Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee
Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

A new age of consumerism has dawned. Driven by the demands of highly influential Millennial and Gen-Z consumers, the pendulum has swung and this new trend is now transcending generational silos.

This is not about innovating in terms of price, product, or the channel. It’s about understanding and connecting with the individual. It’s about aligning personal and brand values, and the hyper-personalisation of products and services through “segment-of-one” marketing.

With regard to technology, the digitisation of sales and marketing is paving the way for this paradigm shift. Digital capabilities have revolutionised how brands engage with their customers and, more importantly, have substantially deepened the insights they can derive from their target markets.

Through the application of data analytics engines, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, brands can uncover unprecedented opportunities to treat customers as individuals, talking to and engaging directly with them, rather than talking at them in the traditional mass media method.

Moreover, they can use this information to interact with customers in a timely and relevant manner, making personalised recommendations and offers to individual customers at the right time. By tailoring engagement that relates to a customer’s specific interests, the likelihood of securing a purchase increases. And, more significantly for brands, technology enables the delivery of this hyper-personalisation at scale.

However, to realise these capabilities, brands need to adopt the tools and systems that can deliver these insights. Most brands today have established databases that include information on a customer’s preferences and purchasing behaviour, but this often sits in silos within the organisation and is not being used adequately.

To survive and thrive in the age of hyper-personalisation, and implement successful segment-of-one marketing campaigns, brands need to find ways to integrate and use this data. With the correct solution in place, companies can collect and collate customer information from multiple touch points including websites, mobile apps, e-mail, social media and messaging engagements, e-commerce and in-store purchases, or call centre interactions.

Analytics tools, algorithms and AI can then be applied to reveal deep customer insights that define a customer’s unique preferences and specific needs. These characteristics can also be tracked, in real-time, to inform brands of evolving customer preferences to shape and adapt product and service strategies.

This lays the foundation for segment-of-one marketing, where brands can move beyond simply knowing what and when their customers purchase, to better understand consumers’ decision-making process to customise their offerings, and even anticipate their next requirements, often before consumers even realise what they need or want.

As an example, a global credit card company understands the power of hyper-personalisation better than most other brands. When I fly into any city around the world and swipe my card for the first time, I instantly receive an e-mail to welcome me. Also included in this personalised engagement is relevant information about the location that’s based on insights the company has regarding my spending habits, my interests and my preferences. I also get special offers and recommendations tailor-made for me and my profile. That’s segment-of-one marketing done properly.

These technology-enabled hyper-personalised and relevant experiences and engagements ultimately create deeper connections and a greater affinity with the brand, which builds brand loyalty and fuels customer retention. 

The big take-out

Connecting with the modern consumer involves more than the channel, the message or the value they get.

And it is this brand affinity, forged through relevance, that lies at the heart of the success of today’s biggest brands. Consumers ultimately want to have a deeper connection with brands, be it through personalised engagements, or an alignment of personal and brand values.

This desire to create these powerful connections transcends the technology and is fuelling other prolific marketing trends. Take the impact of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Brands as an example.

An emerging generation of socially conscious consumers is driving this shift; one where customers increasingly want and expect there to be purpose behind everything a brand does, from the way it treats and interacts with its customers, to the impact brands have on their communities, the environment and the planet. 

So, just like digitisation, purpose should influence every decision a business makes, because it has become an essential ingredient in the marketing mix of all successful brands today. And when you give consumers what they want, they respond in kind – Unilever’s purpose-driven brands, for example, have consistently grown faster than the rest of the business (46% faster in 2017) and delivered more to Unilever’s continued growth (70% of its 2018 turnover growth, to be exact), and this has been the case for four consecutive years.

Accordingly, this type of thinking around consumer relevance should transcend engagement strategies and technology transformation roadmaps. When it permeates a brand’s purpose, values, processes and engagement, it makes customers feel good about their association and connection with a brand.

Unsurprisingly, in this new era of consumerism, where relevance ranks so highly, personalisation and purpose are proving to be powerful platforms for brand growth. What, then, is your brand doing differently to cement your relevance in the hearts and minds of modern consumers? If your answer is “nothing” then you’re risking your sustainability in this rapidly evolving modern marketplace.

Henk Swanepoel is the chief marketing officer at Digitata Insights

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