Episode 9

The Role of Personalization in the Digital Customer Experience

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  • How has the digital environment changed customer expectations of brands?
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  • How can I increase brand value with a personalized customer experience?
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  • Where do I start when it comes to creating a personalized digital experience?

A brand management expert shares how personalizing the customer experience in digital channels can brand equity that contributes to business growth.

Personalizing the customer experience has been a growing trend for both B2C and B2B businesses.


80% of consumers say they’re more likely to do business with brands that provide personalized service.

67% of B2B buyers want the ability to research, compare products, place orders and access their order history on their own versus contacting a salesperson.


The global pandemic in 2020 has isolated most shoppers and professionals at home. This has quickly escalated the personalization trend, especially when it comes to the online digital experience.

In this episode, we explore the intersection of B2C consumers and B2B decision-makers. We share the most critical areas to personalize in the digital customer experience to build brand equity that translates to sustainable growth.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • How the digital experience has changed customer expectations
  • Why a personalized customer experience can increase sales
  • Where to start when it comes to personalizing the customer experience
  • Digital tools to deliver a more personalized experience for customers
  • Ideas to measure the impact of creating a personalized digital experience

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcript

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    Paul Roberts: Hey welcome back, everybody. It’s time for another episode of Lead(er) Generation by Tenlo Radio, the show where we help B2B and CPG marketers generate data that turns into money. Yeah, we stopped it right there. Money, that’s the key word, with our host, Tessa Burg, who’s the vice president of UX and technology strategy here at  Tenlo. Let’s bring her in. Tessa, welcome to the show.

    Tessa Burg: Hello, Paul.

    Paul Roberts: When you say money, that stops everything. That stopped the music. That stops everything. When you say it’s going to generate money, it can’t generate money. Come on, we don’t do this really to make money, do we?

    Tessa Burg: Oh, we sure do. And today’s conversation hits both the B2B and CPG sides. And it’s a tactic that is probably, I don’t want to say most critical, but one of the top five most critical things you can do to increase engagement and conversion both online and offline.

    Tessa Burg: So my guest today has spent her career in an industry that almost requires personalization, and that is Fae Harris. Thanks for being our guest today, Fae.

    Fae Harris: Thanks for having me, Tessa. Pleasure to be here.

    Tessa Burg: So I wanted to jump right into personalization. We know it’s critically important in the beauty industry. I mean, you can’t get much more personal than makeup brands and beauty brands, and what people are putting on their skin and their own self-image. So tell us a little bit about your career and what personalization has done, and how you’ve incorporated into the brands that you’ve worked with.

    Fae Harris: Sure, sure. I started many, many moons ago with my education. I went to the B School for Information Age Marketing at Bentley University, which is now Bentley College. And I was really fortunate coming out of there to start into the personal care industry. My first gig was a lot less, shall we say, sexy. I was on Duracell batteries with Gillette. They’re big in Boston, which is where I was raised. But from there, I literally dipped my toe into the beauty industry with L’Oreal USA, and was involved in their personal products division, which basically sells salon haircare to salons. And then most people are more familiar with their consumer division that has consumer brands. But they have a very robust salon-based business, where it’s really B2B and we’re selling directly in salons through distributors.

    Fae Harris: And I spent some time there before coming here to the great state of Ohio, first with Kao brands on their John Frieda business, and then ultimately landing at Aquage, which was previously owned by a company called SalonQuest, and acquired by the Conair Group, or Conair Company, that’s located in Stanford, Connecticut. So now Aquage and Biomega are part of the Conair family. Actually, they were recently spun off. So at any rate, it’s been quite the journey in beauty and particularly haircare, which I really have a passion for.

    Fae Harris: Most recently, I’ve launched my own haircare endeavors with OUTTASIGHT Hair. We launched with one flagship product, which is a multiuse product called the 3-in-1 Scalp Serum, that’s really targeted towards a specific group of customers that engage in protective styling like myself, braid, twist, natural hair, and it really does a lot with just one drop. So that’s where I am today, leading my own ship in the beauty industry, which I love.

    Tessa Burg: That’s awesome. So you’ve had the opportunity to work on beauty brands on both the commercial side and the consumer side. How has digital changed customer expectations of brands?

    Fae Harris: It’s been a doozy. I believe it has really changed the game. As I mentioned, coming into the beauty industry early parts of this century, 2000, exclusive distribution really was different. There used to be a time where salon brands were really only available at the salon.

    Fae Harris: I believe in the beauty industry, digitalization and the whole advent of internet and digital marketing has really opened up distribution channels, and has changed consumer expectations where we don’t expect to go to the store for many things, including shampoo and conditioner nowadays. I think most consumers are used to picking up their phone, going on Amazon let’s say, and expecting things at their doorstep in the next two days, whether or not the product is considered professional or consumer. I think that digitalization has blurred that line so to speak. Professionalism now, I believe, is really driven by the person who’s applying it, and the person who offers the service, whereas before it was heavily dependent on channel availability.

    Tessa Burg: That is such an interesting point. I mean, that speaks to, we’re people, whether we’re at work or at home, and a couple of super facts that we pulled off Google, and one being that 80% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a business that gives them a personalized experience. And then on the B2B side, it’s extremely similar. 67% want that self-driven experience before ever talking to someone. So we have these expectations of I’m going to be able to find what I want and what I need without that interaction just yet. So tell me a little bit-

    Fae Harris: Absolutely.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah. In your experience, what has worked and what hasn’t worked, as you’ve tried to do different personalization or bring brands to life online?

    Fae Harris: I think what really works well, and this is traditional marketing, is the segmentation. At the end of the day, personalization is just really drilling down to the core level of that consumer need and how people want it to be delivered.

    Fae Harris: So for example, dry hair used to be a big category, and people will go pick up a shampoo for dry hair. Now there’s dry shampoos for curly hair and wavy hair and curly hair. Going back to my offering, OUTTASIGHT Hair, it goes down to the scalp level. I feel like personalization and visualization together can allow you to really get to a granular level of what people are looking for, and that’s what makes it resonate. So it’s one thing to get an email that says, rather than, “Hi, customer,” it says, “Hi, Fae.” It’s a whole nother thing, say, “Hi, Fae. We remember it’s your birthday, and we know that you have curly hair and you usually wear braids two times a year. So here goes something that we think is going to work for you.”

    Fae Harris: When you can get to that level of detail and personalization to a person, it really makes the selling super easy. It’s actually not so much of a sale. You’re letting people know that you understand their needs and anticipate what they’re going to need before they even do oftentimes. And I think that’s why we see a rise in subscription-based services, where a lot of times, particularly consumers, want to put that type of decision-making on autopilot, like just, “Hey, send me something every month that you think I’m going to like.” And that’s valuable.

    Tessa Burg: So you said a couple of things that I think are really strong personalization tactics, one, knowing how often someone uses the product, knowing their name, knowing their birth date. I mean, we’ve seen an AB test, just having that simple information in an email versus not having it has a big impact. Are there other tactics that you can use online to drive people in store? Like if the product is, either it’s preferable to buy at a retailer, or just to capture that traffic that wants to have that in-store experience?

    Fae Harris: I do. I think that in-store that’s driving people into store, and particularly during this time, I’m speaking totally pre-COVID. Driving traffic into a store is always key, because when you get there, a lot of people love to shop and pick up other things. And in-store events and theater around that purchase moment is really what brings people in.

    Fae Harris: And I’ll give you a great example of that. Ulta was one of our retailers that we went into, and they do a great job with their consumer data and building their beauty club, their loyalty club, and they had events. They have once a year, it’s a month of beauty, where they feature brands and categories, basically once a day, and people go into the store in droves, because they know that they’re going to get deals, they know that they’re going to get samples, and it builds up the anticipation for that event.

    Fae Harris: I think another example of a retailer who did a great job of that, more so in the past than present, was Victoria’s Secret with their Semiannual Sale. I think that type of personalization and communication particularly go together, so just kind of bring it all in. The communication that you have with your customer, based on the details that you know about them, included in what I’m saying is the frequency of it, [inaudible 00:10:19] via email every week or every month or what have you. But it’s the communication that you have that builds the anticipation or event that can really drive people in store, so that they know that it’s coming, they plan it and they make it more of a destination type event.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah. Well, that’s a great observation that really, the tactics, whether you’re driving someone to purchase online, aren’t that different than if you’re driving them to purchase offline in the retailer. For brands that are just getting into it, whether commercial or B2C brands, just getting into the digital part, have you seen anyone do it really well, or what best practices do you think are most effective?

    Fae Harris: Yes. I think, and I mentioned this earlier before with subscription-based services, which tend to be more so on the rise. And what’s happening is that people are bringing that in-store experience in the home to make it easy for consumers.

    Fae Harris: And one brand that I’ve been watching, that I learned about via Instagram, is a beauty brand called IL MAKIAGE. And they offer foundations, which is notoriously difficult. A foundation is just a notorious beauty product for just having to have a personal experience. Not to put it on, not to see how it matches, it’s really hard to get a shade that’s perfect straight out the gate. And I’m really impressed, because I’ve purchased their product, and they have managed to do that via digital personalization.

    Fae Harris: Going to their website they have amazing quiz with lots of visual examples. They give you an opportunity to drill down to your color. And what I noticed about it is they don’t really even talk a lot about what the color is. It used to be colors had different names. I’d be Chestnut, or maybe on a different brand, I’d be Golden Toasted Nugget, or whatever the case may be. They don’t focus so much on the names of the shades because they make it so personal. I believe their shades just have a number. In fact, it was funny, because I went to look at that and I really couldn’t even find it.

    Fae Harris: But when it came and arrived at my door, it was beautifully packaged and it was a perfect shade. And I thought that was just an amazing experience, from getting onto their website, going through a quiz, to receiving it at my door, and it being everything that I hoped and wished it would be. I felt like, “Wow, they really got it. They really got me.” So of course, when they sent me an email about their Perfect Concealer, I was right there. And they managed to just upsell me on the basis of that experience. And I think that’s a really best case example of what we would all hope to do as marketers.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah. That is a great example. All right. I’m getting a signal from Paul.

    Paul Roberts: We’re getting ready to do your little commercial here. Do a break. Let everybody digest this and think about it here. You ready to break?

    Tessa Burg: Yes, we’re ready.

    Paul Roberts: All right. Let’s take a break and we’ll be right back.

    Paul Roberts: The global pandemic has certainly changed marketing and sales as we know it, and it’s probably not going to come back real soon. So in the meantime, what do you do? How do you plan and prepare for what’s next? Well, we’ve got a simple one hour remote Digital Readiness session, that’s it. Digital Readiness with Tenlo. We’ll talk about opportunities to align your digital marketing tactics to your business’ goals. And we’ll get you in tune with what’s happening today. Plus you’ll receive a Digital Readiness playbook, with immediate next steps to execute measurable digital marketing tactics to drive growth, and to adapt and pivot to these strange times. For more info and to sign up, you can simply visit Tenlo.com, just like it sounds, T-E-N-L-O, Tenlo.com, and get your Digital Readiness playbook in place.

    Paul Roberts: Okay. And with that flourish, we get back to our guest, Fae Harris, who it says in her profile here, is a marketing maven, a beauty brander, and the lady who launches. What’s the lady who launches? Did we talk about that?

    Tessa Burg: We haven’t yet. And it is the next part of this conversation.

    Paul Roberts: Okay.

    Tessa Burg: Fae, I love that example that you gave. It’s funny, you can say, “Oh, quizzes help you personalize.” But what IL MAKIAGE as a brand did so well, is they structured the quiz around the pain point that made buying their product online. I was wondering through your experiences and through following different brands who are doing personalization so well, how have you applied that to OUTTASIGHT, in your own hair beauty brand now?

    Fae Harris: That’s a great question. And definitely something that I stay up at night thinking about, because I certainly don’t have the resources to create a wonderful algorithm to give my customers all that they want and need through a quick survey. I imagine things like that definitely take an investment and they’re worth it. But as a one woman show, what I’ve done is used a lot of the resources that are out there available for free or for a very small amount, mainly surveys reaching out to my customers to find out their usage patterns.

    Fae Harris: So for example, like I mentioned, we launched with one product, 3-in-1 Scalp Serum, and it soothes, moisturizes, and purifies. So it provides three distinct [inaudible 00:16:05]. First and foremost, I wanted to know out of those three, why someone was compelled to buy. Was there really one, like for example, soothing, that propelled them to buy the product, and they were really happy and thrilled that it moisturized and purified as well? Or were they really looking to moisturize? And the fact that it felt great and soothed their scalp was just an added benefit. So really understanding out of those three pain points, which one compelled the most purchase, really helps me adjust my marketing messages via Instagram and other mediums like that.

    Fae Harris: The next thing I did was around the usage occasion. Beauty rituals tend to center either in the morning or at night. And when you use the product to me represented an opportunity of a product development opportunity. So Paul, when I talk about a lady who launches, my background really has been in product development, and really trying to anticipate [inaudible 00:17:11] needs to create products that support that.

    Fae Harris: So what I found in surveying my customer base is that the majority of my clients used the product at night. So that led an excellent opportunity to build around that nighttime ritual, with accessories like pillow cases or sleeping bonnets. And as we get down the line, body washes and lotions helps support that nighttime ritual, versus focusing my attention on using it in the daytime, which would just drive a different type of product.

    Fae Harris: That’s why it’s really important to understand how and when customers are using products, because there are so many different ways we can go. The key to any business is prioritizing and being efficient in allocating the resources, particularly when you’re a small business. So I’ve really let their feedback drive my path forward, in terms of product development and my marketing messages.

    Tessa Burg: That’s awesome. So there was definitely a lot to unpack in there. And in our last conversation, and then right before the show, we were talking about what are the three takeaways. And right from the start of the conversation, I started writing down something. So I have three takeaways for the audience when doing personalization, and Fae, I would love you to add, because we can go over three, maybe there’s five or six. But the ones that I’ve pulled out so far, one, know the challenge. So we’ve established that, on the B2B side and on the CPG side, people expect to be able to buy, and they expect to have a personalized experience. And what you’ve shared with us is if you understand the challenge that’s blocking them from purchasing online, you can create an awesome personalized experience. So you have to know the challenge first.

    Tessa Burg: The second one is, use the data you’re collecting from your customer surveys, or from what they’re gathering from the quiz, to serve the customer. So use the data to serve. It’s not enough to have something generic. It’s about, like you said, with the in-store events, if it’s something they want to go to, you can use online to deliver that information in a personalized way.

    Tessa Burg: And the third thing that you just said that I really loved, is understand how customers use your product. I think this is something a lot of people take for granted. So those were three that I pulled out. Do you have anything else to add or any information you want to … kind of get more context to any of those points?

    Fae Harris: Absolutely. And I’ll start with the last one, because it’s most recent in my mind. But talking about how people use your product, like you said, I know as marketers, we absolutely do take that for granted a lot of times, because it’s a chicken and egg situation. As a marketer and as a product developer, you develop a product with a specific usage in mind. So it’s almost like you’re starting with a bias. Again, I’ll use my product as an example, because I tend to use it in the morning and afternoon. It’s highly sensorial. It makes your scalp buzz. It feels very refreshing. I tend to think that that’s more of a daytime experience. So I was really surprised to find out that most people said, “No, I put it on before I go to bed.” I’m like, “Really? Because it would keep me up all night.”

    Fae Harris: So designed it with a daytime usage in mind. And I think a lot of times, when companies launch products, they absolutely built into the thought process, how they expect people to use it. But in listing and in order to list, then you have to put out that communication and ask the questions. They can really get some feedback that is surprising and can really help guide that strategy. And I think that that’s the main message. It’s almost like, in this time, and particularly as I said, in the beauty industry, which I feel was slow to get on the digital train, because if you think about it, particularly in this COVID environment, we saw things that we considered non-essential are absolutely essential, and included in that are beauty stylists. But those are people that you have to sit with. They have to touch you to do your hair, to give your root touch ups or to give you a haircut.

    Fae Harris: And because of the high level of touch and personalization inherent in the service in the industry, I think a lot of stylists are just so used to managing it in a personal way. Like for example, even booking services. It’s more prevalent now, but the services online booking were available seven to 10 years ago. But a number of stylists prefer to just use an appointment book, and write it down in pencil, and write down Tessa’s name and maybe scratch it off if you didn’t come, which was easy for them because it was habit. But there’s so much opportunity in moving online, even though there’s a learning curve and adjustment longterm, it definitely makes it easier now for Tessa to go online, pick her open availability through something like StyleSeat. The stylist gets an email and then it automatically follows up with you, and lets you know that your appointments coming together, and they didn’t have to do anything. They didn’t have to about their service to write that down or to answer the phone.

    Fae Harris: So I think a lot of stylists have really jumped on board with it, but just like everything, change is always in events. And it’s a learning curve, and hashtag, new normal, that we’re all dealing with now. But over time you get used to it and you can really [inaudible 00:23:21]. And I think businesses that have been slower to adapt to digital or personalization, because they believe that they really don’t need it, their business has been fine without it. I would just encourage everyone to really think about that. In almost every single aspect, there’s a digital tool that can help you do it faster or better. And in the long run, it makes it easier for you, and oftentimes helps save on expenses.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah, I think that was a great example. And it is funny. It’s about improving the experience on both sides, the person who’s providing the service, and for the person who’s using the service.

    Tessa Burg: I think Paul gave us the wrap it up sign. So with that, Fae, thank you so much for being a guest. I told you it would go fast. It flies by. And we got a lot of great information out of this call. And yes, change is an event, but personalizing your brand is worth it.

    Paul Roberts: How do we reach her? We definitely want to personalize a brand, and we always want to leave with how can people reach her for more information?

    Tessa Burg: Oh yes. Fae, how can people reach you for more information?

    Fae Harris: People could certainly reach out via my website, www.outtasighthair.com. They can follow us on Instagram. And you can find me on LinkedIn as B. Fae Harris. As Paul mentioned, I’m a marketing maven, a lady who launches, and I would love to hear from your audience with any thoughts or suggestions about how they use personalization.

    Paul Roberts: And let’s spell that out so everybody’s clear, because Fae couldn’t be spelled lots of different ways.

    Fae Harris: That’s true. So it’s B, the letter B, Fae, F-A-E, last name Harris, H-A-R-R-I-S. And to clarify, OUTTASIGHT Hair is O-U-T-T-A-S-I-G-H-T-H-A-I-R.

    Paul Roberts: Okay. And how do they reach you, Tessa, if they want more information on Tenlo?

    Tessa Burg: They can find us at tenlo.com. We already have a show page up, so you can find Fae’s contact information at tenlo.com, on the podcast page. And we’ll have a recording and transcript there in about a week. So if you want to go back and reference any of these great points on how to add personalization, that’s where it’ll be.

    Paul Roberts: All right. Well, we won’t keep you any longer. Your kids are screaming for lunch here, so … all right. Thanks, guys.

    Tessa Burg: Thank you, Paul.

    Paul Roberts: You’ve been listening to another great episode of Lead(er) Generation by Tenlo Radio, a show designed to help B2B and CPG marketers generate data that turns into money. Here in the funnel radio channel for at work listeners like you.

B. Fae Harris

CEO and founder of Outtasight Enterprises

Fae Harris specializes in bringing high-performance beauty products—that inspire consumer love and loyalty—to life. Over the past 15 years, she has launched innovative hair care products with beauty industry players such as L’Oréal, Kao Brands and Conair Professional Products.

Today, Fae is the CEO and founder of Outtasight Enterprises. Her business mantra is based on the quote “It’s beauty that captures your attention; personality which captures your heart”. This philosophy centers on the premise that true brand loyalty stems from speaking to the heart of the consumer.

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