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Roy Robinson
11 April 2019

What is decisioning?

It’s pretty clear who now controls the relationship between brand and consumer. Empowered by technology and emboldened by a fickle and fast-moving digital culture, consumers have taken charge in an on-demand world.

As a result, consumer expectations of brands have gone through the roof. They demand brilliant, relevant and hyper-personalised experiences – on the channels that suit them, and at the times that suit them. These expectations aren’t confined by service or sector either: what people get from Netflix, Google and Uber, they now expect of their bank, airline and utilities provider, too.

Brands have had to respond. Gone are the days of linear customer journeys and one-size-fits-all marketing campaigns. Today customer experience (CX) is king – and consumer-facing companies must create brilliant experiences for their customers, no matter the time, place, or platform. So rapid is the pace of change that Walker has forecast CX to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

McKinsey data shows that personalisation can deliver up to 5 to 8 times the ROI on marketing spend, and lift sales by 10%

Personalisation, then, has evolved out of necessity – to keep pace with rapidly growing and changing customer expectations. But it also presents a mammoth opportunity for business. Personal, relevant and valuable experiences for customers in turn lead to improved engagement, lower acquisition costs and accelerated conversion for businesses. The commercial case couldn’t be more clear – with McKinsey data showing that personalisation can deliver up to five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and lift sales by 10% or more.

As you would expect, any big consumer brand worth its salt has set out on mission to make personalisation and customer experience work for its business. But many are still struggling to translate this ambition into action.

The challenge is that personalisation isn’t something that can just be ‘turned on’. Many organisations have tried – and failed – with off-the-shelf tech that promised to plug-in and just make omnichannel personalisation happen. But after rounds of investment they’ve been left disappointed. Customer engagement still locked in channels. No real-time. Marginal uplift of customer experience and bottom-line results. The end goal is clear, but while buzzwords such as real-time, omnichannel and 1:1 have hit the mainstream, true personalisation still feels a way off.

A big part of the solution lies in something that, to date, has avoided much of the hype: decisioning. Decisioning is a technique that blends data, rules and predictive analytics to make smart decisions about what to talk to customers about, on what channel, at any given time. Put simply: it’s the brain that lets personalisation deliver on all the promise.

While tech plays an integral role, decisioning isn’t just a digital brain. It’s about human and organisational ingenuity, too. It requires a blend of people, business and technology, and represents a holistic change to the way a company operates. It’s about becoming more agile, more responsive, more future-proof – traits that will all drive broad, holistic benefits right across the business, on top of enabling personalisation.

To get it right isn’t easy. Decisioning is a multidimensional process that takes vision, collaboration and persistence – and it will work differently for every organisation. To make effective and measurable progress, there are six important steps every business needs to consider.

1. Think big, start small

Personalisation strategies often face a lot of obstacles internally, especially in organisations with established legacy systems and ways-of-working. Starting with just one or two early use cases, aligned to existing strategic objectives, can help prove the value, win over critical stakeholders, and get the wheels turning.

2. Embrace “decision first”

This has to be a coordinated, business-wide effort. Effective decisioning starts with embracing the bigger picture: a crystal clear understanding of your CX objectives and the customers you want to target. Rid yourself of received wisdom, traditional approaches and standardised customer offers.

3. Structure your business for CX

Traditional business structures aren’t built for a customer-focused world and, in many cases, actually prevent the kind of joined-up, collaborative thinking needed to help decisioning achieve its potential. Build your organisation around CX – not the other way round.

4. Treat decisioning as a system of operations

You’ll need teams, structures and processes to monitor results, measure outcomes against a set of clearly defined KPIs, and commit to refinement on a continuous cycle.

5. Get the right skills onboard

Decisioning requires a range of people with an emerging set of skills. Build teams that are forward-looking and future-ready, willing and capable to evolve with a rapidly shifting tech landscape.

6. Get the right tools

Technology is the canvas on which decisioning plays out. You need the right tools to do a complex job, for a large range of internal stakeholders. That starts with a decisioning engine that allows collaboration between all teams, that is designed to flex and evolve with your business now and in the future.

As we move forward in this ‘age of the consumer’, decisioning can play a critical role in helping organisations meet – and exceed – expectations by unlocking personalisation and driving market-leading CX. But it’s clear the benefits don’t stop there. Companies can turn decisioning to their advantage, reinvigorating the entire organisation with a more agile and – ultimately – more profitable way of doing business. Seen in this light, the prize is simply too big to ignore.

Roy Robinson
Director of Product

Roy is Director of Product at Boxever – a market-leading personalisation platform that uses data and AI to make every customer interaction smarter. Boxever is recognised by Gartner as a leading player in personalisation and ranked by Forbes alongside Google, Apple and Amazon as one of the most powerful examples of AI in use today.

The company has just published a new decisioning guide: Decisioning: marketing’s game-changer. It explores how businesses can capitalise on the potential of decisioning and personalisation, wherever they are on their CX journey. You can download the guide here.

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