It isn’t easy to make an online experience empathetic — it requires all kinds of connections to deliver an exceptional and personalized connected experience. Forrester released a survey recently that says companies that create these connections across channels report dramatic benefits around revenue growth, innovation, cost reduction, customer experience and digital transformation.
There are five key capabilities organizations need to overcome these obstacles and create seamless and personalized experiences for their shoppers, customer service agents, and knowledge workers. When these five capabilities are humming along in concert, customers feel recognized and delighted at every turn, and employees feel empowered to make data-backed decisions to optimize the experience.
1. Personalize in real time.
Real-time personalization removes friction, increases expediency, and adds value to the digital experience. Understanding the context of a shopper's visit, or what their goal is, is the foundation of personalization. Brands have to collect signals at every touchpoint and deliver them to artificial intelligence-powered personalization models, merchandisers, customer service agents, and employees so they can optimize the experience.
We need to pass data quickly from one channel to the next to make sure that employees are informed and customers feel known. This will generate stronger loyalty, accelerate the path to purchase, and deflect calls to your contact center. A leading retailer that deployed signals-based personalization created a $10 million annual increase in revenue. Wondering how that works? Keep reading.
2. Harness user signals.
Signals tell us a lot about a user — e.g., where they are coming from, what their stage in the journey is, what color they prefer, what line of business they’re in, etc. From these signals, retailers can predict the intent of their visit, the intent of the words in their query, and how to best present products and content to them that will deliver a conversion.
This strategy can reduce the amount of clicks, searches and frustration points it takes for shoppers to find what they’re looking for and what they didn’t know they needed. The ability to harness first-party data and in-session signals are the keys to delivering a great experience. Brands must create the connective tissue between all of the actions a shopper takes to understand their goal and deliver the most relevant experience from research to purchase to support, and back.
3. Deliver across all channels.
According to Forrester, while many firms are prioritizing this cross-channel personalization, less than half of respondents (44 percent) strongly agree that they provide personalized experiences across channels. Only 33 percent say those experiences are relevant and connected. Brands that deliver omnichannel personalization have a major competitive advantage.
Remember that shoppers don't care to be "omnichannel." They're all channels all the time. If you buy something in one channel and return it to another and then use customer service to ask questions about a product you saw online, all those signals should be shared and used to tailor the experience based on the shopper's behavior and most recent interests. You need to meet the shopper where they want to be met and act like you’re the same company that just interacted with them.
4. Understand intent.
Understanding a user's intent is the most difficult yet most valuable method of personalization. The Forrester study shows an overwhelming 97 percent of respondents have challenges understanding customer intent. Understanding intent allows businesses to proactively surface what consumers are truly seeking, not simply returning results typed into a search box.
A recent survey from Lucidworks shows that one of the top three reasons shoppers are loyal to a brand is great product recommendations that understand who they are and what they like. Shoppers come to a website with a variety of intentions. Standard profile information or third-party data from an ad tech tool cannot decipher your customer's unique need in the moment. This brings us to our last key capability, machine learning.
5. Deploy machine learning.
All of the key capabilities above rely on robust machine learning. Machine learning is a powerful method to understand customers in a faster and smarter way. It allows for the ability to constantly adapt and provide the best possible unique connected experience. For example, one Lucidworks customer, a major home goods retailer, deployed Lucidworks' out-of-the-box ML to improve the shopper experience, resulting in $200 million in organic annual growth.
There are also opportunities to use technologies like semantic vector search to connect shopper goals and the digital experience. Semantic vector search uses deep learning to associate products with queries in a shared semantic vector space — sort of like the way groceries are organized across the store. The semantic vector search model continues to learn over time as product assortments and shopper behavior change. One of the top five retailers deployed semantic vector search and decreased null search results by a whopping 91 percent compared to the previous year — which translates into hundreds of millions in sales for the company.
You must have all five capabilities working in concert, using the full intelligence of all past interactions, before you can reap the sweet rewards of connected experiences. If you’re feeling like this is a lot to absorb, you’re not wrong! Creating connected experiences requires advanced technology, cross-team collaboration, and a completely new approach to the digital experience.
Here are two resources to help you along your journey: Connected Experiences Are Personalized Experiences from Forrester, and a recent Lucidworks survey, U.S. and U.K. Consumers Say That They Want Connected Experiences to Meet Their Needs at Every Moment.
Garrett Schwegler is the program manager for GTM & Solutions at Lucidworks, a company shaping the future of digital experiences, AI, and machine learning by offering the Connect Cloud Experience (CXC).
Related story: The 4 Pillars of Omnichannel Success