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Consumer Trends

Loyalty and the shift from personalization to individualization

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Communicating with consumers in today’s marketplace requires more than simple acts of personalization, and instead calls for individualization that reflects the nuances of each customer’s preferences.

Personalization, which is often executed by simply attaching a customer’s name or basic demographic information to a mass-market message, doesn’t take the full view of each individual’s history into account. Individualization, by contrast, leverages data from a variety of different online and offline interactions and touchpoints to provide a holistic view of each customer as a "market of one." Individualization is a marketing strategy that does not require a customer to belong to a loyalty program, though membership can accelerate a brand's ability to understand and communicate with customers one-on-one.

Even dividing customers according to demographic cohorts, such as by age group, does not allow the level of granularity that is required for individualized communications with customers, said Andy O’Dell, co-founderand chief strategy officer at Clutch , which provides a suite of consumer marketing services for NCR Corp.

In addition, customers’ behaviors change over time, and individualization driven by strong data analytics allows restaurant operators to evolve their messaging appropriately, he explained. Restaurants need to be able to ensure that their communications with their customers reflect each customer’s most recent preferences and tastes.

“Personalization doesn’t go to the point of knowing what I am doing and why, and seeing those trends as they change over time,” O’Dell said. “I’m not a Polaroid picture; I’m a home movie.”

Individualization allows restaurants to create more rewarding experiences for their customers, which has become critical in today’s environment. The shift toward off-premise dining, combined with staffing pressures, can stand in the way of providing the kind of customer experiences that drive brand loyalty.

“If you can’t individualize and collect all that data on what your customers are doing, you’re going to struggle to provide those experiences,” O’Dell said.

He cited the ability to automatically suggest certain menu items based on past orders for customers ordering online or in the drive-thru as an example. Eliminating items that the customer is not interested in—meat-based items for vegans, perhaps—not only creates a better experience for the customer, but also streamlines operations for the restaurant, he said.

Understanding customers as individuals also enables marketers to foster closer connections with their customers around a brand’s mission and values, said Kate Atty, VP of marketing at Clutch.

“It doesn't have to always be about trying to get them to buy more, or come in and visit again,” she said, citing opportunities to align with customers around issues such as sustainability or local sourcing.

Leveraging a customer database platform (CDP) and related marketing services, such as those that NCR offers through its NCR Consumer Marketing Platform, empowers restaurants to communicate with each customer as an individual, and create experiences that foster loyalty. Operators can identify attributes about their customers, understand the implications of those attributes, and then engage with those customers with appropriate content and calls to action.

For most restaurant brands, only 20-30% of customers are members of formal loyalty programs, said O’Dell. That signals a big opportunity to create more individualized experiences for the vast majority of customers. Visit NCR Corp today to learn more.

This post is sponsored by NCR

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