The Challenges of Highly Personalized Customer Communications

Study after study confirms that personalized marketing communications are more effective than generic messages. A study by global research firm Accenture, for example, found 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that know them and provide relevant offers and recommendations1. The study also found consumers will share their data if it leads to engaging experiences and if they can trust brands to be transparent and responsible with private information. Yet, even as consumers crave better interactions and brands realize personalization is the key to client retention, this sophisticated form of outreach is not always easy to achieve. Before the personal email can be sent, or the personalized document hits the press, significant preparation and groundwork is necessary. Companies can take one of two approaches to achieve the objective of producing personalized customer documents — merge the unlinked databases into a central repository or compose the documents with separately managed data brought together by the document composition software. We know by now that collecting data is relatively easy. It comes from many channels—purchases, website traffic, items stored in carts, geographic location, and interactions with brands. Companies gather customer data from many sources—customer relations, sales, and marketing departments. The challenge isn’t data. The challenge is knowing how to leverage all those disparate bits of information for maximum results.

Data Integration: The Key to Personalized Communications

Lack of data integration is one of the major obstacles hampering effective personalized communications. Integration means consolidating data collected by various departments or stored in legacy systems into a single source accessible to anyone in the organization that needs to use it. Integration produces a unified and consistent view of customers and their sales journeys. Without integration, all a company has is millions of scattered details that don’t amount to much on their own and don’t work very hard. But integration doesn’t just happen. It needs to be driven by a vision and a strategic plan supported by all departments and by organizational leaders. Some elements to consider include determining what data to collect, what data to exclude, how to protect privacy, how to collect relevant data, and how to organize data logically with consistent protocols. Other considerations include who will maintain the data depository, who has access to it, and what software and systems will manage the integration.

What if You’re Not Integrated Yet?

Data integration is a big project that can take years to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean efforts to personalize and target customer communications must wait. Document management solutions like Eclipse’s DocOrigin with Business Communication Center can access various data sources like CRM or ERP systems to bring all that data together within the documents. Personalized communications are absolutely possible, even though the data that drives the documents may be scattered throughout the enterprise.

Integration Means Reliable and Cost-Effective Targeting

Most organizations keep data in silos. Sales reps have their data, marketers have theirs, and customer service reps keep track of interactions. Nothing ensures consistency. Integrating data eliminates those silos and encourages departments to collaborate in improving the customer experience. Integration produces a unified view of a company’s information and generates more accurate intelligence. As a result, patterns become clearer, strategic planning can be refined, message targeting is more accurate, and marketing campaigns can be tracked and analyzed more precisely. At the same time, errors will decline, and it will become easier and quicker to access information for deploying campaigns. Whether companies integrate and consolidate customer information on a data level or only at document generation time, an output software that marries information to document templates achieves personalization on a scale that is not only reliable but also very cost effective. More companies are realizing the best way to stand out is to personalize their customer interactions. But today’s personal messages go beyond merely putting a name on a postcard. Documents must be relevant, respectful of client privacy and personal boundaries, enhance the customer experience, and cement trust. The best means of achieving this tall order is with data that is integrated with the documents. Most organizations have data integration projects in their future plans, but it will take a while before such large undertakings are complete. In the meantime, companies can invest in comprehensive document generation software like the Eclipse solutions and begin reaping the benefits of personalization before the data consolidation actually occurs. 1