Humanizing The Digital Experience: The Art of Making Data Talk

Mathilde Airvault & Emmanuelle Bouveret

December 16, 2020 | 8 min read

Last Updated: Dec 16, 2020

While most businesses are navigating the new demands of a hyper-connected society, the (re)emergence of the human-digital customer relationship is the real challenge of the future. As sales and communication channels continue to multiply, how can we humanize the customer experience with the help of data?



From Mass Marketing to Personalization

Personalization: What is it? 

Mass marketing was all the rage during the 20th century. It viewed the market as a single, homogeneous mass. Brands served up the exact same messages and products to every customer. This allowed businesses to standardize production and scale quickly. For example, the cost of a direct mail campaign targeting only 50 people might be $0.50 per person, but if you increase the size of that group to target more customers, you can lower the cost per person.

With the arrival of the internet, other new sales channels, and more advanced marketing techniques, mass marketing is often seen as a thing of the past. It has been replaced by "precision marketing" (concentrating marketing efforts at existing customers to encourage brand loyalty and drive repeat sales) and "personalization" (customizing communication and product/service suggestions to each consumer).

In fact, 91% of consumers admit they would be more likely to buy from a company that recognizes them, remembers them, and provides relevant offers and recommendations.


A Strategy for Every Stage of The Funnel 

So how do you formulate your personalization strategy? It depends on where your consumers are in the marketing conversion funnel. Here are a few examples of personalizations you can make at every stage of the customer conversion funnel:  

  • Discovery phase: Send out a variety of messages with the aim of winning over different types of profiles. For example, you could offer downloadable upper-funnel content related specifically to the visitor's industry.
  • Consideration phase: Make your navigation experience more relevant to your users to increase on-site and in-app visitor engagement. For example, you can use a personalization token to address consumers by their first name in an email campaign. This can result in a higher open rate and make the customer feel valued by the brand.
  • Decision phase: Deliver the right messages to push visitors to convert or to upsell existing customers. A great way to do this is to identify visitors who are about to leave your website or app and trigger a personalized message to try to win them back, like triggering a lead nurturing campaign to push more content to your leads after they downloaded a whitepaper from your site.
  • Loyalty phase: Build trust with your consumers. To increase the on-site or in-app personalization for your existing customers, try setting up augmented salespeople who can provide free personalized advice to customers.

What's the best part? Every sector reaps the benefits of personalization.

Ultimately, it's "precision marketing" management (duration, frequency, scenario, priority ranking, capping) that will determine the success or failure of a personalization campaign.

But is using data to offer the consumer a better service really "humanized"? Couldn't more be done to understand and improve the customer experience? 

Reconciling journeys to get to know your customers

The customer experience can be difficult to understand and measure. To be able to truly understand your customers' expectations, you need to have the right data. The biggest challenge is often that this data lives in different tools that don’t speak to one another. Still, it’s crucial to reconcile all the data you’ve collected in order to get a unified view of your customers.

Reconciling online and offline journeys

The physical point of sale is now complementary to the virtual point of sale. Both enrich the sales experience, particularly helped by the data generated. However, marketers have difficulty reconciling the data from these two separate entities, especially the ROPO effect: Research Online, Purchase Offline. The ROPO effect refers to a purchase that begins on the internet and ends in a physical store. 

How can we reconcile online and offline data? 

There are a few ways:

  • Deterministic: Comparing online and offline data expressly communicated by the customer in-store
  • Probabilities: Using algorithms to collect customer data, like IP addresses or geolocation, to identify consumers and make a connection between in-store customers and internet users


Reducing friction points for an optimal experience

Once the data reconciliation between the offline and online is complete, you must put a strategy in place to reduce friction and build an exceptional customer experience:

  • Identify all the channels used by customers (Physical, email, chatbot, etc.)
  • Put yourself in your customer's shoes and identify what could be negatively affecting your customer experience. For example, not having enough customer reviews for products, slow page load times, or a confusing checkout process. 
  • Find and fix technical bugs. On-site issues greatly impact the customer experience and can reduce the number of users who move down the funnel from leads to consumers. For example, a 404 error, which indicates the page in question was not found by the server, will impact the customer experience and cause many visitors to bounce. 
  • Tap into statistics. Look into what percentage of your users abandon carts or churn.  
  • Ask your customers what they think of your experience with interviews, questionnaires, and surveys to collect clear and precise answers.

Combining big data and client insights: a feat that still challenges marketing departments...

De-siloing jobs

When it comes to optimizing customer journeys and reducing customer friction points, it’s also important to look within your organization and take stock of who “owns” this type of work. There are many departments interested in marketing and the customer experience; however, departmental silos often keep collaboration at bay, which ultimately, hurts your consumer. 

Why is this a problem? Different teams often use different sources of data to make decisions, which can cause internal confusion and often give different teams conflicting insights. To avoid this problem, it is important to identify everywhere that data is stored (databases, tools, apps etc.) and better understand how it flows between these different places. To achieve this, different departments and roles need to work more closely with each other, especially your CRM, analytics, business analysis, media, developer, and data teams. For example, the implementation of a new marketing automation tool will not go well if marketing, sales, and IT don't communicate and don't work hand in hand. 


Augmenting the Customer Experience with VoC Tools

To humanize the digital experience, you have to know how to listen to your clients. There are many businesses that have started investing in so-called "Voice of the Customer" tools to get a better understanding of their customers' expectations. However, only 33% of marketing specialists surveyed say they use these tools to improve the customer experience, a long way behind A/B tests or personas. 


Yes, but what is VoC? 

Collecting feedback from users on their experiences, requirements, and expectations is the promise that VoC tools deliver. This behavioral data is a gold mine for companies seeking a more human relationship with their customers. 

Several types of feedback can be processed and all of them serve a purpose, such as:

  • Explicit, navigation-related feedback collected directly by companies, 
  • Feedback posted on forums where users can express themselves freely, 
  • Or customer journey data. 

There are so many sources for feedback for you to leverage. Just remember that your customers want to express themselves and it's our duty to listen to them. 


The power of "Voice of the Customer"

The power to explain: 

Analytics and UX analytics tools provide the first layer of user insight, but customer feedback can explain the specific frustration points that your visitors encounter. For example, a page's bounce rate will alert teams to a potential problem, but customer feedback can explicitly explain why a specific on-page element may have been an obstacle to a purchase. 

The power to prevent: 

Imagine that a company has set up a satisfaction score. Depending on how the site changes, this score may vary. Feedback will play a crucial role in helping you understand why a customer scored you the way they did. If satisfaction scores decrease, feedback can shed light on the precise reason for this change, empowering your teams to prioritize what they need to do next.

The power to predict:

Your customers are on your side! They will be happy to tell you all their ideas for improving your digital experience, but it’s up to you to take advantage of this and listen. You need to adapt your offerings to meet their expectations and optimize satisfaction levels and conversion rates. 

VoC tools can offer many benefits like improving the customer experience, managing risk, and optimizing conversions. So why are companies still not using these tools? Collecting feedback is one thing but, without a defined strategy, these tools can be costly as they require resources to generate quantifiable, actionable insights.


Quantitative vs qualitative: the same goal

In a world where we ask ourselves what (data) but rarely why (research), can we say that we really know our customers' expectations? Marrying the two approaches makes it possible to gain customer knowledge that is both overarching and precise. 

Many solutions make it easy to connect these two concepts by integrating the VoC tools' solution with their own. When we can replay a dissatisfied user's session or identify a friction point, we can now quantify a feeling, making it even more explicit and, ultimately, more human.   

Deeper customer knowledge at every level

Building one single view of customer knowledge

One of the main challenges companies face is that their data is siloed. But, brands need to have a unified view of their customer journeys, so they can make more informed decisions and build the best possible experience for their customers. That said, only 31.8% of organizations use technology to integrate their data management solutions and create a single view of their performance. 

Centralizing your sources of customer behavior data is essential to be able to deliver the right message at the right time.

Having all your data in one place is crucial to understanding users throughout their entire journey, so you can deliver an experience in line with their expectations. The automotive industry is a good example of this in practice. A customer looking to buy a car might start by searching for options on different websites. Once they’ve narrowed their choices down to a few options, they ask for a test drive to try the product first-hand and determine which is the best fit for their needs. Later in their buyer’s journey, customers prefer human interaction in the form of advice from a chatbot, a salesperson, or a dealership. Customers are certainly looking for speed and transparency, but human expertise remains essential to guide them in their choice.


Oops... The data is lost.


Is hyper-personalization the answer for humanizing the digital experience? 

Offering customers customized experiences shows them you understand their individual wants and needs. This hyper-personalization is a turning point for brands and has been perfected by companies such as Netflix and Spotify. By personalizing their platforms, brands like Netflix and Spotify create a dialogue with their customers and cater the user experience to each individual user. 

In France, consumers want personalized experiences, with 66% of them saying they would be more likely to make a purchase if businesses personalized their purchase journey.

So is hyper-personalization the Holy Grail when it comes to humanizing the digital experience? In theory, yes. In reality, though, launching a strategy like this can be risky and expensive. Pouring money into the creation of thousands of user segments in an attempt to address every possible user interest won’t add value if the basics of customer experience are forgotten. 

In fact, 48% of consumers say they have left a company's website and bought from a competitor because the site was disorganized. The way to rethink the digital experience? Automating what works, identifying what could work better, offering additional features, and adding a layer of personalization as a final touch. You only have one chance to leave a good impression, so don't miss it.

In a nutshell, while personalization has been offering a unique experience for consumers over the past few years, it can, on the contrary, be detrimental. Customers don't like inconsistent personalization and they do not trust companies that collect their personal information en masse. Many online users want more transparency and control over the data that is being shared and to understand how brands will use it. In the future, brands must move towards a more ethical and responsible approach to hyper-personalization. Striking the right balance between understanding the customer and not intruding is the challenge for tomorrow's businesses.