It Ought to Begin by Being Personal

Posted by
Valerie-Ann Leary
LivePerson Contributor
11/06/2014 - 10:43

As the air turned colder and fall settled in at the LivePerson headquarters here in New York City, I found myself turning to a movie that makes me appreciate this season like nothing else: a classic and personal favorite, You’ve Got Mail.

The movie tells the story of two competing New York business owners who, unknowingly, develop a relationship online. The big business owner, Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) puts the small bookstore owner, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) out of business, unaware she is the same woman he is emailing and, subsequently, falling in love with. Once Joe learns her true identity, he grows concerned Kathleen will hate him should she discover who he is. In an attempt to win her favor, he explains his business decisions:  

Joe Fox: It wasn't ... personal.

Kathleen Kelly: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's *personal* to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.

Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

As their relationship progresses, Kathleen learns that Joe is not just a big business, an anonymous suit—he is real, he is personal. And, of course, they have a perfect rom-com happily ever after!

Even though You’ve Got Mail was one of the first movies to take place in the “Internet age,” as I watched cuddled up on my couch, I realized the message is more relevant today than ever before. In today’s digital world, the standout brands are the ones that create 1:1 relationships, and make their customers feel like they are back on the Upper West Side, in the The Shop Around The Corner discussing Anne of Green Gables with beloved regulars.  

Even if books are not your business, customers and your relationship with those customers certainly are. Below are three ways to create an emotional connection with your customers by treating them as individuals:

Moving from one-to-many to 1:1

There’s something about that small business feel that we, the consumer, cannot get enough of. It’s comfortable, friendly, and above all, it’s personal.

In a crowded, commoditized digital marketplace, the best way to differentiate is through the personalized customer experience. In fact, a new study from Edelman found that about 9 out of 10 consumers “want more meaningful relationships with brands.”

Luckily, new technologies have made it possible to recreate that human touch online. Here are three ways to engage consumers on the individual level, and make the 1:1 digital connection a reality.

1. Chat with intelligence on your side.

Picture this: You’re in your favorite retail store admiring a pair of new leather shoes. But, wait a minute! You then spot a bag that’s just right for the upcoming season (and maybe on sale?) and move on to the next display. An in-store salesperson likely observed your behavior and might offer accessories to match both.

Now, with platforms like LiveEngage, chat agents are closing the gap between in-store and online experiences. Chat agents can initiate chats with historical purchase data, recently viewed pages, demographic data, and more—allowing for more natural, personal engagements that can lead to higher average order values (much like the salesperson tempting you with matching accessories).

2. Prioritize moments that matter most.

According to LivePerson research, 83 percent of those surveyed admitted needing help at some point along the digital path to purchase. It’s critical that brands identify those typical touch points, and prioritize high impact engagements with 1:1 support. A few of those common scenarios include:

  • The first-time customer with high cart value.

  • The platinum, VIP customer at checkout.

  • The customer with a problem and/or complaint.

It’s easy to flag down a salesperson while in-store. Is problem resolution just as easy on digital channels?

3. Listen to your customer.

Cater to individual interests through in-channel content offers. Regardless of channel or location, shoppers don't want to deal with irrelevant messages. Now though, thanks to technology, you can deliver intent-driven content based on keywords used, geolocation, entry path, cart value, among other individual details.

Why it works

Today’s consumer wants to truly connect with their favorite brands. They crave that comfortable, small business feel. Even in a typically impersonal setting, there are ways to get personal (much like Joe and Kathleen falling in love through email). Customers readily offer insight into their preferences, and brands need to leverage that knowledge to provide them with their ideal experience.

If they don’t, they’ll fall behind brands that are getting distinctive. In this customer-centric culture, customer experience can make or break any brand. And, in the words of Kathleen Kelly, it ought to begin by being personal.

How does your brand cater to the individual customer online? Please feel free to share your tips and insight below!

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