What Online Marketers Can Learn From Coffee Shops

Do consumers at this point expect a personalized experience with brands?  I don’t think they expect it, but I think they’re pleasantly surprised when they get one, and they tend to reward the brands that go that extra mile.  Building a stronger connection for both sides has a positive impact -- a fact I can confirm by looking at personalization in the offline world of local coffee shops.

I go to the same Peets for tea every morning in San Francisco when I’m not traveling, and much of the time they ask me my name for the cup.  Recently two baristas have begun to recognize me: They don’t ask me my name, but when my cup arrives it says “Cory.”  It’s a simple thing, but it makes me feel welcome, and I reward that service by returning regularly.  

Recently I walked into a different coffee shop, which caught me off-guard in a similar fashion.  I have never been to this location, but I did purchase with a credit card.  When I went to the end of the bar to pick up my drink, the barista said, “Here you go, Cory.” They’d never asked for my name, but simply read it from my credit card and added it to my order.  



These subtle elements of customer service go a long way toward creating a more personalized engagement.

Marketers don’t need to personalize the Web site experience by posting your name and welcoming you to their destination -- but simply recognizing whether you’re a customer and rewarding you for your patronage is a good start.  Simply onboarding your customer file, matching it to cookies or mobile IDs, and recognizing you when you arrive, can go a long way to increase the likelihood of your becoming a more valuable customer.  

It’s not an invasion of privacy to connect my name from my credit card to my order.  It would be an invasion of privacy if, when I picked up my tea, the barista asked how my wife and two kids were doing by name, and whether Mason had done well in baseball last week.  That would be too much too fast, as they say.  Online marketers can demonstrate the same amount of restraint balanced with personalization and be just as effective, if not more so.  

But let’s be honest about the state of online personalization: It’s not that well-done.  Many brands have figured out how to personalize the basic experience with their customers when they’re logged into a Web site or app, but the technology exists to personalize the experience with a much broader portion of the audience. 

Personalization requires you to identify a consumer and minimally sort them into one of three buckets; current customer, prospective customer or exclusion (also, as I refer to them, the “never going to be a customer”).  

On that first pass, you don’t really have to go much deeper than to create a personalized experience.  You shouldn’t go much further until you have implied permission to do so.  If you recognize I am a customer and treat me well, I reward your effort.  If I’ve been a customer for years and you still treat me as though you never knew me, it sucks. 

The tools exist for personalization to become a whole lot better, such as recognizing me on your site, or in your app across any mobile device, and identifying what stage of the customer journey I might be in already.  It’s worth the effort.  Don’t you agree?

3 comments about "What Online Marketers Can Learn From Coffee Shops".
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  1. Kim Garretson from RealizingInnovation, May 25, 2016 at 12:08 p.m.

    Hear Hear Cory: "The tools exist for personalization to become a whole lot better, such as recognizing me on your site...and identifying what stage of the customer journey I might be in already." Most evident of this move in my work is from the retail industry where the top retailers have long known about the 'journey', but still restrict the call-ot-action at every touchpoint to BUY NOW. Now they are seeking the implied permission to assist the shopper down the path with alerts on price changes, new products and reviews, back-in-stock and other. Thanks for the post.

  2. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel, May 25, 2016 at 2:31 p.m.

    When we launched in 1996, we included a "Personal Folder" feature that, once created, enabled us to personalize the site by name, stated interestes, demographics, etc. Forrester at the time referred to it dismissively as "trivial personalization." Trivial as it may have been, it has yet to be matched in the insurance industry, let alone surpassed. (Oh, & just btw, people who created Personal Folders on the site had a 59% conversion rate on submitted leads.)

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 13, 2016 at 8:43 p.m.

    Personalization is human to human, not algorithms. The less they know about what I buy, the better. Amazon keeps sending me things I would never buy or things already bought. What other people buy is not important and do not care. I am not that special and cannot be the only one who does not want my privacy invaded. If I need something, I will find it. As a person non gratia responding on MediaPost, only a couple of people may read this anyway.

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