Mass personalization is not just about tailoring products, services or messages to customers – it’s about winning their trust. And future business success depends on it.

That was the message from a panel of Chief Marketing Officers on day two of the TCS Europe Summit. Opening the session, Global Head of Tata Consultancy Services Interactive, cited a TCS survey that showed personalization could increase sales by almost 8%.

But he warned marketers not to allow increasingly sophisticated technologies to obscure the human element of what they are trying to do.  “Never forget that personalization is for people,” he told delegates.

Building trust is key to nurturing that human relationship. Paramita Bhattacharya, Global Head of Marketing, Nokia Technologies said that trust was vital to drive sales in today’s Business 4.0™ world. And marketing is on the front line. 

“Customers today want to trust brands,” she said. “And trust really comes from how we, as brands, are handling their data and whether we are doing that with transparency. Significant numbers of people now are worried about their data, their credit-card information and not being secure.”

Personalization, delivering marketing and services that match exactly what the customer wants and needs, can help overcome these fears by showing the benefits of sharing data, she said. Without trust, companies will ultimately fail.

And she emphasized the “significant responsibility” of marketers to drive growth by providing customers with a relevant and connected experience driven by integrated communications across PR, social media, online communities and by displaying thought leadership.

 

Targeting individuals

“Essentially that means partnering with your sales leaders and really developing the right kind of sales and strategic partnerships,” she explained. “It’s definitely a big, challenging world and we need to work in these partnerships.”

Customers are more likely to buy from innovative companies, but their marketing needs to demonstrate innovation not just in its content but also by deploying tools like Artificial Intelligence to drive personalization. 

Building personas for each target group is a first step, she said. The next task is to create a framework of dynamic content for each persona. “Then, based on their interaction with you, you can build up a communication methodology for each of your target personas,” she added.

Heather Wijdekop, Director Marketing & Business Development, Tata Steel Europe, said even serious-minded engineers buying steel expected a personalized approach, adding that the traditional distinction between business and consumer marketing is breaking down. 

“Whoever is buying – whether it’s a complex decision-making unit or an individual – their needs are ultimately the same,” she said. “They want to be seen as having unique and bespoke needs. They want to be heard and understood in the same way we, as individuals, want to be heard and understood.”

 

Be more like Amazon

Personalization, even in the steel industry, needs to be the same as the experience of a consumer receiving a greeting when logging in to Amazon, said Wijdekop, who started her career as an engineer. 

This gave her an empathy with her customers. “We’ve got to find those new ways to compete and this is all about customer centricity,” she said.

Emphasizing the importance of trust, she said: “We have to demonstrate that we understand our customers’ purpose and we know our own purpose too. We have to demonstrate that we’re absolutely trustworthy.”

The themes of earning trust and understanding your customer were picked up by József Szõke, Head of Customer Value Management & Big Data at Vodafone Hungary. He described how his team goes the extra mile in their pursuit of market segmentation.

Having realized that people under the age of 25 in Hungary were very resistant to surveys and did not feel that brands were speaking their language, Szõke set up a rather unusual service design workshop.

 

Entering your customer’s world

“It was located in colleges and universities,” he said. The insights gained were incredibly valuable leading to the establishment of separate teams within Vodafone’s contact center who were trained to speak to each customer group in their own language.

The company also launched a personalized service offering different charge rates for customers according to their needs and ability to afford the costs.

“The telecommunication industry is a great example of why we need personalization,” he said. “If I think back 10-15 years, we had prepaid or pay-as-you-go packages. No personalization was needed. Demand for our services was so high that, basically, anything could have been sold.”

But then the mobile phone market became saturated. In the Netherlands, for example, it is now 146% which means people have an average of 1.5 of subscriptions. 

Differentiation by personalizing the offer suddenly became critical to growing business and retaining customers.

Vodafone found “the magic recipe” for success was to make targeted offers based on individual usage. When properly targeted, it could mean a dramatic increase in sales. 

Working with TCS, Vodafone analyzed its customer data to target its marketing based on behaviors and needs. “Some people think marketing is smoke and mirrors but if you do it in the right way it is incredibly important, helping you to understand customer needs and solve their problems,” he said.

Vodafone is just one of many companies who are showing how mass personalization can elevate the customer experience and help companies add value.