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Mass personalisation must put the customer first

By DEE CHETTY, Accenture Interactive Lead for Africa, who spoke at SAPHILA 2019

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As we move to the digital world, which offers an explosive number of options, many companies have lost the personalisation that customers appreciate in their off-line world; personalisation where a merchant recognises them by name, remembers their preferences, and uses that understanding to help them make decisions. Personalisation succeeds when companies make it easier for customers to engage, buy, and consume what they want versus the outdated concept of trying to predict the right product, place, and time. The former offers actively listening and serving similar to the benefits of having a personal shopper, as opposed to the old school salesperson approach of simply pushing products on customers.

To get to this level of customer understanding and service, companies must move beyond simply knowing what customers purchase or consume and begin to understand why they made those choices. Are they a brand fanatic? Do they prefer certain colours, styles, or features? Do they have unique needs for allergies or accessibility? How would customers prefer to be engaged and serviced?

Companies need to build a living profile of the customer’s unique preferences, passions, and needs, and lay the foundation for a future where personalisationplatforms can architect previously unimagined experiences.

Customers vote with their choices when they make a purchase. This is often based on a variety of aspects, such as features, ratings and reviews, and brand name, among others. The various product attributes that customers have access to make up the product’s DNA. The collection of these product attributes across the full set of merchandise can provide an extensive and descriptive data library to uncover why people chose what they chose. As an example, the DNA of a retail customer is comprised of ratings and reviews, colour and size options, style, fabric and brand characteristics.

In fact, all interactions – such as mobile app usage, email responses, social interactions, poll submissions, in-person events attended, etc. – are comprised of descriptive attributes that shed light on each customer’s unique preferences, motivations and passions. Combining attributes across all interactions creates thecustomer personalisation opportunity, which is a living profile of the most unique aspects of each individual as they evolve in real time. For example, as a customerdecides to purchase new clothing her living profile may reveal preferences for a casual fit, enjoys doing yoga, scoop neck shirts with motivational sayings, that are machine washable and also goes well with jeans. Creating the right treatment plan for each customer as they engage across every touchpoint is now more critical than ever when creating remarkable experiences.

As one would expect, the development of a customer personalisation results in an explosion of rich and unprecedented information. This dramatic increase of knowledge requires more advanced methods, such as artificial intelligence, to determine the most relevant aspects of the customer personalisation to drive personalised recommendations, content, messaging, offers, and other subsequent interactions. There are many tools currently available that use techniques such as artificial intelligence, but most are failing to reach their potential due to a lack of the rich and comprehensive data needed for their algorithms.

The marrying of the personalisation and artificial intelligence should help companies achieve the expected return on investment that many have been promised or are currently evaluating. The impact of the customer personalisation spreads far beyond personalisation. It may be a subtle shift in the data that is captured by companies, but it represents a foundational shift in how companies interact with customers and compete in the market.

Netflix has successfully moved from being a content distributor to a content creator, even though ‘House of Cards’ was initially seen as a big financial bet. Thesuccess of this transformation was in large part due to its reliance on data and analytics, which has paid off enormously. Although Netflix does not rely on thecustomer personalisation as described here, it demonstrates the power that intellectual property built from customer preferences can provide to drive effective business decision making. This is a company that is listening intently to its customers and is now armed with the precise and accessible data it needs to pivot in new directions quickly.

Certainly, data is the critical fuel to all personalisation platforms. But, not all data is equally important. Uncovering why people chose versus what they chose builds an understanding of customer preferences, motivations, and passions, which provides breakthrough and proprietary IP to help drive decision making across theorganisation.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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