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Send them pickles: Individual engagement in the era of automated personalization

It’s easy to forget sometimes that brand loyalty is not built solely via amazing ad campaigns or even slick mobile apps, but by giving each individual customer a great experience when they interact with your company. Obviously, we believe these experiences can be enhanced through digital tools and strategies, which are essential to staying competitive in your space. However, becoming solely reliant on data-driven personas can result in missed opportunities. In the same way that the Consumer Era of yesteryear forgot to treat people like people, using manipulation and broad tactics to effectively, yet unsustainably conquer markets, in the Relationship Era marketers sometimes forget that building brand intimacy involves engaging individuals in addition to tailoring customer experience for groups. Data helps us create personas and provide timely and relevant content and interaction, but taking personalization to the next level means interpreting the data and reaching out. It means showing personal interest in the experiences of your customers – and not just when they complain.

Studies show that about half of consumers will complain about bad experiences online, but more surprising is that about the same amount will share good experiences, too. The ripple from either of these scenarios can have a serious effect on the public’s trust for a brand, so why not engage these folks directly?

Take Stitch Fix, for example:

Last year, after a customer voiced a desire for a service that the company doesn’t provide, Stitch Fix sprang into action and followed up with not only what the customer asked for, but also a personal note that apologized for not being able to provide this service regularly.



By doing so, Stitch Fix alerted everyone watching that they are open to customer suggestions, that they personalize interaction, and that customer experience is being factored into how they do business — and not just from stats on the back end.

That said, it wasn’t a one-off or an accident either. This particular customer was not an obvious social influencer with 10 million Twitter followers, but she is well respected — and connected — in the world that StitchFix cares about: fashion and design. This is the sort of perfect marriage between human smarts and machine learning that we see as providing the ultimate customer experience. Because of the data-gathering and analytics software they have in place, StitchFix saw the tweet right away, was able to vet the customer in question, and then a human being decided to pull together a delightful experience for that customer. Imagine that: It’s almost the way actual relationships are built!