Powering CX & Engagement with Real-Time Personalization

  • October 31, 2023
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We at Lemnisk, hosted a Customer Data Platform (CDP) In-Person Summit for the India region on June 8th, 2023 at Hotel ITC Grand Central, Mumbai. The CDP Summit aimed to make enterprise marketers understand how they could supercharge their marketing ROI using CDP-led hyper-personalization. This article focuses on the second panel discussion titled: “Powering CX & Engagement with Real-Time Personalization”.


The panelist details are as follows:

  1. Apurva Sircar, Head – Marketing, Bandhan Bank
  2. Akash Shrivastava, Head of Growth Marketing, Livspace


Moderator: Subra Krishnan, Chief Executive Officer, Lemnisk


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Here are some of the key takeaways from the insightful discussion:


Powering CX & Engagement with Real-Time Personalization


1. What does real-time personalization mean in the context of your industry?


Akash: We are a startup in a rapidly growing stage. We have kept our targets for the next six months where we have to reduce our customer acquisition costs. Step-by-step what we would like to achieve is “How do we improve our conversions? How do we personalize, improve our customer experience, improve customer engagement, bring in better conversions, and thereby reduce our costs?


The second aspect of it is that the customer right now engages with us across different channels. So we are looking at “How do we optimize our interaction with customers on their preferred channels.” Around 20% of our leads are generated through WhatsApp. There is around 60% of leads which come through website lead generation. And then there is another 20% which comes through phones. Hence, we want to give options to customers and personalize different communication channels thereby reducing our cost of acquisition. 


Apurva: All of us carry mobile phones. Just pick up your phone. Go to your messages and see the last ten messages that you would have received from businesses. How many of them end up saying, “Dear Customer”? The majority of them would say that. And these are businesses that you are actually dealing with. They have all your information. 


Second, there could be another example of a business saying, “Dear, Your Full Name”. I’m not simply Apurv. I’m Apurva Ranjan Sarkar for a bank that just sent me a message in the afternoon saying my KYC was due. So, personalization, whether it be a bank or any business, starts by really understanding the customer. I don’t think there are too many businesses that are getting it right even from the basic standpoint of how you address the customer. 


From a banking point of view, I think the scope for real-time personalization is immense but we are not even scratching the surface. The main reason for that is because of the legacy systems that we carry. And therefore, the data collection is from sources that do not understand each other’s languages. Hence, getting a one view of the customer becomes even more complex. 


The third point, as in the case of Airtel, is that in the space of about ten minutes, you’ll get three messages from the same bank about three different things that you can do. So the governance of communication, how much, to whom, and how frequently, I think is the third challenge that needs to be addressed for banks to get there. But the bottom line is that we are still not even scratching the surface, which is good news for vendors like Lemnisk as there is a lot to do and there is very little that we have done so far. 


2. What kind of framework can you use to understand what data is important and what data is not? How do you go about collecting it in a consistent and clean manner? 


Apurva: Fortunately for a bank, there is immense data that the customer himself or herself generates over time. And it’s not just because of transactions, it’s also because of the visits, etc. and therefore, the ways in which data can be collected have to be robust.


For instance, if there’s a walk-in to the branch, do you have the right CRM solution to capture the data that there is a walk-in by this customer in the branch? If a third person is coming in and it is a bearer, is there a way of actually figuring out that the bearer comes for this customer? That means the customer himself or herself does not have the time to visit the branch. So what are the kinds of data that you can pick up from the various points of interaction? That is very important.


Transaction data gets captured in the bank. With transaction data, how granular can the data be? And somewhere in the backdrop resides a data lake. It can have all kinds of unstructured data on which you can then create models to figure out what each individual customer is about. Second, as third-party cookies are on their way out soon, how is it that we can use first-party data anonymously? How do you pick up anonymous data from the various data sources that are first-party data sources, be it through the various social media channels or for your website, etc.?


And the most important part that the CDP brings forth is how you put the data together to create the persona of the customer. The data collection can happen through a variety of sources for banks. The most important is transaction data because that is the basis on which you can drive a lot of personalization. And the other sources, if they can come together, thanks to tools like Lemnisk today, it just helps. Put all of them together and create that one view.  


Akash: Data collection and data validation are a journey for us. There are so many systems and channels today. When you collect data from these channels and design a journey, you will find out that you are not collecting a particular piece of data or that the data that is coming in is kind of incorrect. 


So, it takes time to validate every single piece of data that is coming to our system. This is one of the challenges that we face. Coming to the framework, we look at what kind of impact certain journeys probably will create in the system. If impacts are not created, then that whole effort goes to the dustbin. Then, you start prioritizing the other efforts. There are n number of things which are to be done. So we have to make sure that if we are doing three experiments or three things, one of them creates the impact. And that’s where we do all these data validations and impact analysis. 


3. Akash, can you walk us through an example where you felt that you honed into a variable or a personalization aspect of the customer that you found was relevant?


We are there in 40 plus cities in India. One of the biggest personalization aspects for us is creating trust and connection with customers across cities. We have seen vernacular advertisements and localization of communication have played a big role. So that’s where we feel bullish. If we are localizing the content on our pages, it will deliver great results for us. 


4. What people often ask when they talk about real-time personalization, CDP, etc., is how do you get started and how do you make ongoing progress. Can you talk a little bit about that?


Apurva: One of the biggest challenges about getting into something like a CDP for various organizations is that no fixed route can be taken. It’s only upon discovery that you can decide how you want to go forward with it. Therefore, there are no benchmarks or the kind of expenses or a cost-benefit analysis that can be applied saying, you will get this much. Unfortunately, with the lack of that, the buy-in within the decision-making circle becomes a little difficult. And hence, what you have to go for are the low-hanging fruits.


Go for the low-hanging fruits where the effort will be minimal and the expense will also be minimal. But at the same time, there is some movement that can be displayed saying that this helped us achieve X. Now with that in place, you can start building on that experience by adding a few more lines which you believe can quickly give you results. 


So, in a time when pizza reaches you in less than 30 minutes, everyone expects results from new tools to come very quickly. The patience is not there anymore. New-age tools in traditional organizations are looked at as a remedy for what offline is not able to deliver.  And if you take time to deliver those results,  it just establishes the fact that nothing will happen. Hence, start with the low-hanging fruit, which is possibly the most cost-effective, and also does not require too much effort in implementation. You show results from that, and then you keep adding lines. 


Talking about the future, I think, for a sector like banking, it is the entire lifetime of the customer that we can be with him/her and create value at various points in time through various things that we can provide. For those who have discerning parents and who open kids’ accounts, it starts even before 18 and goes on till the time that you breathe your last. So, how is it that we can define the customer journey so granularly that we can add value to what the customer is looking for at various points in time?


I think that is the end goal of any personalization or any customer-oriented banking institute. And we are far away from there. Because if you look at the largest banks in the country, I don’t think there has been a concerted effort to put together a customer journey map. And every line of business is doing its work. So the customer is at the back end and the business numbers are in the front end. I think that is where the challenge happens. By the time I retire, if I were in the banking industry, I would want to make that impact by bringing in the concept of CLTV in letter and spirit. 


5. For Livspace, how do you go thinking about how you work with existing customers?  


The customer lifespan right now is seven to ten years. We are not looking at any particular customer requirement. What we are looking at is while a customer has a requirement of say, home interiors, how do we capitalize on the opportunity? 


The customer is exploited with choices. It’s becoming more and more demanding. So we’re trying to optimize our journey, trying to understand customers more, personalizing and optimizing our funnels to get better conversions. That starts right from the customer who has interacted with us on the website for the first time. We are capturing their data such as from which campaign or channel has he come from, what he or she interacted with on the website, etc.


That’s the first interaction. And we have started doing customer profiling and that’s where we are trying to optimize our funnel to impart the best customer experience and our goal of getting better conversions. 


6. Apurva, you spoke about data security and privacy. As Bandhan Bank is more traditional, it might be even more conservative than the average bank. And in an environment like this, as somebody who wants to become more digital, and more personalized, how do you balance that? 


No regulator in the BFSI sector is lenient. Certain guidelines have to be followed when you are in this business. There are two parts to this. One is what is allowed and the judgment of where to draw the line. In a lot of ways, things could be allowed by the regulations. But as a business, you have to take a call, where do I draw the line?


In banking, we collect a lot of information. Even when you’re opening an account, there’s a lot of information that is collected on the form. The same goes for life insurance or any other financial product that you would be going for. So we already are collecting enough data and that is mandated also to a large extent because that is the information you need to get the customer on board and that is required. The other data that you collect is not necessary from the banking operation point of view.  For example, I’m tracking the customer on my website. Is that necessary? It is not necessary.  Tomorrow if I don’t collect the data, will RBI pull me up saying, why haven’t you done that? No, they possibly don’t even know what is first-party data.


How much to collect is the first question. Does the user know you’re going to collect data?  And how much of it will you use for the customer’s benefit and not the business’s benefit? These three questions are the most important things one has to consider. Take an example from the US. One of the leaders in personalization there has been Zappos. If you see how Zappos has done is that they have actually taken permission from the customers. And more than 70 percent of them have said, yes, I am willing to share my data with you if you’re going to give me an experience.


I think that is where we need to be. That’s a highly mature space to be in and we are far from it because of the malpractice that has happened in this entire system. I bank with a lot of banks. One of the large banks that I bank with calls me every day, at least twice. And asks me the same thing. Do you need a personal loan? Do you need any other loan? Where is the personalization? They’re just looking at my bank account. They’re saying, he doesn’t have money. He has to give money. And therefore, they’re possibly doing that. Or when my credit card balance is too high, they would say, sir, get an EMI done. Just because my balance is too high, I wouldn’t want to do an  EMI.  So, we are not using the data right as well.


7. When you have new kinds of technologies coming in, some of which impact the customer, some of which don’t, what is a framework that you can use to assess impact? How would you suggest to everybody here in the audience that they stay abreast of some of these possibilities in terms of assessing their impact? 


Akash: Whatever new technology such as generative AI comes in, we check if it is improving customer experience, engagement, and the customer funnel. That’s the basic principle that we would be looking at. And on the technology side, exciting things are happening. But I would say wait and watch. Don’t burn your fingers. Don’t romanticize a lot of things. If you burn your fingers again and again, then we don’t have many chances. So, be watchful. Look at the different use cases that are happening with different technologies. And start implementing and experimenting with them. 


Apurva: Yeah, so I think we have to distinguish between what has potential and what are the shiny balls. You have to be mature. While these are all new developments, one has to look at business and what sense a new development makes for it. That is the most important criterion to assess before you even start working on it. 


A lot of companies got on to the metaverse with no disrespect to what they’ve tried to do. I think in trying to do what they wanted, they’ve reached somewhere better than where they were earlier. They may not have succeeded in doing what they wanted to. But they got onto the metaverse before even knowing what it would entail. I don’t think every company has the wherewithal, either from a resource point of view or money, to keep investing in every shiny new ball. 


So you have to figure out what will add value and go after that. And for the ones that you’re a little unsure about, I think you have to keep your distance from them and watch them mature.  



By Bijoy K.B | Associate Director – Marketing at Lemnisk


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