brain. It’s about human and organizational ingenuity, too. It requires a blend of people, business, and technology, and represents a holistic change to the way a company operates. It’s about becoming more agile, more responsive, more future-proof – traits that will all drive broad, holistic benefits right across the business, on top of enabling personalization.

To get it right isn’t easy. Decisioning is a multidimensional process that takes vision, collaboration and persistence – and it will work differently for every organization. To make effective and measurable progress, there are six important steps every business needs to consider.

  1. Think big, start small
    Personalization strategies often face a lot of obstacles internally, especially in organizations with established legacy systems and ways-of-working. Starting with just one or two early use cases, aligned to existing strategic objectives, can help prove the value, win over critical stakeholders, and get the wheels turning.  
  2. Embrace “decision first”
    This has to be a coordinated, business-wide effort. Effective decisioning starts with embracing the bigger picture: a crystal clear understanding of your CX objectives and the customers you want to target. Rid yourself of received wisdom, traditional approaches and standardized customer offers.
  3.  Structure your business for CX
    Traditional business structures aren’t built for a customer-focused world and, in many cases, actually prevent the kind of joined-up, collaborative thinking needed to help decisioning achieve its potential. Build your organization around CX – not the other way round.
  4. Treat decisioning as a system of operations
    You’ll need teams, structures and processes to monitor results, measure outcomes against a set of clearly defined KPIs, and commit to refinement on a continuous cycle.
  5.  Get the right skills onboard
    Decisioning requires a range of people with an emerging set of skills. Build teams that are forward-looking and future-ready, willing and capable to evolve with a rapidly shifting tech landscape.
  6.  Get the right tools
    Technology is the canvas on which decisioning plays out. You need the right tools to do a complex job, for a large range of internal stakeholders. That starts with a decisioning engine that allows collaboration between all teams, that is designed to flex and evolve with your business now and in the future.

As we move forward in this ‘age of the consumer’, decisioning can play a critical role in helping organizations meet – and exceed – expectations by unlocking personalization and driving market-leading CX. But it’s clear the benefits don’t stop there. Companies can turn decisioning to their advantage, reinvigorating the entire organization with a more agile and – ultimately – more profitable way of doing business. Seen in this light, the prize is simply too big to ignore.