Imagine going into a grocery store that has everything you need, but absolutely no shopping carts. Brendan Witcher, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester started off his keynote today explaining that he has posed this situation to more than 50,000 people and almost everyone he’s asked has expressed this experience would make them want to walk away -- even knowing that the store has everything. How many things did this grocery store mess up on? Only one and 50,000 people would walk. Why? Because, as customers, they know they have a choice. That is the mindset of the consumer today.

Witcher’s keynote kicked off the commerce track today at Sitecore Symposium 2019 describing how Mastering CX requires a trifecta of success with commerce, content, and customer data. He explained, consumers today know that they can get products and services anywhere. It is all about the customer experience and “does it work for me?” So, what does that say about the value of that shopping cart experience described above or getting an online shopping experience right? It is everything.

Why consumers are selecting the brands that they do

“Each time a consumer is exposed to an improved digital experience, their expectations for all digital experiences are reset to a new higher level,” Witcher said.

If a consumer has an unpleasant experience, it is compared to the last and best experience that consumer had, Witcher explained. To consumers, there is no such thing as verticals. Consumers expect good experiences. Consumers hyper adapt and hyper abandon on the next best experience for them—giving examples of Facebook vs MySpace and Netflix vs Blockbuster.

The reason consumers are picking the brands they are picking is because these brands and companies are supplying experiences that are getting it right with their customers. They understand that every customer’s needs are different, every customer shops differently, and every customer will engage differently based on their buying behavior.

“What makes us, us is very different,” Witcher said.

Personalization matters, he explained. Brands are no longer chasing their competitors, brands are chasing their customer expectations. And there is no silver bullet to personalization.

“Consumers are individuals,” Witcher said. “They have individual needs, and they have different satisfaction triggers.”

Why there is misalignment with brands and consumers

Personalization is being prioritized in companies because of this stat: 77% of customers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience, said Witcher. However, Witcher also shared: 89% of companies are saying “we are investing in personalizing the customer experience,” while 40% of customers say “information I get from brands is relevant to my tastes.”

Is it personalization if you get it wrong? No, answered Witcher. “Getting it right matters,” he said.

What is personalization? “It is creating relevant, value added experiences,” Witcher said. Both relevancy and value have to be in place. It is about multiple parts of the customer journey being personalized.

Personalization solely based on segmentation provides the wrong experience for most of your customers. Rarely will we find customers that engaged in the exact same way, Witcher said.

Also, using a single data point to create customer experience is another area where companies are struggling, he said. The statistical significance of a single data point is zero, Witcher said. “Statistically speaking, you know nothing about your customer,” he said.

And low-hanging fruit does not check the box. The example Witcher showed was birthday recognition on a website. Not only is that wasting the customer's time, but also the time it took to create that experience internally, he said. Customers don’t go to your website to see their birthday or face, he advised.

“There is an opportunity cost when you work on low-value experiences instead of really working on what will matter [to you customer].”

Most companies don’t understand what it means to be customer-centric, Witcher said. They confuse company obsession with customer obsession—using examples of abandoned cart reminders. The company wants the customer to complete the purchase, but that’s not what the customer may want. He shared that 90% of companies say they are customer obsessed, but according to Forrester research, only 9% is actually customer obsessed.

What are brands doing today?

“[Brands] are moving toward this next evolution of personalization to rely on pillars of individualization,” Witcher said. He added, businesses that are leading today are data-led.

“Great customer experiences need to be fed by the ability to effectively and efficiently operationalize data,” Witcher said.

Here is a true rule, he said: “You can only truly provide personalized customer experiences for customers you can identify. If you don’t know it’s me, you can’t personalization for me.”

The priority is to get customers to self-identify, he added.

“You have to say your value upfront,” he said.

Creating the CX trifecta: Commerce, data, and content

Witcher shared you need four things to get to individualization:

  1. Build your customer relationships by being data driven. Once you know how your customer prefers to shop, talk to them about the things you know they like and don’t like. Witcher compared this to a first date and importance of listening: “You are in a relationship with your customers, treat it like a first date. Have the goal of listening,” he said.

  2. Deliver experiences in real-time addressing customer intent. Why are they here today? Personalize in real-time. “It shows customers you’re listening, and it will build trust,” he said.

  3. Design content strategy to align with experiences a customer will value. Understand what the customer needs to see. Never sacrifices CX for UX best practices.

  4. Connect experiences for richer, more relevant engagements. Break down the technology that you’re using. “Experiences with customers don’t need to be consistent, they need to be continuous,” he said.

Your goal is to build a road map on how to get to individualization at individual touch points across your organization, he said. Look at where your customer journey will be 3 years from now, and start working towards that goal.

The key is showing you will provide value, if the customer provides their information, or data.

And the golden rule of personalization: Be overt when collecting data, be covert about delivering personalization, he shared. Be open about what value you’ll provide by your customer providing their data. But, when providing personalization, just deliver that great experience.

Hansen Lieu is the Product Marketing Director for Commerce at Sitecore. With over 10 years of experience helping organizations gain competitive advantage with digital commerce and CRM technologies, Hansen is responsible for positioning, messaging, thought leadership, and go-to-market strategy. Follow him on Twitter @HansenTweets or on LinkedIn.