Take your personalisation strategy into hyper-drive

TransUnion Africa CEO Lee Naik looks at how hyper-personal services could help business survive in these tough times.

Read time 4min 20sec
Lee Naik.
Lee Naik.

Food prices are up, petrol's up, inflation's about to go up, and everyone seems to be worried about their investments going belly up. So how, in the face of bad news and stressed out customers, do businesses keep their heads up?

The answer could be to take a page out of the Easter playbook: surprise them. Not with chocolate (although you could probably still grab some post-Easter Bunny specials) but with your brand's equivalent of a personalised egg, served with your customer's favourite filling and their preferred brand of chocolate.

In tough economic circumstances, you can't assume customers will come to you. So, why not go to them, offering personalised services wherever they might be? According to Deloitte, a fifth of consumers are willing to pay a 20% premium for personalised products and services.

Of course, the fact that we like services that are tailored in some way isn't exactly new. Netflix and Amazon have been perfecting the art of personalisation for years, tailoring their front pages according to previous tastes and viewing habits, with many purely digital products following suit. To stand out, you need to offer something more than a personalised newsletter. Enter hyper-personalisation.

Hyper-personalisation takes it a step further, personalising not just a single product or service but an entire experience, often outside the brand's traditional channels. It uses technologies like AI, geolocation, facial recognition, 3D printing, sentiment analysis and more to understand and tailor services to customers in a way that we could previously only dream about.

So instead of your favourite coffee shop e-mailing you a voucher for a free cappuccino on your birthday, it's sending you a coupon to its Umhlanga branch because it detects you're on holiday nearby. Then, when you sit down, your waiter's ready with your favourite coffee, with your name mixed in the foam. Starbucks is already in the process of implementing these kinds of ultra-personalised experiences.

Not so fast with that baby package

Just about every consumer-facing industry is loaded with opportunities for hyper-personalisation, but for current examples, you need look no further than the insurance industry. AllLife Insurance, for example, was one of the first in SA to offer customised coverage according to its patients' lifestyle behaviours about a decade ago. As the means to monitor things like health and driving become commonplace thanks to wearables, we should see even more customised premiums.

While hyper-personalisation might on the surface sound like the realm of marketing, it's IT that needs to take the reins in putting in place the necessary business intelligence.

It's not just the coverage side of it that's benefitting from hyper-personalisation. Here's a personal example: a while ago, my pool filter pump broke down and I filed a claim with my insurance provider. A week later, post the pump being fixed, a mysterious package arrived at my house - lo and behold, it was a pool float to go with my fully functioning pool.

Of course, there's a fine line between a good surprise and a creepy one. We all remember the story of how Target was able to guess one of its customers was pregnant and congratulated her by sending vouchers. There's just one problem: the girl was still a teenager, and the vouchers were delivered to her father, who found out before she could tell him.

Hyper-personalisation can be extremely powerful, which is why it needs guardrails in place to make sure the data is being used as beneficially as possible. Establishing trust through a culture of transparency and a robust data security strategy is important before embarking on any hyper-personalisation strategy. It is essential that users are able to opt in and out of the gathering of personal information and highly-tailored experiences.

The secrets in the hay bale

While hyper-personalisation might on the surface sound like the realm of marketing, it's IT that needs to take the reins in putting in place the necessary business intelligence. Micro-segmentation to this degree is a little like searching for a needle in a stadium full of haystacks. The key is to make sure you have the right data-gathering and processing models in place, before piloting on a small scale.

Are your existing systems built to enable and deliver a great customer experience, or do you need to upgrade? Do you have rigorous processes in place to iterate and test any new personalisation aspects you introduce into your brand's experiences? Are you working closely with your marketing team to make sure they're able to gather the right data from the relevant points in the buyer's journey?

Ultimately, the success of any hyper-personalisation efforts are going to depend on the robustness of your data architecture. Is yours ready for the age of the hyper-personal?

About Lee Naik

Lee Naik is CEO of TransUnion Africa and is recognised as one of SA's leading digital and technology transformation experts.

Naik has worked across all spheres of government and private sector industries. He has a deep understanding and appreciation of the transformative role technology can play and his experience ranges from developing first-in-country strategies and solutions to leading complex delivery programmes.

In his previous role as MD of Accenture Digital, he focused on helping organisations transform their businesses to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world.

A frequent speaker and commentator, Naik was recognised as a global top 10 commentator in the 2015 LinkedIn Top Voices awards, and was a recipient of the 2015 Standard Bank Rising Stars Award. In 2016, he was one of the top 10 finalists for the IITPSA's IT Personality of the Year award.

* Follow Lee Naik on LinkedIn: and Twitter: @naikl

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