Contextualization: The New Rules of Customer Engagement

I recently returned from a delightful European city break packed with sightseeing, sunshine, eating and drinking. As I wandered around the cobbled streets of Rome, TripAdvisor would ping updates to my mobile phone based on my location. The app would prompt me to try highly-rated restaurants in the vicinity when dinner time approached. It even suggested I took a look around lesser-known galleries hidden down side-streets that I may otherwise have walked by. This is the perfect example of contextualization: serving up relevant customer data based on real-time surroundings and it is fast-becoming the new norm of successful customer engagement.


Brands are moving to contextualized customer engagement

Personalization is so 2008. While a personalized customer experience is all well and good, simply knowing your customer is no longer enough. You should aim to have a 360-degree view what’s going on around the customer, so you can understand where they are and what they’re doing and offer them a better service based on this information.

For example, retailers have been personalizing the online shopping experience for years, by serving up suggestions based on items they have previously viewed or purchase. But personalization relies on information they’ve already collected and past experiences. Contextualization anticipates customers’ behavior based on their situation.

Topshop took its retail website to the next level of customer engagement by using geo-location to identify the weather in users’ local areas and then let them shop for weather-appropriate apparel.



(Image from eConsultancy)

Spotify is using a combination of previously collected data and situational information to serve up relevant content. The music streaming service will send emails to users based on the artists that they listen to, alerting them when concert tickets go on sale in their local area for their most-played bands and performers. A handy feature to give you a heads up ahead of the ticket touts.

Then there are insurance companies that are making use of customers’ personal data to anticipate what insurance they may need to buy next. For example, suggesting that people who have just taken out a mortgage may be interested in buying buildings and contents insurance. Or new parents may be interested in taking out life insurance. The list goes on…


So how should you approach contextualization?

Now for the technical stuff. As explained by Andy McDonald, Co-founder of The Information 4.0 Consortium, you can consider a customer through the Sigg model of context. This is created by three overlapping domains:


  • Persona: Information gleaned from marketing and software design to construct customer personas.
  • Observable time & space: Location, time and environment are the factors to take into account here.
  • Purpose/Process/Activity/Intent: Simply put, this is mapping the business case. This will become a form of segmentation that is far from understood, nor will it be harmonious among different sectors.

In order to reach the state of ‘C’ – a contextualized customer view, you need to take a look at your customers’ individual circumstances. Are they on holiday? Are they moving house? Or starting a family? Insights of this kind help organizations to offer more relevant products and services; which is better for both your business and for the customer. Put simply, contextualization aids comprehension.


Challenges of delivering contextualized customer experiences

The good news is, the digital tools exist to make this data available in the moments of customer engagement that matter and give customers the service they want. But making these tools an integral part of how you interact with customers is tricky. The data required is often held in siloed systems that are hard to integrate and organizations often face a lack of skills, a lack of collaboration and – as ever – budget constraints.

This struggle with making the most of customer data was reflected in our findings from a recent survey of 500 business leaders. 70% of those questioned said that their priority for the next 18 months was to deliver better customer experiences. But this was compounded by 92% of leaders who were faced with tensions within their organization, such as legacy vs new IT.

When customer information is siloed and stuck partway between your legacy and new IT infrastructure, you’re never going to reach the ideal contextualized state. A joined-up view of your customer is crucial so that you can make the right offers at the right time. If the data that would give you this view is split across systems, then a flexible platform that consolidates your information could be the answer.


Unlocking potential in your customer engagement

74% of businesses want to make better use of their legacy systems rather than discarding them completely. And it’s possible… by approaching your tech stacks with a wraparound solution, it’s a fast, cost-effective way to get the customer-centric capability that a modern company needs to thrive.

It’s also important to consider how you make these customer insights available to your team. Yes, the technology that enables great experiences for customers. But in many cases, it’s the people who deliver them. You need a digital platform that’s intuitive and accessible so that colleagues and partners can turn information into action across your customer engagement strategy.

Once your team has access to that information, they need to make the most of it. It’s important to recognize that technology can do more than aggregate and surface data. It can learn from that data – and even serve customers as well.


Make your breakthrough in Customer Engagement

42% of businesses believe that a more personalized approach, based on customer context will lead to biggest digital breakthrough. To find out what other elements can help contribute to making an impact in your customer engagement strategy, download our complimentary report: ‘Make your breakthrough in Customer Engagement’