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Marketer Spotlight: Personalizing the User Experience with Gaurav Chhaparwal

Editor’s Note: Marketer Spotlight is a series of blog interviews focused on sharing insights and best practices from marketing leaders. In our recent #GROWTH19 conference, Gaurav Chhaparwal, Analytics Leader and Advisor at MoEngage shared his ideas on the factors that marketers must consider while personalizing the user experience. We’ve covered that insightful conversation in this edition of the Marketer Spotlight blog. Read on…

MoEngage: You have set up the analytics practice for high growth companies such as Snapdeal, Souq, and more. What is your take on personalization?

Gaurav: Personalization has become a common term in the digital age. However, when I think about personalization, it is not a new concept. My first memory of personalization comes from the neighborhood Kirana shops or what we call the mom and pop stores. The shopkeeper knew you and what you usually brought. It is interesting how digital retail has moved on from not being personalized to personalized while the offline retail shops became ‘hypermarkets’ and lost their personalized touch. From the spray and pray format where a marketer would send one email out irrespective of the stage of the buyer’s journey one is in, we have come a long way.

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Today, personalization goes beyond segmentation where you not only identify an individual as per their broad attributes but also recognize and communicate with them on an individual level – this is 1:1 marketing or personalization.

How useful or relevant is personalization in marketing?

Humans are competing with goldfish when it comes to attention span. If you do not communicate in a relevant manner, you lose your audience. We need to understand that mass marketing is now dead. We cannot send the same generic push notification, the same email, or show the same website to everyone. A reputed consulting company did a survey and found that 74% of online customers get frustrated when they see content that has nothing to do with their interest. Also, 94% of companies agree that personalization is critical to current and future success. If personalization is so important, everyone should know how to do it. However, the truth is that 72% of the companies don’t know how to implement website personalization.

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We know that personalization begins with data. What data should marketers capture?

The very first set of data-points that marketers could capture easily are behavioral data points to understand the user interests and browsing behavior on the website. Once a user seems engaged, you can prompt to ask for non-PII information such as income groups, industry, etc. to understand more about the user. Most CRM systems can enable this for you. The more important data points are the transactional data points. It shows that the customer has interacted and transacted with you, and have demonstrated their interest by paying. This could be the category of the product, the value, the frequency, duration of subscription if it’s a subscription service, etc.

One aspect that most marketers overlook is the behavior of the user who leaves their digital footprint on your website. The conversion rates that we typically know are in single digits. So, out of 100 people that come to your website, how many eventually buy? Somewhere between say 2 to 8% for most websites. Are you willing to let go of the people who visited your website but did not buy? Their behavioral patterns such as which pages they browsed, what products were they viewing, up to which depth of your conversion funnel did they go to, are data that marketers must delve into to understand the user’s behavior on your app or website.

Marketers tend to think that a customer who has bought multiple times is a high-value customer. Maybe she is a high-value customer, but you must also think about those customers who did not like what you had on your website.

All of us carry a mobile phone which gives us access to location, which was not possible with a desktop. Offline stores can use this to identify if the customer is within a particular vicinity and send out relevant promotions.

Watch this video to understand how personalization can help you build long-lasting customer relationships.

While we talk about data points, the next question is obvious. Which technology and tools should marketers use to gather data?

There are so many tools available in the marketing-tech landscape that it is imperative to pick the right ones. I think the right people are far more critical than the right tools and methods because the latter follow people in a way. It is essential to think about who is going to drive this journey of personalization for you and your organization. When should we communicate? Whenever a customer interacts with you, every user action has to be personalized. You must communicate at various touch points such as when they download the app or move across different touchpoints. The digital journey is not a very linear journey across channels. A customer can visit your site first and then see an ad or read a blog about it. You have to make sure that your communication is personalized for every kind of journey. You must also communicate as the user’s engagement or loyalty level evolves over time.

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Let me give you an example of how you can personalize the communication when someone downloads the app for the first time. The first-time user doesn’t know how to use the app, so you can personalize the content saying ‘Thank you for downloading the app. Here’s a free membership card.’ This will help you to pull them into a retention and loyalty cycle. You must also personalize communication when the user exits. The best churn prediction algorithm is to ASK! We do not value the voice of customers enough. We analysts are often guilty of it because we think we have behavioral data. However, if you don’t let people tell you about their experiences, they may go to social media to share their experience. If you give them a chance to share and resolve those concerns, you can prevent a social media debacle of your brand and also know what you can do improve the experience. This feedback is valuable. You can even co-create products this way like Lays did when they asked users to create flavors and vote for the best ones.

Who according to you should own personalization? The marketing team or the IT team?

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I would say the Marketing Technologist. We need ambidextrous people who understand both marketing and technology deeply. If you give this job to either a marketer or a technologist, you either get a solution that is fancy at the surface, but has terrible plumbing, or you will end up getting a great IT solution which fails to understand the customer. An ideal structure would be to create cross-functional teams of IT and marketing with a marketing technologist leading both of them. That’s how you will, most likely, be able to get great results.

We have discussed how personalization can help in digital platforms. Can you personalize offline?

People have started experimenting with offline personalization. Beacons have started entering big retail stores. Airport WiFi, for example, is being used to implement personalization. There are small ways to do NFC personalization as well. I know of a company where if the user uses the store’s WiFi, the company understands which aisles the user has gone through, etc. This data is then used to send targeted promotions to the user. It is still in the nascent stage and will take time to perfect.

Thank you, Gaurav for sharing actionable advice on explaining the importance of personalization to us. Personalization is the key to successful marketing campaigns.

Marketers – If there are any questions you’d like to ask Gaurav, feel free to share them via the comments section below. We’ll reach out to Gaurav to understand his thoughts and answers for you.