Hyper-personalisation is just that – hype.

So GDPR has arrived. Everyone is now buckling down to look at how to engage with their customers who have consented to some form of relationship and the new kid on the block is ‘hyper-personalisation’ and AI to deliver massive benefits!

There are 50+ articles a week about how by understanding exactly what your customer wants next you can corner the market, but of course you’re not alone. Everyone is jumping on the latest bandwagon and it comes down to one thing we are not measuring at all… How well do you really know your customer and is what you have to offer of interest to them?

The real answer is, of course, you barely know them at all. Most brands have so little interaction with their customers that they cannot meaningfully claim to know them.

The Marketing and Data Science teams will produce endless graphics to impress the board and senior management; after all, you’ve invested millions in new technology, new teams and restructuring your data so you must be winning …. Right? So why are so many retailers failing? It’s simple. Customers want three things from you: the right products, at the right prices as frictionlessly as possible.

Sure, a few customers will visit and buy from you 20-30 times a year, but the vast majority will visit you a few times and buy on even fewer occasions. What was that “Little Black Dress”? A special purchase, an impulse, “at that price you just can’t say no”… Be honest; you really have no idea. For most customers, your data alone is of very little value. To really understand the customer you need to look outside at other data sources to put their behaviour with you into context.

The first lesson that everyone needs to recognise is that most of the customers who gave you consent in GDPR want one thing from you… Offers. They get the value exchange; ‘you can talk to me if you give me deals’.

The second is that your own data is not enough. However, linking data from outside the organisation at a customer level is both against GDPR guidelines and carries the immense risky of making things worse.

I researched and bought a picnic table the other weekend and the bloody thing is still following me around. Every time I go to various websites, there it is. I’ve already bought it for heavens sake!

Hyper-personalisation and AI risks the same thing. The old rule, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”, applies today. Most organisations’ data is dirty and distorted by internal business processes: you have limited knowledge of the customer; the context of their purchase was not captured, just the item they bought. Do they prefer store A, store B or online?

Finally, do you really have time to design unlimited offers to suit every customer? No, you don’t; you need to decide what repertoire of offers to send and which is the right one for each customer.

We need to go back to basics. Build meaningful segmentations that bring together both internal and external data to get a description of these segments and then develop really great offers with the right tone, imagery and content to best suit them.

You can safely enrich and further segment with data from outside the business; social data, market patterns, geography and proximity, neighbourhood behaviours, weather and footfall. Real data that adds huge context to the little you do know about your customers.

This isn’t hyper-personalisation, this is scoring & targeting that the industry should have been doing for years but we all just got too lazy and thought the computers could do it for us; they can’t. They can recommend, they can measure but ultimately you still have to run your business.

More importantly, it’s about using the customer metrics to ensure your business offer is right – products, stores, staff, promotions – fixing the fundamentals of your business will deliver much more value than targeting customers. Once you’ve got the fundamentals right, tell your customers and be RELEVANT – but to thousands of customers at a time – and you stand a much better chance of winning.

I’m often quoted as saying the R in CRM stands for RELEVANCE not relationships. Most of your customers don’t want a relationship with you.

That’s what we’ve been doing for 25 years and it works. Forget the ‘hype’ of hyper-personalisation and focus on what’s broken and needs fixing in your business first, and then on the one thing they all want – a RELEVANT offer.

This piece originally appeared on Clive’s LinkedIn.

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