Today’s entitled customers are upsetting the power dynamics of the marketing world. Amplified by social media and hyper-connected to their peers, they are heard above the marketing chatter. Their voices can sink campaigns, render brands uncool forever. And yes, they know it.

As CRM expert Richard White, who coined the term ‘entitled customer’, stated: “Going forward, customers will feel entitled to an amazing customer experience and woe to companies that don’t give it to them.”

What constitutes “amazing” customer experiences in 2017 is, for the most part, a new breed of hyper-personalization that puts the customer’s individual preferences, history, and current situation at the center of every contact with a brand. Today, over 75% of consumers already say they are more likely to purchase from a retailer who knows their name as well as their purchase history and recommends on-taste products (Accenture).

And here’s the kicker: Although this level of personalization is a relatively recent phenomenon, entitled customers already feel, well, entitled to getting the individualized treatment every time – or spit venom and flames all over their social channels. According to a new Infosys study, 74% of customers feel “frustrated” when a website’s content is not personalized (never mind that personalized website experiences are still far from the norm out there).

If this level of entitlement sounds like a tall order for marketers, that’s because it is.

No one said entitled customers would be easily satisfied, but then again, they have a point. Who wouldn’t feel completely snubbed if the coffee shop barista who greeted them by first name every morning and immediately began crafting their go-to-drink suddenly switched gears and asked, with a blank stare, “Hello there, madam. How may I help you?”

This kind of disorienting switch from friend to stranger pretty much sums up the customer service experience in far too many cases. According to a recent Selligent survey, only 34% of companies are able to identify their customers at the moment of interaction – with entitled consumers stomping their feet, fuming from their nostrils, “Do you even know WHO I AM?!” And no, the fact that a growing number of customer interactions are automated these days does not constitute an excuse. Not in 2017.

Personalized everything: How did we get here?

In retrospect, the current level of customer expectations – why customers are so entitled – is actually the direct result of increasingly personalized service experiences. When Starbucks started letting customers customize their coffee drinks down to the precise number of caramel pumps and the variety of foamed milk on top, served with their name written on the paper cup, it opened up a new path – a path to where we are today.

Along the way, customized sneakers, automobiles, and even prefab houses went from modern-day miracles to totally normal. Coca-Cola’s name-based “Share a Coke” campaign went from semi-personal first names on bottle labels to fully customizable bottles, delivered within a few days. Customers can print their own image on M&Ms or create 10,000 combinations of Oreo Cookies via innovative vending machines.

In customer’s homes, personalization now reaches every room via disembodied voices that answer to names such as Siri or Alexa – offering custom-tailored information and shopping services by verbal command. It’s a winning formula, and 77% of customers have chosen, recommended or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized experience (Experience Trends 2016).

But there’s also a downside, because the quantum leap towards customized experiences left personalized marketing messages trailing behind. Sure, email marketing has come a long way from simple batch-and-blast approaches with generic salutations and irrelevant content, but now many marketers are struggling to make the shift from low-level personalization and linear campaign-based marketing to truly contextual marketing – customer-initiated interactions that are triggered outside of campaigns.

The Answer: Consumer-First Marketing

In order to bring marketing messages into the age of hyper-personalization, we here at Selligent are focusing on what we call Consumer-first marketing. Instead of starting customer engagement by choosing a product or communications channel, our clients are now putting individual customers and their distinct personal preferences at the center of campaigns – making every interaction on each and every touchpoint a personal experience.

The foundation for Consumer-first marketing is rich data, collected in real time and made actionable via universal customer profiles. And by uniting data warehouse, campaign design, and execution into one seamless platform, Selligent can personalize messaging to a customer’s current situation by using location data combined with past behavior and transaction history.

As a result, our clients can send hyper-personalized messages – and do so in an automated way – triggered by factors such as weather data, product stock data, loyalty tier data, and live events. Some of many winning examples include:

  • Selligent client InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) uses weather forecasts, dynamically embedded in its pre-stay emails, to help guests prepare for their trip. Unique open rates are on the sunny side at 68%.
  • Our client is one of Britain’s leading online grocery retailers, delivering to over 70% of the UK population. The company will soon launch personalized shopper programs using customers’ online behaviors.
  • Selligent client ExtraSpace Storage used personalized emails that were relevant to customers in the middle of moving house to attain a 50% jump in email-attributed conversion rates and 23% increase in rentals via mobile devices.
  • Skincare experts Etat Pur use a precise targeting strategy to reach audiences that are most likely to convert, and to suggest products that are most likely to be of interest – thereby pushing open rates to 45%.


Outlook: Why Hyper-Personalization is Not Optional

These success stories are part of a new wave of hyper-personalization. But at the rate things are going, even today’s cutting edge experiences will ultimately become the status quo – and customers will feel entitled to them.

Looking ahead, the customer experience will be driven increasingly by convenience. Customers will align themselves and purchase from brands that identify them as individuals at every step and make experiences as simple as texting a pizza emoji for instant delivery (Domino’s) or walking into a store and purchasing products without even passing the checkout (Amazon).

Many marketers already believe that “convenience is the new loyalty”  – and that creating friction-free customer experiences across all channels will be the key to making that happen. What is key for marketers to remember is that in a convenience-driven environment, the brands that succeed will be those that place a premium on the use of integrated data. Only the brands that place their customers at the center of every interaction – with the capability to deliver hyper-personalized messages on the right channel – will be first in mind for entitled customers. The rest will be conveniently forgotten.

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