LLMs may promise to transform customer service and CRM, but when it comes to what personalisation looks like, “customers expect brands to be ethical, sympathetic, and helpful,” according to Claire Jefferies, former head of loyalty, CRM and retention at brands including Verisure, SSE and EE.
“This only becomes more crucial for brands to remember as AI grows more prevalent,” adds Jefferies.
We caught up with the marketing consultant to discuss loyalty, personalised messaging and the IT investment needed to make it happen. Here’s what she had to say…
Econsultancy: When were you last surprised or delighted by either a loyalty experience or personalised comms?
Claire Jefferies: “I was recently on a BA flight, when during boarding, a steward went up to a nearby passenger, greeted him by name, said ‘congratulations on achieving Gold executive club status, we’d like to offer you a celebratory drink on us after take off’ – I thought this was such a great personalised experience – using data to identify the right customer at the right moment, with the right message in the right channel.
A well-known beauty brand has sent me 29 emails in 29 days – I haven’t opened a single one.
“My big frustration is when brands make zero effort in personalisation beyond name.
“A well-known beauty brand has sent me 29 emails in 29 days – I haven’t opened a single one. It’s wallpaper. There might be an email in there that I would be interested in, but there are so many of them, I just ignore them all. This brand know what I’ve bought from them, and when I bought from them, but are not using any of that information – it’s pure product push.
“As marketers, it’s really easy for us to blame imperfect data and imperfect systems – but basic personalisation, contact strategies and a simple segmentation are really easy ways to get started. No brands today should be using spray and pray tactics.”
E: There are so many ins and outs of when and how to personalise messaging. What do you think are the expectations of the customer in this regard?
Jefferies: “Customers expect brands to be ethical, sympathetic, and helpful. This only becomes more crucial for brands to remember as AI grows more prevalent.
“Strong commercial results will be the outcome of personalisation but must not be the driver for the personalisation. The best personalisation is a win/win – great for the customer, great for the business.
“Put the customer need at the centre: who is my customer? What do I know about them? How do I serve them better? This answer won’t always be ‘I’ll sell them something else’.
Strong commercial results will be the outcome… but must not be the driver for the personalisation.
“In the previous example of the beauty brand, they could perhaps have emailed once 2 weeks after purchase to check in, with additional recommendations of products relevant to me, trigger time-based comms when my products might be getting low, and perhaps an occasional generic product email with new launches, testimonials etc – minimal communication, maximum potential for a conversion.
“Use your broadcast channels for broadcast, use your 1:1 channels for conversation.”
E: How has the consumer’s understanding of privacy changed? With everybody chasing first-party data, are marketers forgetting to offer a value exchange?
Jefferies: “That’s spot on – the value exchange is such an important element in marketing, and yet it seems to be something we rarely talk about. As consumers, I think we’re all willing to sacrifice some privacy in order to be better served – provided we trust the brand – I don’t think we’re prepared to be screamed at over and over again because a brand has got hold of our email, phone or digital footprint.
“Too many of the marketing messages that I receive are product push – they lack relevance, they don’t reflect my needs as a customer, and most important of all – they don’t make me buy your product.
“First party data is a privilege, not a right. It has a financial value to your business so respect that value and use it wisely.
First party data is a privilege, not a right.
“Let’s make 2024 the year that we kill off spray and pray. Email marketing is a really easy place to start: look at your open rates. If a customer hasn’t opened more than 1 email from you in the last 10, pause your comms. Check your unsubscribe rates – they cost you real money, because your substitute communication channels are far more expensive. Why are you sending the email? Is it to please your product department or the customer?”
E: It’s been a big year for CRM platforms, with lots of new features in beta on the back of generative AI progress. Has anything stood out to you as a game-changer for marketers?
Jefferies: “I’ve always worked in consumer services businesses, where we have a recurring revenue model. I think in these industries, we’ve naturally had to get better at serving customers for the long term. As a long time proponent of 1:1 personalisation and real time automation, I’m really excited about the possibilities this unlocks for product businesses who are looking to move from transaction to building valuable long term relationships. I think there’s huge upside here for the FMCG, fashion, beauty and luxury businesses that really embrace this and get it right.
I’m really excited about the possibilities [AI] unlocks for product businesses who are looking to move from transaction to building valuable long term relationships.
“Used correctly and ethically, AI can help to predict shopper behaviour, create true personalisation across multiple comms channels in real time and really help to build long term, valuable relationships. Automation changes the role of marketers – instead of creating individual campaigns, we create communication strategies, assets and copy and let AI build and execute the always-on campaign.
“The challenge in the past has always been the perception that this kind of work needs huge IT investment – generative AI really unlocks this capability for businesses of all sizes.”
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