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Customer expectations rise, while customer personalization stagnates

LAS VEGAS -- Today, consumer expectations are soaring, but at the same time, companies are lagging on meeting these expectations.

It's the age of the customer, in which customers rule. But while customers expect more from companies in terms of the level of service they receive, the kinds of marketing they will tolerate or the offers that they will pursue, companies are falling down on the job of effective digital marketing. Most customers see companies as failing to reach them in multiple channels effectively. They also see customer personalization efforts as one-dimensional, flat and even desperate.

According to "Contextual Marketing Imperative," a 2015 Forrester Research survey of more than 1,200 respondents, 66% of marketers rated their efforts at personalization as "very good" or "excellent." Just 31% of consumers said companies consistently deliver personalized experiences in multiple communication channels. Moreover, 40% said most promotions are irrelevant or have little value.

Andrea Fishman, a principal in the digital practice at PwC, discussed this gap between consumer expectations and company personalization efforts at the recent Adobe Summit 2016. Fishman said companies often lack a true omnichannel strategy that treats customers consistently, regardless of the medium they interact in -- whether that's email, SMS chat, a company website or another channel.

"Companies need to think more holistically about all the different places that they touch the journey of the customer," Fishman said. "You might be able to improve the experience in the store, but if customer service doesn't deliver that same experience, you've failed. The brand experience has to be consistent."

Fishman also noted that companies are so overwhelmed by customer personalization that they often fail from the get-go. She explained that either companies enlist methods that are so basic as to be one-dimensional, as in simply using a person's first name in email, or they don't do it at all.

"Companies are limited in what they're doing with personalization," Fishman said. "Many companies are sending emails, and that's about it. They are missing the bigger opportunities to provide context. It could be to provide content or custom offers -- there are a lot of different ways. The key is to pick something and start testing."

Fishman also noted that companies are often so overwhelmed by their customer data that they aren't able to use if to meaningfully improve. They may capture too much data, or data that isn't truly relevant to their business goals and key objectives, and it undermines their objectives.

"The business gets so excited about what they could measure that they measure everything and get lost in paralysis," Fishman said. "It's having a goal in mind: 'What do I need to deliver on?' instead of having a morass of data that you can't take action on."

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