For True Personalization, Consumers Have to Meet Brands Halfway

Exploring the role customer input plays in personalization

Author: Maria Minsker

July 31, 2017

By now, marketers understand the importance of personalization, and most brands aim to provide consumers with highly curated experiences whenever possible. But it’s not just up to the brand—personalization is only as effective as the data that drives it. Sandro Roco, director of strategic initiatives at Bombfell, a subscription style box delivery service for men, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about the key role customer input plays in personalization efforts. 

eMarketer: What’s the brand story Bombfell is hoping to convey to customers?

Sandro Roco: We want our customers to think of us as a vending machine. They’re standing in front of it and they say, “I want a great pair of jeans that fit the exact contours of my body.” Then they press 1, and a pair comes down and fits perfectly. We want to deliver that seamless experience in the style boxes our customers receive.

eMarketer: What obstacles are standing in the way of telling that brand story?

Roco: It’s a lofty promise to deliver. If a consumer wants to buy the cheapest set of batteries, they go on Amazon.com and they’ve got it. Fashion is more subjective. Customers expect personalized experiences, but these experiences require input and investment from them. There’s only so much data we can gather—we either have to make them understand that they have to give up more data on themselves, or we have to find innovative ways to get that data more seamlessly.

“Customers expect personalized experiences, but these experiences require input and investment from them.”

eMarketer: What kind of personalization or segmentation do you use for your marketing programs?

Roco: For email, we get some initial cues from the questions we ask when customers sign up. One of the first questions we ask is why they’re signing up for our service, which gives us an important signal.

For example, if someone signs up because he’s "too busy to shop," then he’s interested in convenience and having clothes that fit his lifestyle. But other customers are interested in the educational aspect of fashion, so our stylists tailor their messaging to highlight key points about the clothes or give them pairing suggestions.

eMarketer: Do you use personas or segments to communicate with consumers, or are you able to achieve one-to-one personalization?

Roco: We've built three customer personas. It’s a broad bucket, but as time goes on, we get a really good sense of who each customer is personally. While personas might be helpful at first, as we build the relationship and interact through more touchpoints, we can deliver more one-to-one personalization.

eMarketer: How did you identify those three personas?

Roco: Our product team has done a lot of work over the past six months to develop them based on qualitative user interviews. Our data science team has also been slicing and dicing our CRM [customer relationship management] and transactional data to create these personas.

“While personas might be helpful at first, as we build the relationship and interact through more touchpoints, we can deliver more one-to-one personalization.”

eMarketer: Can you share an example of how you've used a progressive series of messages to foster deeper, more personalized engagements?

Roco: The goal in the beginning is to build trust, so our early messaging and our shipments start out more conservatively. Once we establish that trust—which we know we’ve done once a customer buys an item from their box—then our stylists can push customers outside their comfort zones with bolder recommendations. Every box comes with a note from a stylist, where they can suggest accessories or give outfit ideas.

eMarketer: Are your customers aware of the extent to which you’re personalizing their experiences?

Roco: That’s a question we wrestle with everyday. There's a lot we can do to improve how we communicate the value of the personalized nature of our service. We are getting better, though. For example, we’re seeing positive signals right before a shipment goes out, when we email a client with a stylist introduction and bio to personify and contextualize the person who will be styling them. That way, it's no longer just a picture and a name—it’s a personal connection. 

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash


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