Presented by SessionM

You’re at the big holiday party. One person introduces himself as if for the first time despite having met you plenty of times before. You walk up to a second person you’ve chatted with before only to be treated with a blank stare and not so much as a glint of recognition. A third person greets you warmly, picks up the conversation you were having when you last met, and provides a little insight he’d thought of since you brought up the topic during that prior conversation.

Now, who are you going to spend more time with at the party?

In business, and particularly technology, there is innovation happening all the time. Adding it to your repertoire is important to evolving with the times. One thing that is timeless, however, is knowing your audience and showing that you do.

Another thing that’s never changed, and applies equally whether you own a single storefront or a fleet of global locations, is that keeping customers is the single best thing you can do to be successful. Experts say it’s five times, seven times, ten times…more expensive to win new customers than to keep the ones you’ve already got. Whatever the number, it’s too much.

So the question is not whether to or why to retain customers but how to.

Bigger picture, if you can’t keep the customers you’ve got, how the hell do you intend to win their equivalent replacement plus the new ones your growth projections require? People talk and the world is smaller than ever, communication-wise. Burn your customers and they’ll burn down your reputation before you can yell, “Fire Sale!”

There is no ‘one way’, no magic bean or silver bullet to keeping your customers loyal. It’s not that simple. In fact, it’s really complex. But the one common denominator is this: treat them like you know them. Signal to them loud and clear that you know what they’ve bought before, that you appreciate it, and that you’re willing to work to keep their business. That level of personalization is hard for the single shopkeeper, let alone the Fortune 500.

Technology helps. Having a comprehensive full view of each customer at your virtual fingertips is handy. CDPs (Customer Data Platforms) thread all your customer data together, allowing you to elegantly put the current interaction in historical context, whether that interaction is pleasant (making a big purchase) or unpleasant (making a frustrating return).

Based on that unique coupling of past and present interaction, the company can calculate the most appropriate response and deliver it right then and there. You engage by being engaging. From the simple, “Thank You” for a purchase, to an unadvertised and unexpected perk for your very best customer, to prioritizing that great customer’s hotline call should something past or present have gone wrong, real-time personalization software will be absolutely foundational to your ability to win those potential moments of impact. Winning those moments largely determines which customer stays loyal and which churns — and tells their social circles exactly why they quit you.

Mastering each customer’s historical data and transforming it into personalized experiences in the here and now can allow your brand to feel more personal and intimate, even if you’re quite large and far from the customer in reality. The customer’s name (potentially even others in the household who share a relationship with you), lifetime value, preferences and dislikes, location, and more can all be woven together in a really powerful whole-cloth experience. It’s not at all unlike meeting that someone you met once years ago, only to find out they not only remember you, but they’ve kept track of what you’ve been up to since then.

That makes you feel like you left an impression; that you matter. You immediately want to spend more time with that person. You make plans to get together more frequently. Imitation isn’t the highest form of flattery. Information is. If you take the time to collect it, unify it, and transform it into thoughtful personalized customer experiences that are completely relevant, your customers will swoon.

Suddenly, you’re the talk of the party.

Everybody sells stuff. People can buy most of it anywhere they want — especially over the holidays. But they can’t be made to feel appreciated just anywhere. Too many companies lack the technology and know-how to make people feel genuinely understood in most places.

You can’t put a price on creating that feeling. But you can put a cost on not inspiring it.


Patrick Reynolds is CMO at SessionM.

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