Are businesses turning back to traditional values?

Columnists | Technology

Greg Le Tocq is the co-founder of Cloud Savings Company – which owns Vouchercloud. Groupon recently bought the business for $65m. 

“The customer is always right” – it’s a famous phrase uttered by Harry Gordon Selfridge, creator of the eponymous high-street staple. This epitaph to Mr Selfridge, however, is often taken far too literally.

Instead of a business being at the beck and call of any customer with no room for disagreement, instead it refers to demand. If a customer desires a product, method of shopping or particular experience, it is the prerogative of a retailer to meet that desire.

The most recent demand is personalisation. Customers, above all else, want to have the most relevant communications, deals and experiences as possible.

Rise of faux-personalisation 

Let’s take a look at one of the most profitable brands in the world – Apple.

Regardless of your thoughts on the company itself, how it brands and promotes products is excellent. Look back at their iPod campaign – the black silhouettes dancing against a coloured background with white earphone wires.

It’s a campaign that lets the customer look at it – identify with it – and picture themselves as the dancer.

This advertisement was made during a period where unpersonalised was en vogue. Moreover, as an advertisement heavily reliant on television, it added an element of faux-personalisation to a remarkably impersonal platform.

With the advent of mass marketing, there was a massive potential audience ready and waiting to be engaged with.

The irony, however, is that while technology progressed to the point where businesses could target audiences in this method, they did not have the capacity to do it well.

Thus, the ‘almost personalised’ advertisement, spearheaded by Apple, acted as the metaphorical cherry on the cake. By targeting no-one, they targeted everyone.

This is, of course, a high-end example to highlight a low-end issue. With enough budget, and the backing of a strong creative team, faux-personalisation can and does work. The issue comes when businesses target the lowest common denominator. The dreaded scattergun approach.

Engagement, motivation and outcomes

Some interesting research was released recently. It found that just 8% of consumers are more likely to engage with a brand because they use their first name in an email.

Just 7% would do the same for a birthday-themed communication. It would seem that customers, in an increasingly digital age, are simply less impressed by a company showing off how many data points it holds on a person.

Despite this, 50% of consumers ranked themselves as “likely to engage with a brand when they receive an interesting offer”.

GDPR went a long way to motivate companies in their move away from irrelevant communications. The threat of a fine is a remarkably effective way of getting companies to purge their databases of unengaged or unresponsive contacts in the first instance.

The requirements to keep that data up to date and relevant, of course, acts as a secondary boost.

Traditional values bolstered by modern solutions

With the amount of data that companies hold today, we’re at the precipice of something amazing. Just as in the age of our great great grandparents, the local butcher would know the order of each family.

We now have the opportunity to do something similar – bringing hyper-personalisation to a global audience.

Ultimately, it’s a question of customer experience; a clarion call disregarding mass spamming of products to disinterested recipients.

Personal touch 

Today, consumers want the personal touch; the interaction with the human at the end of the telephone. They want to see products that directly interest them, not a list of possibilities. The challenge is maintaining personalisation while avoiding the pitfalls of companies that have used this data for unethical purposes beyond the intended purpose.

Whatever industry you’re in, the effectiveness of impersonal communications is dramatically declining as more and more people become fatigued with low-effort sales techniques.

In deciding what they want, the customer is always right. It’s our duty to deliver.

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