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Mastering the capabilities to deliver a superior customer experience online and in-app has always been essential. But, in a world impacted by lockdowns, global events, and rapid change — plus a marketplace where identifiers are disappearing due to Apple’s iOS 14 and Google’s impending removal of third-party cookies — you have a perfect storm of conditions for a paradigm shift in personalization.

Personalization becomes individualization, marketing and messaging become a value exchange and all of it is fiercely customer-centric.

Against this backdrop, brands and businesses have to deliver marketing and messaging that is personal, relevant, and assistive at every step of the customer journey. To make things even more complex, there isn’t just one customer journey. There are multitudes, and they are defined by nuances in how and where customers enter the funnel.

Making that match requires marketing expertise and marketing automation. Now, it demands much more than that. Not only must marketers make that match accurately, but they must do so in real-time, and in a reality where the definition of omnichannel now includes the metaverse. Marketers have to be bold and be willing to literally push the boundaries. Why? Because they have to do more with less in a world without limits.

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The metaverse and the challenges facing performance marketers today

The current marketing landscape is fenced in by privacy regulations and limited third-party data. Marketers have to scrape by on what little third-party data they have while abiding by GDPR and CCPA. Without identifiers and tracking, performance marketing is flawed.

It costs more to acquire customers, which is why it is more valuable than ever to retain them. It’s a new dynamic pushing retention marketing to the top of the business agenda — especially because consumer expectations of personalization are at an all-time high. Recent McKinsey research shows that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized experiences. When brands fail to do so, the majority of consumers get frustrated.

Customer frustration in the next normal is a serious threat, as a majority of shoppers switched brands or products during the pandemic — and have plans to retain those shopping behaviors (and loss of loyalties) moving forward. With this unprecedented shift in brand loyalty, customer retention is imperative.

To make things worse, marketers have to find their voice and place in the experience economy and architect strategies to excel in a new playing field: the metaverse. From mobile-digital online lifestyle events and esports tournaments that attract millions of consumers and billions of interactions to pathbreaking brand partnerships that deliver a new breed of experiences, the signs of a seismic shift are everywhere.

Retention marketing wins in a metaverse world

The metaverse is a new marketplace where retention marketers excel. It’s here that “engineered serendipity” and the ability to engage with customers separates the leaders from the losers.

Engineered serendipity is the concept that the ultimate “macro” outcome — be it luck, innovation, or conversions — is the result of thousands of micro-actions. In marketing terms, it’s about noticing those micro opportunities and acting when the moment is right, with the right content, to create a happily unexpected macro experience that delights users. These are the experiences that retain customers and lead to improved brand perception, profits, and engagement.

These experiences help customers feel that a company “gets” them, increasing their likelihood of saying “yes” to suggested content and products later. Positive customer experiences boost customer satisfaction rates by 20% and conversion rates by 10% to 15%, while also lowering sales and marketing costs by 10% to 20%. On the whole, increasing customer retention by 5% leads to an increase in profits by 25% to 95%.

Engineered serendipity thrives in the metaverse, so long as marketers seize the moment. It’s here that marketers must encourage discovery and let customers take charge of their experiences. Marketers must be able to view and act upon customer data in real-time, and with the right technology, they can.

Four keys to success

As the metaverse becomes omnipresent, brands and marketers must deliver hyper-personalization without data. Experiences must be driven through insights into individual behavior, enabling engineered serendipity to take place at scale. It is no longer sufficient to react based on the past behavior of many; brands must react to an individual’s behavior right now, in the present moment.

For retention marketers to succeed, winning requires:

  • The ability to view and act upon real-time customer data. With the right technology, brands can transform data collection from basic storage to actionable intelligence. An intelligent data layer enables brands to see the activity and demographic data of customers in real-time — what they’re buying, what they’re doing, where they are, and what device they are using. This enables brands to not only respond in real-time to an individual user, but also to build smart user personas and content moving forward.
  • The ability to capture and keep customer interest. Granular and real-time segmentation and personalization will equip marketers to individualize experiences in lockstep with what customers value in any given moment. Platforms that combine real-time analytics, segmentation, and engagement functionality will allow marketers to adapt to minute changes in customer preferences at any given moment, as opposed to after the fact.
  • The ability to be genuine, authentic, and helpful. To paraphrase Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar, marketing is serving, not just selling. It’s about individualized engagement, informed by data and enhanced with humanity and empathy. For example, last summer Reebok debuted a new mobile app that helped kids stuck at home set up regulation-sized basketball courts in their neighborhood, through the power of augmented reality.
  • The ability to turn the absence of identifiers into an opportunity for deeper engagement. Growing awareness of data privacy will require marketers to show and tell customers what is being done with their data. Fortunately, two-thirds of consumers are happy to share their data in return for something of value, be it discounts or a more tailored experience. Savvy marketers will view Data Relationship Management (DRM) as an opportunity to deepen trust, rather than simply achieve compliance. Consent requests will evolve from dry legalese to language that is visible, understandable, and relatable. Brands may use videos to clearly articulate the value proposition of sharing one’s first-party data, building trust, reducing hesitation, and encouraging customers to share the essential data that powers retention.

When you connect the dots, it becomes clear that the exact same trends that mark the demise of performance marketing herald a new era in retention marketing. Through real-time discovery and engineered serendipity, marketers can provide personalized experiences that feel one:one, not one:many. Rather than making educated guesses and creating an experience based on macro-segmentation, micro-segmentation can make a customer feel uniquely understood — building the loyalty that seeds retention and revenue

Abhishek Gupta is the CCO at CleverTap.

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