The better your conversation with a customer, the better your business results. It sounds simple, right? But in an increasingly digital world, how do you build customer relationships to grow your business?

The pandemic has accelerated a shift in thinking for some companies. The value of supporting customers – treating them like an individual, not just a number – has been highlighted as key in cultivating meaningful customer relationships. Yet many marketing strategies remain centered on segmentation – even though you can’t really build a meaningful relationship with a segment.

Segmentation in real-life

Segmentation invades our lives, often without you even realizing and far away from the eyes of marketeers.

The way we speak to our older family members is different to the slang we use to pepper chats with our friends. Without even consciously aware of the nuances, we segment the people in our life and interact slightly differently with each group.

Take how our own reputations can precede us. Some people are typically late when meeting mates for a beer – mates tease and gibe, because – yet again – you’re late to meet them, and you had forgotten where you were meeting them. They love you, but also think you’re a bit of a scatterbrain. However, work colleagues think the opposite; you’re always five minutes early and hyper-organized. Both behaviors are true, because our approach alters in different environments. Think about how even Google can get it so wrong, after you’ve been researching for work, then you start to do some personal research.

Back to segmentation – imagine you only ever interacted with people as a group, and never on a one-to-one basis. A relationship would exist, but how deep would it truly go? By splitting from the group and interacting on an individual level, you learn more about people – and they about you! – and build a more meaningful relationship.

Building customer relationships with segments

For brands, segmentation is an important tool, but it’s by no means a ‘catch-all’. As Marketing Week discusses, mass marketing is a great way to broaden awareness of your brand. Segmentation lets you speak to a group of people, and for some wide-reaching, low-cost retail products (such as toothpaste or socks), that is enough.

But for unique products, such as holidays or high-fashion, marketing needs to step beyond segmentation to build a meaningful relationship with customers. By its very definition, if you’re selling a unique product or experience, you’ll need a unique customer. While segmentation offers a way of tailoring your message to a group of people who share common interests, traits or lifestyles, it doesn’t help you create meaningful customer relationships which will grow your business.

It’s a theme that’s been explored for over 20 years, with a 2001 Market Research Society Conference paper stating “describing the consumers in a segment does not mean that we understand them or how they will react to different marketing initiatives.”

What segmentation lets you achieve is a broad theory about how different audiences may respond. In the travel industry, the simple segmentation of leisure travelers versus business travelers is a well-known, simple segmentation. But within each segment, there are as many variations on what a leisure or a business traveler wants as there are the number of passengers you fly or guests you check-in.

Focus on building customer relationships with individuals

There are ways to foster customer relationships to grow your business – treat them as individuals. But to be laser focused on each and every customer, you need to be able to utilize masses of data in real-time.

For humans, this is simply impossible at scale. This is where technology can help; our AI helps you build on human knowledge and business rules to constantly test, assess, learn and refine the way your brand communicates online.

Creating meaningful relationships with customers on an individual level is the best way to deliver tangible results through your marketing activity. By utilizing personalization tools, letting technology do the heavy lifting, brands are able to speak directly to customers as individuals. This means you can cater for their unique needs, address their pain points and be agile in real-time, learning from their online actions, and translate digital activity and signals into meaningful engagement.

By improving the customer experience, online companies can transform their conversion rate and boost site performance. It helps the customer feel ‘seen and understood’, which not only helps retain customers early in their booking process, but builds long-term trust. These are the types of customer relationships which help to grow your business.

Read more about how technology can help create valuable long-term customer relationships or get in touch to find out more.

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