I want to feel special, but don’t make it creepy.

We all like to feel special from time to time and marketers are seizing on this requirement to win us over to their businesses. Pandering to our every whim seems like a simple thing to do to win our business and continued loyalty. There however a few things to consider, starting with knowing who I am but for most of us we like to keep that to ourselves and coupled with the recent disclosures from Facebook, have made us all re think what we are prepared to share.

Marketers are making assumptions on our preferences by building a profile or our spending habits through loyalty cards, spending habits, tracking our progress through their stores either physical or virtual, and so on. Knowing where our favourite table is in a restaurant or the type of drink we like to start with is great, but how far do we want them to take this. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated and provide more data to marketers to help them determine who we are, what we like and where we go.

The challenge is always how to make the experience personal without being over familiar or even creepy and the difference is a fine line. Just because I have bought a lawn mower on line doesn’t mean I want to by another one, yet ads are pushed at us. When in a store searching through T-shirts in a high street store doesn’t necessarily give the assistant permission to try to up sell me with additional items, make me aware yes, try to push me, no.

So we understand that getting the journey and experience correct is a vital ingredient towards making the customer experience a competitive advantage, but can we do too much?

A comparison of scenarios

Picture the scene, you are walking into a popular restaurant with a friend or colleague and you are personally greeted by the head waiter by name and shown to a well sighted table, told about specific items on the menu and what you may want to consider, I’m sure you would feel quite pleased.

Now imagine a similar scene in the high street and walking into any one of the main chain stores and being greeted by a talking smart screen that recognises you and welcomes you by name and recommends particular items in store you may be interested in, bit creepy? I’m fairly sure that your reaction would somewhat different from the reaction at the restaurant, personally I would run away screaming that my privacy had been infringed and be looking for the nearest ombudsman to complain to. However, if on that same stores website when logging in and being recognised then we would not only be pleased that we were recognised, we would in fact probably be expecting it.

So why the different reactions?

To quote from an article from 2013 “the 4 Ps of personalisation” by Ashley Friedlein @ Econsultancy, “ …. personal marketing is back big time”. This is because technology advances have enable enormous strides in capturing the customer and what they want so brands can utilise this to target and match products to us as potential customers. We see it all the time on various websites when ads start appearing on items we have been recently searching for or even in a store when we are browsing for a specific item, an assistant may come over and offer alternatives and try to narrow down on exactly what we are looking for. Always welcome? No not really as some of us like to engage in “recreational shopping” looking for inspiration, or in my case, killing time whilst my wife is looking for stuff.

What is the secret?

It comes down to understanding your customers, the context in which they are engaging with you as a business and the expectations they the customer has for you as a business. Once that is understood then it is possible to anticipate the needs and fulfil against these expectations. To be successful requires a great deal of finesse and understanding. To make the experience personal and special a business must be trusted by the potential customer enough to give that business the permission to get to know them.

You want me to feel special? Then as a customer I have to trust you enough to allow you to make me feel special.

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