Moving beyond segmentation to individualization.

We all acknowledge that every one of us has a special combination of traits, qualities, needs, desires and preferences. Our uniqueness is reflected in behavior, like a fingerprint, similar to no other.

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, put it like this – we’re in the ‘era of you’. Actually, the era of ‘one’, not of the ‘many’. However, most organizations -irrespective of industry- still try to manage their customers through segmentation, putting them together into groups of people, with similar characteristics or general behavior. And so they treat all segment members in the same way, as if they were the same person.

How accurate can that be? Will all segment members go to an ATM to withdraw cash on the same day and time? Will they all make their next POS payment with the same merchant? Will they all top-up the same amount with their mobile provider? Will they perhaps spend the same amount of money the next time they visit the supermarket? Not even by a wide margin.

Segmentation is a good starting point, but only for uncovering general trends and averages. Conceptually as well as technologically, we’ve moved on from there.

Today, with the advent of big data and analytics, we can track each person’s anonymized behavior, so that we can take informed decisions about the best way to interact with them. And to fully optimize each relationship, we need to take a chain of consecutive decisions and actions, in order to make meaningful connections with each unique person. And it’s not a one-off interaction – it’s an ongoing journey, where actions are dynamically aligned and synchronized with each person’s behavior over time. When you get it right, your customers will take notice and respond positively.

Creating value for and from your customers may require just a change in the way you interact with each one of them. Just think of the possibilities when no two customers have to be approached in the same way again.