Personalization Is More Than Knowing Who A Consumer Is; It’s Marketing To Them In The ‘Moment’

Personalization in marketing is on the cusp of a major change. As retailers and grocers ramp up their loyalty programs and adjust to shifting shopper behaviors (like the rise of omnichannel shopping and the growing click-and-collect segment), their personalization efforts must evolve with the times – and meet consumers at moments in which they make their purchasing decisions.

Current personalization strategies are typically adept at identifying who the customer is. To create authentic and effective one-to-one engagement, however, marketers must also consider where the customer is, what they’re doing, and any other contextual information that impacts how and why a customer makes a purchase.

Marketers have access to more first-party and location data and integrated shopper insights than ever before. They also have consumers expecting a much higher degree of engagement with them. It’s now on brands and retailers to take the next evolutionary step in personalization and deliver relevant, actionable content to consumers at the optimal time and within the appropriate context.

There’s no reason a marketing interaction today shouldn’t reflect who an individual shopper is, how they’re shopping and what’s most important to them. Messaging and offers should also consider what’s happening around the consumer and when they will be most primed to receive and act upon a message.

This next level of personalization is called “Marketing in the Moment,” a concept and model that can be achieved by blending shopper data, demographic input, and behavioral and environmental factors to contextualize offers and communication. Marketing in the Moment combines context data with customer data to target critical moments during the shopping experience – here’s how it all works.

Getting in the moment

Part of the reason why Marketing in the Moment feels so necessary now is thanks to the growth of omnichannel shopping and retail. While brick-and-mortar shopping is expected to represent the bulk of total consumer goods sales – more than 80% of all sales still occurred in physical retail stores in 2021 – consumers are increasing their online shopping habits. U.S. consumers spent more than $870 billion online last year, up 14% over 2020.

This means retailers need to engage with consumers online when they’re shopping online and meet shoppers in-store when they’re in the aisles. And those engagements need to be relevant, providing content that matters to them in the moment. This could take the form of a coupon, a notification about a new brand that meets a dietary need or a message alerting a loyalty program member that they’re approaching a loyalty threshold. Marketing in the Moment strives to make retail marketing an asset to consumers, not an annoyance.

One example of Marketing in the Moment:

A regional supermarket reaches a customer through a Marketing in the Moment approach by leveraging first-party data acquired from their purchase history, loyalty information, and more. The supermarket then uses location data to know that that customer is commuting home from work and is currently building a shopping list in the supermarket app on their phone. Factoring in all of this data, plus the warm and sunny weather, the supermarket sends a promotional offer to the customer for 20%-off burgers that are perfect for grilling on a pleasant late afternoon.

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Another Marketing in the Moment example:

Targeting a different shopper, the supermarket can reach a customer in the moment with the same burger manufacturer but with a timelier message based on that individual consumer.

This target customer is already inside the store and shopping near the meat department. The supermarket also knows that this shopper uses the retailer’s mobile app to scan items for loyalty points and the customer’s purchase history and dietary restrictions.

Here, the supermarket factors in that the shopper is a plant-based buyer and sends a notification through the mobile app to find the burger manufacturer’s new meat-free, plant-based burger to scan for loyalty points and also delivers a link to the story of how the product is locally sourced. It’s a message to inspire the shopper during an optimal shopping moment.

With the Marketing in the Moment model, the regional supermarket leverages a range of contextual information to create personalized promotions, offers and meaningful content that are truly tailored to individual shoppers and what they’re doing at any given moment

Marketing in the Moment combines personalization with the ability to recognize a customer’s context in real-time. Every customer has different shopping habits, and this individualistic approach to marketing creates action-oriented moments that seamlessly fit into each shopper’s journey. This is personalization in its near-ideal form.

The core elements of Marketing in the Moment

For companies to get as personal as a Marketing in the Moment strategy allows, they need to combine customer data (like lifestyle and nutrition habits and the broader range of preferences that make up that customer’s profile) with the following four contextual areas of information:

  • Environmental cues — factoring in weather, local sports teams, local events happening in town, seasonal goods being launched, and more.
  • Location — considering where the shopper is physically (at home, in the store, at the deli counter, moving down an aisle, driving near a store, etc.).
  • Activity — knowing what the shopper is doing, like viewing a mobile app, shopping online, performing a scan and shop, meal planning, etc.
  • System triggers — factoring in whether a shopper is engaging with a loyalty program, communicating over social media, answering a question from a chatbot, and so on.

It’s time to get a lot more personal.

As more consumers share their shopping activity through mobile apps and loyalty accounts, they expect that brands and retailers will know them better and can deliver a more personalized experience. Consumers will shop from brands if they demonstrate that they can provide this kind of experience, and Marketing in the Moment can deliver on that expectation.

It’s a new way of thinking about personalization. It aims to replace vague, impersonal messaging with practical, relevant offers and communications. And that’s a good thing.

Companies have been using data to learn about shoppers and shopper groups; it’s time to put that data into action, providing content tailored to shoppers’ decision-making moments. Marketing in the Moment is knowing where consumers are, who they are, and what they need help with. With those contextual details, brands and retailers can create more personalized experiences, guide each customer along a unique shopper journey, and build better relationships that pay long-term dividends.

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