Month: March 2020

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4 Personalization Strategies For Startups To Cut Through The Noise

A huge brand, a mid-size business, or a startup – the expectation of a customer in each case is the same: A personalized experience.  

I have two apps on my phone for buying groceries, fruits & vegetables. One is an established brand, while the other is a startup. The big brand offers more lucrative deals and offers than the other, but I still prefer to make purchases from the startup. Here’s why. 

After I placed a few orders, the startup app’s home page shows me the items I often buy (say a certain brand’s yogurt, a specific variety of apples, etc.). Now, when I open the app, a few taps, and I am done placing my order. If I can save my time and effort, I don’t care much about saving a few more bucks buying things from the bigger brand.

When product parity is hygiene, customer experience becomes the ultimate leverage in today’s world. People might come for the products and services a brand sells but will stay only for the experience it offers. In fact, a recent Gartner survey reported that two-thirds of companies now compete on customer experience, up from just 36% in 2010.  

That’s the key startups can, and must capitalize on – deliver a hassle-free, personalized experience.

And this is what AI (Artificial Intelligence) – based personalization can do for startups – help them deliver great customer experiences and win loyal customers!

Why Startups Must Adopt AI-Powered Personalization?

A recent KPMG report states that the number of startups in India has gone up from 7,000 in 2008 to 50,000 in 2018. The number is certainly rising as you read this blog.

To stand out from the crowd, the most important aspect for the startups to focus on is delivering differentiated customer experiences. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that quality customer experience can be directly translated to higher revenues, loyal customer bases, and a strong business reputation.

Unlike bigger brands, startups typically have a smaller budget and fewer resources. While huge businesses have entire teams dedicated to handling marketing, in startups, a CEO is often the same person as the CTO and the CFO. Hence, startup leaders must run a taut ship. The deeper and better the adoption of the latest martech tools (personalization, marketing automation, etc.), the faster the company can grow and flourish. 

Lets deep-dive into how startups can harness the AI-powered personalization:

1. Personalized Web & App Homepage

To deliver a one-to-one customer experience

Do you remember visiting a neighborhood store where the shopkeeper greets you with a smile, knows the kind of products you prefer, and rightly predicts the items you are likely to buy? This old-world kind of experience has its own charm, isn’t it!

The modern digital customer still craves that personal attention.

With the huge amounts of customer data that businesses have at their disposal and the extremely powerful AI tools, it is very much possible to offer the same old-world feeling of shopping at a known neighborhood store. Yes, I mean homepage personalization – which means, each visitor experiences a unique and personalized home page based on his/her demographic and behavioral data. 

Neil Patel, in this article, shares that homepage personalization is the second most popular type of personalized experience that marketers across companies (big & small) use.

Today’s AI-powered personalization engines can consume all the customer data and generate a personalized website and app storefront for every individual user, in real-time. Brands show products under categories like “Because you searched for XXXXXXX”, “You might also like”, etc.  

Based on past transactions and browsing history, brands can offer highly relevant product recommendations.

If the users feel cared for, and your brand can help them make their purchase decisions faster and hassle-free, the customer experience automatically gets elevated.

2. Personalized Product Recommendations

To Skyrocket Revenues

With advertising costs rising high, and cost of customer acquisition higher than ever, its time brands treat their website as one of the most important marketing channels.

For, it the user has reached your website, and finds what he is looking for easily, he will stick around and will keep coming back. 

While all players, big and small alike, are investing in the best technologies to offer product recommendations, it is crucial for startups because this is one aspect that can help them have an edge over competitors. 

Product recommendations have a huge impact across critical metrics like average order value (AOV), revenue, conversion rate, and time spent on the website/app.

As per this Salesforce report, personalized product recommendations drive an astounding 24% of orders and 26% of revenue. Apart from boosting revenue, relevant product recommendations help in increasing repeat visits, improving customer engagement, and retention.

3. AI-powered Marketing Automation

To Win Customers’ Trust

I was at a MarTech conference, where a leading food-tech startup founder talked about what made him invest a major amount of his budget in marketing automation. Here’s what he shared. 

“There is this new online travel startup that offers flight bookings at crazy discounts. Tempted, I used it to book a ticket for my next trip. While the payment went through, I did not get any email/SMS confirmation until 2 hours. The moment I saw, ‘Siddharth, your ticket is confirmed. Here are the details…’ I took a deep breath and swore to not use the app ever again. I was anxious since I was yet to have that trust in the startup. Who cares about the discounts? And it struck me, how crucial it is to have a good automation engine in place. If they had invested in a good automation platform instead of the luring customers through discounts, it could have secured a loyal customer.”

That’s what AI-powered marketing automation can do – strengthen the trust of customers in the brand, and pave the way for lasting customer relationships.  

While businesses have been using marketing automation to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, fueling the automation engines with AI is like adding superpower to the marketing strategy. 

AI-driven customer data insights can help in personalizing every single touch-point in the customer journey. Be it customizing the send time of a marketing message or crafting an email subject line that appeals the most to the user, every triggered message in the automation flow can be highly personalized based on the patterns the AI-engine derives. If every communication (promotional or transactional) with the customer is meaningful and unique, customer engagement and experience is bound to get strengthened.

4. Hyper-Personalized Intelligent Chatbots

To Boost Customer Connects Chatbots are revolutionizing the way brands interact with their customers, and with the AI-powered chatbots of today, which are highly intelligent, the results are very positive.

Timely and efficient customer support is the backbone of a good customer experience. For startups that have limited time, funds and manpower, the best way they can offer individualized customer engagement at scale, through AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants. Quite soon, 80 percent of customer support communication will be handled by bots by 2020.

The point to be noted is, unlike the rule-based chatbots of yesteryears, the current AI-powered chatbots actually remember and utilize both implicit and explicit information from prior conversations with the users. They offer a non-machine like experience and respond to customer issues efficiently.  

Apart from solving customer queries and addressing issues, live chatbots can be used extensively to offer human-like personal assistance to users. Big brands are already using chatbots to facilitate sales and provide information to customers. Starbucks lets its customers order their coffee through a conversational chatbot ‘My Starbucks Barista’. Leading fashion brand Levi’s helps its customers find the perfect pair of jeans through its Virtual Stylist chatbot.

While live chatbots can serve customers your website and app, you can also use chatbots to achieve highly scalable user engagement on platforms like Slack, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and even Alexa.

Netcore recently helped Flipkart have 1.3 lakhs unique customer conversations through the Netcore-built custom WhatsApp Chatbot during the Big Billion Days sale.

If industry-leading brands are delivering such experiences to their customers at scale, high time that startups begin to invest in AI chatbots.

Parting Thoughts

AI is penetrating almost every aspect of life, deeper and faster than ever, let alone business or marketing (many people still associate AI with sci-fi movies and robots). And brands, big or small, who live and breathe the truth that personalization is the key to sustained success, are already embracing AI with open arms. For others, the sooner, the better.

Check out Netcore’s special startup offers, here

Personalization in Travel – AI-powered Recommendations To Help Your Brand Take Off

Personalization is everywhere.

But what does personalized marketing mean to you?

If I was to define personalization in the most simplest words – Personalization is a marketing strategy that is completely customized to the needs of each individual customer. Personalized marketing is essentially the most focused form of targeted marketing.

Personalization in travel industry marketing is equivalent to offering a personal travel agent to each of the customer. For today’s travelers who are increasingly becoming impulsive and want information in seconds, travel brands have no choice except evolving their digital marketing technologies to meet customers’ rising expectations for assistance at every point of the purchase journey.

What are the Current Challenges that Travel Industry Marketers Face?

According to Sabre, a global B2B travel marketplace, 83% of customers expect personalized information and product recommendations. With the huge amount of customer data that travel brands have at their disposal – demographic, behavioral, geo-location data, and so much more, the opportunities to personalize the customer journey are endless.

But easier said than done.

With rising competition ephemeral brand loyalty, the challenges in from t of marketers like you are not just one. There are many.

  • High customer acquisition cost: The cost of acquiring customers has been very high. As per this article, the average cost of acquiring just one customer in the travel sector is $7.
  • Challenge in creating a unified view of the customers: The customers of today, who are almost always online on a number of devices, traverse a non-linear customer journey. With data coming in from multiple touch-points all the time, it is a challenge to maintain a unified view of the customer. And it is needless to mention that a 360 degree view of customers is the prerequisite to utilize data for personalization.
  • Low conversion rate: The conversion rate in this sector is quite dismal – swinging between 1-3%.
  • High booking abandonment rate: Travel industry witnesses one of the highest booking abandonment rates – as high as 80%. While there can be multiple reasons for users dropping out, a non-personalized website and app experience is a big one.
  • Dwindling brand loyalty: Today’s customers are not brand loyal, they are experience loyal. While brands can offer competitive prices, what it really takes to keep the customers coming back is deep levels of user experience personalization.

How Can AI/ML Based Personalization Help In Improving Customer Acquisition & Engagement?

What we as consumers are seeing today is marketing war. And the key skill needed to keep winning this war is simple – serve the right content to the right users at the right time across all the touch points. As I said earlier, it is easier said than done. With the overwhelmingly huge amount of data, it isn’t humanly possible to derive actionable insights, and keep up with the customer expectations.
But why fear when AI is here!

AI offers travel marketers like you to impactful ways to cut through the clutter and establish meaningful conversations with their users to ensure their brand messaging resonates (and stays) with the customer.

AI/ML Based Personalization

All the power lies in customer data. AI-powered personalization engines, take customer eyeball data as input and based on the behavioral patterns, predict the future actions of the users. These predictions form the basis of your personalization efforts.

Smartech’s AI engine, Raman, delivers personalized recommendations right from the start till the end, at each step of the customer journey. 

Here are a few scenarios/examples wherein you can use AI based personalization to improve the customer acquisition and engagement of your brand.

  • Personalize Home Page Recommendations: Based on search history, the most relevant information is shown to the users right at the home page of your website. For instance, here in this sample, since the user searched for stay options in Malaysia, he is shown the best deals in Malaysian hotels. Serving this content in the homepage increases the chances of faster booking. Personalized home page recommendations can get 80-90% higher CTRs. 
    Travel Home Page Recommendation
  • Product Display Recommendations: Another way to engage and nudge the users towards booking is by showing relevant product recommendations based on the users’ interest. The more contextual the recommendations, the higher the chances of conversion. You can show travel packages, hotel deals, sightseeing packages etc. These recommendation can help you achieve 30-50% higher CTRs.
    Travel Product Display Recommendations
  • Category page Reordering: If the user finds the products of his/her interest easily, the more likely he is to browse them. You can re-order the product categories in real-time, to show the users’ preferred products first. For instance, if the propensity of a user to check out apartments more than villas or resorts, then you can reorder the recommendations such that apartments are shown at the top. This kind of personalization can result in 60-80% higher CTRs.
    Travel Category Page Recommendation
  • Customize Exit intent Popups: Travel customers today, are spoilt for choice. The price sensitive user segment (which may be a huge segment of your total users) often tends to leave your website in search of better deals. If the visitor tries to leave, a personalized exit popup specific to their interest can re-invoke the interest and intention of the user. These pop ups can help in reducing the website bounce rates by 5-7%.
    Travel Exit Intent Popup
  • Personalized Emails: While all the above are onsite personalization examples, you can also deliver personalized recommendations through other channels like email, push notifications, ads, etc.
    Travel Personalized Email

    For instance, the following email provides all relevant details around a potential purchase.

  • Personalized Push Notifications: Like emails, you can also send personalized push notifications to your app users to engage them and push them towards conversion. Highly personalized push notifications lead to 40-60% higher CTRs.
    Travel Personalized Notifications

Rule Based Personalization

Rule-based personalization enables you to design the website experience for your users based on user demographics like location, time, device type and similar other parameters. Check out this article to understand more about how does rule-based personalization work.

Here are a few examples of how you can implement rule-based personalization for your travel brand.

  • Personalized Home page banner: Website homepage personalization is the second most popular type of personalized experience that marketers across industries use. Given that travelers today spend a lot of time researching about their travel plans, the more relevant the content on your website, the higher the chances of conversion. While for new visitors, the homepage can be personalized with a welcome message, returning visitors can be exposed to a page customised on the basis of their past website behavior.
    Travel home page Banner
  • Personalize based on past browsing behavior: Travelers, on an average, browse 38 websites before making a booking. So, the browsing behavior, on and off your website and app must play an important role in crafting the experience you offer to the customers. Based on the past behavior – destinations, places of accommodation, tickets, etc. you can show relevant offers, packages and so on to the customers. The right content can nudge them towards making the purchase.  The images and CTA can also be customized accordingly.
    Travel past Browsing Behaviour 2
  • Personalize based on location: Show personalized offers based on the users’ location and day of the week. This is where utilizing the geo-location information is that secret ingredient that makes your marketing content fly!
    Travel Location Personalization

Getting Started with Smartech’s Personalization Module

It takes less than 15 minutes to integrate Smartech’s personalization module to your website or app. Here’re the components you need to integrate: 

  • JS Snippet on the Header 
  • JS Snippet on the Thank You Page
  • Content Feed

Note: If you already use Smartech’s Automation Suite, you can activate Rule-based Personalization immediately at the click of a button. 

Check out Smartech’s Travel Solutions

Concluding Thoughts

The advent of AI & ML in digital marketing has brought along endless opportunities to implement hyper-personalization marketing strategies. From offering tailor-made website pages to delivering personalized marketing content, from providing conversational interfaces to personalized recommendations, AI-powered personalization has immense power to transform every facet of the customer journey. The key is to identify how AI can help your brand’s core value proposition and empower you to consistently offer a superior customer experience.

This blog post has been repurposed from our webinar series ‘Personalization Thursday’ titled ‘Book an uplift in conversions by 9-12% with AI-led Travel Recommendations’. The post includes key insights shared in the webinar with some additional information.