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Personalised marketing: is the Holy Grail within reach?

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Wanting to market to individuals has long been the dream of marketers. Mobile brought that a step closer. Now, thanks to that and technology advances the Holy Grail is within our grasp. Adhish Kulkarni explores how close we are and what benefits it will offer telemedia

 To point out that personalisation has long been the Holy Grail of marketing is to say nothing new. Long before digitisation was a twinkle in the most optimistic technologists’ eye, the quest to personalise marketing communications, albeit at a cost in those days, had been identified as a key route to commercial success.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that with the digital era now upon us, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) in particular want to tap the advantages afforded by personalised offers and experiences for their customers more urgently than ever before. The trouble is, in attempting to do so they’re consistently coming up short.

Why? There’s no shortage of the data needed to fuel individualised offers. Plenty of that can be sourced via loyalty programmes, in-store behaviour, apps, websites and other sources. Whenever and wherever there’s a customer interaction – be it checking the latest data bundle or Spotify offer, looking for the newest devices, reviewing time left in ae contract or double-checking the last six month’s bill, CSP’s subscribers are providing priceless information to their operators. It’s this information, when harnessed, that can effectively inform what happens next: The right offers to present, the most attractive price options based on historical behaviour, and even the orchestration of the next customer.

And yet…despite the presence of this treasure trove of the raw material required for effective personalisation, many CSPs still find themselves using only the most basic set of data attributes; time, channel and segmentation variables to drive their communications with and persuade their customers to act. The million-dollar question (and it is, literally, that) is why is this the case?

The evidence suggests that the reason is because creating a unified customer view that informs an effective customer engagement framework, as well as a roadmap for personalised marketing success is, you guessed it, anything but easy. Dynamic commercial conditions require agility allied to efficient processes to drive a quick turnaround for omnichannel campaign activity.

Unfortunately, disparate data sources, unwieldy legacy systems, internal power struggles, siloed organizations and sometimes unclear commercial priorities and KPIs all mitigate against building solutions that drive fast and timely access to the rich customer profiles that inform relevant, desirable, and meaningful value propositions.

If the above situation is the reality many telecoms operators find themselves facing, the good news is that it needn’t be the case. Recent advances in technology have now removed any excuse to operate in this way. AI, Advanced Analytics, Omni-channel engagement platforms, Predictive Targeting, Dynamic Segmentation tools, Digital Next Best Offers and real-time, contextual marketing platforms are available, and they are enabling marketers to take a much more nuanced approach to outreach activity.

This means that surprising, delighting and engaging customers at a level more effectively than ever before, and at a fraction of the cost and time than has traditionally been the reality, is not only possible but is fast becoming table stakes for those who aspire to be market leaders.

Tapping into the new dawn of personalisation solutions is absolutely critical. In a world of endless noise hallmarked by fierce competition and the availability of almost unlimited information, the customer is overwhelmed by choices. CSPs are pushing more content and products than ever before. The abundance of options can not only lead to satisfaction but also to confusion. Counter-intuitively, the breadth of the new industry menu has driven a scarcity of clarity. That can only be resolved by pursuing trust and attention in both directions.

Carriers need to provide it to their customers via the manner in which they communicate with them. In return, customers will give their trust and attention back to brands they feel a human connection with. To do that, CSPs must create unique and personalised propositions that foster a special feeling that reflect the uniqueness of each customer.

Today, expectations have changed: the Holy Grail has changed. Customers want to be treated as individuals by empathetic brands that know them and recognise their tenure and the on-going financial commitment to the relationship. They are actively looking for personalised, value-adding and frictionless experiences that make their lives easier and help reflect their values and priorities. But to do this – to meet and exceed customer needs and expectations – CSPs must make far more effective use the component pieces sourced from their loyalty programmes, retail footprint, archives, call centre logs, transaction and search histories, revenue management and websites despite the fact that all of these are likely stored in different applications designed to support different functions.

The key is the implementation of a unified platform into which all data can be fed and from which that data can then be accessed, managed by multifunctional teams who have shared objectives and incentives, who possess deep customer understanding and who, armed with advanced analytics, financial resources and decision rights, will be in the best position to tailor the offers, price policies, messages, channels and go to market strategies that the customer actually wants; and that he or she is most likely to respond to in order to maximise impact and commercial results.

At Evolving Systems, our years of experience in this area and the expertise we’ve acquired as a result has led to the development of platform technologies that have been able to dramatically increase the commercial performance of our telecoms clients. They have moved from relying on last generation customer engagement platforms and insight led, real-time approaches to true one-to-one marketing campaigns.

One leading European CSP was able to reduce postpaid and prepaid churn within its targeted and participating customer base by 24% and 28% respectively, to achieve a 19% improvement in overall conversion rate and increase its open rates by 60% and digital (app) usage by 100% as a direct result of using our technology.

In another embattled environment, our client has been able to improve the CPS’s commercial performance by leveraging our Digital Next Best Offer algorithm to increase the revenue of targeted customer base by 6%.

It seems obvious to point out that this approach, not to mention results like this, are the future. CSPs must immediately focus their marketing efforts on developing a unified database that combines information from disparate sources then pairs it with advanced analytics capabilities, AI powered decision engines and a variety of Machine Learning Algorithms. Only when this happens will CSPs be able to score, rank-order and select the Best Contextual Offers for each individual customer, in real-time, on multiple channels and across multiple selection strategies.

For those smart enough to invest in better understanding of their customers and deploying such an approach, the future is extremely bright. The delivery of the Holy Grail of a truly personalised customer journey and brand experience is, finally, within reach. But to grasp success will require confronting deep-seated assumptions, old company structures and mind-sets, and the barriers inherent in legacy environments. CSPs should, however, be consoled by the reality that the storm always comes before the calm and the calm, commercially, puts a very bright future within reach.

Author

Adhish Kulkarni is SVP and GM, Digital Engagement & Loyalty Solutions, Evolving Systems

This article first appeared in Issue 56 of Telemedia Magazine – read the full edition on screen below

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