In an always-on digital world consumers have scarcity of attention and abundance of choice. As a result, their expectations of their relationship with organisations have changed.  
Organisations have to personalise the relationship they have with consumers. Consumers expect data-enriched experiences personalised to their circumstances, and crucially want:

  • “Small Data” that is relevant and actionable at the right moment and location
  • Content, services and products that meet their individual needs within a specific context
  • A consistent and seamless experience across all channels

 
Firms that grasp this imperative to understand their customers across their whole digital footprint, and leverage that information with actionable insight to personalise their customer experience will create a virtuous circle with customer intimacy at its heart.  Forrester noted “To succeed in today’s digital environment, firms must deliver smarter, more-customer-centric interactions…tailored for each user and his or her specific set of circumstances”.1
 
This has a number of drivers:  firstly to gather contextual data on consumers.  For next generation personalisation this is no longer confined to data captured through direct touch points, but data gathered through social media, sensors, with mobile seen as the key channel.
Secondly, to turn that big data into small data that is relevant for the consumer according to their context (e.g. channel, location, purchase history, last site visited etc.) and is actionable.  Thirdly, by understanding or predicting a consumer’s intent, increasingly through understanding their social media profile as well, or indeed instead of, their stored profile.   
 
Amazon, through their collaborative filtering, is the benchmark by which customer centricity and personalisation is measured, but other innovative companies are also providing personalised experiences.
 
Netflix’s success has been built on offering its customers a guided experience; it displaced Blockbuster not through its content acquisition strategy (though the focus on TV series was a strong differentiator) but on personalising the experience helping guide a consumer’s choice.  
 
Nike Fuelband “tracks not only how much, but also how often and how intensely you move, gives you real-time feedback, move reminders and insights to help you move more and move better.”  Nike has leveraged its processing power to create personalised experiences.
 
Why does personalisation matter?  Gartner state that “businesses that use personalisation are seeing an average 19% uplift in sales”.  Personalisation can not only contribute to revenue uplift, but in an increasing competitive world with an abundance of choice, it can also provide cut through to organisations or brands.  Barry Schwartz in “Why less is more” argued that too much choice is paralysing. The response is to start to build personalised customer experiences that simplify and guide choice.
 
While creating personalised experiences is not new, it is the access to big data from mobile, social media and sensors that will paradoxically provide small data to consumers.    

1. “Advance To Next-Generation Personalization” Forrester, January 2014  
2. “Ten New Realities of Customer Engagement to Account for When Developing a Digital Strategy” Gartner, June 2013