Entrepreneurs

Why This Chief Digital Officer Recommends Innovating Company Data Use To Increase Personalization

In a world of remote work and social distancing, establishing a personal connection with your customers is more important than ever. For some businesses, getting personal means cutting out the tech — but this couldn’t be further from the truth for Phil Lockhart.

Lockhart is the Chief Digital Officer of global, boutique consulting firm Credera, and his work with data has taught him just how crucial its role in personalization can be. I picked his brain recently to learn more about how businesses can turn their data into the foundation for stronger customer relationships in the future.

Serenity Gibbons: Why is personalization becoming increasingly important for businesses to focus on and what has caused that?

Phil Lockhart: It’s a matter of attention: eyeballs have shifted from public billboards to private digital devices. Through digital channels, the ability to target people has become easier and cheaper. The average person now sees thousands of ads per day but registers the contents of just a few. Personalization helps a company’s ads connect with the individual and stand out from the rest. In many ways, it’s already become an expectation of customers. 

Gibbons: How can a company’s data be the driving force behind personalization?

Lockhart: Historical and real-time data can provide context to a customer’s journey, ensuring that you not only engage with the customer but provide a meaningful outcome for their specific needs at this very moment. Behavioral interactions with specific website content or targeted social ads with personalized messaging can be mapped directly to point in a customer journey to signal a specific need. 

Historical data for that customer regarding past purchases and recently viewed items can then be used to help shape the personalized messaging and recommendations they recieve. Great companies realize the journey doesn’t stop there—capturing ongoing engagement allows a company not just to create a purchase moment but build a relationship that drives long term loyalty and advocacy.

Gibbons: How important is customer trust when it comes to data collection? How can businesses create trust while still collecting and using data?

Lockhart: Customer trust is absolutely crucial — nobody would willingly give up their personal data to a company they don’t think will utilize it ethically — which is why businesses need to be prepared to respond to customer demands. One of the biggest challenges in the space these days is the growing backlash against tracking cookies. More and more customers are growing weary of them, and big names like Google and Apple are working to not only dull their efficacy but remove them entirely. The key is to be open about the data you’re collecting, how it will be used, and how safely you’re storing it.

Gibbons: In what ways should data collection change in order to make sure personalization can be achieved without violating customer trust? 

Lockhart: There needs to be a clear value exchange realized for customers for all of the data shared; customers should know that sharing their data results in better outcomes for them down the line. Moreover, improvements in and more effective use of real-time customer sentiment analysis can help businesses adapt their MarTech personalization strategies in real time and tailor them to each specific customer.

Gibbons: What data innovation trends have you seen succeed and where do you see the future of personalization going? 

Lockhart: Advanced, real-time propensity models are getting better and better at predicting how customer behavior will change within seconds — this allows businesses to respond dynamically in turn. Personalization is going to move beyond digital devices and be tightly integrated into everyday physical spaces. From the produce aisle to the car lot, personalization is on the threshold of achieving complete ubiquity. 

Everyone knows that the world is going digital, but relatively few know exactly what that will mean. Phil Lockhart’s vision for data-based personalization is one that most business leaders cannot afford to ignore. Customers want connection, and using data in the right way can help you give it to them.

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