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Context has become everything to the retail shopping experience. It's no longer substantial to simply paste a generic "20% off" sign on a store window, or send an email announcing a common sale. The modern consumer now only pays attention when something matches his or her unique preferences, needs, and lifestyle. That is where contextualization succeeds in propelling marketing efforts to a whole new level.

As a concept, contextualization refers to determining the conditions in which something occurs and understanding the meaning behind it. Factors such as shopping habits, demographics, location, time, weather, price, purchase behavior, and even device type all play a role in successfully piquing the interest of customers.

Whereas "the customer is always right" adage may have reigned for decades in US retail spheres, the current dictum falls more along the lines of "the customer is always connected."

Here are six benefits of using contextualization.

1. Contextualization leads to marketing in the right place at the right time

Let's say you're a shoe retailer in Florida wanting to send out a promotional offer for flip flops. If you send out a blanket email to the whole of your database, it may not be reaching the people who would take advantage of your offer.

For example, if it's February and your customer Amy has moved to Chicago, flip flops would not be her ideal online purchase during a flurry of snow storms and cold weather. If, however, you're using contextualized data to determine which promotions to send to whom, you'll know that an offer for warm, fuzzy boots will be going out to Amy in the right place at the right time —and she'll be much more likely to use it.

2. Contextualization ensures relevant communication

Much like marketing in the right place at the right time, contextualization also ensures pertinent messages are reaching the appropriate customers. If you're sending out a restaurant offer for a "half-price delicious steak dinner" to your entire clientele, Susan, the vegetarian, won't be enticed by your offer simply because it's not relevant to her lifestyle.

Moreover, receiving a picture of a red, juicy steak might be rather unappetizing to Susan and even offend her, encouraging her look elsewhere the next time she's deciding where to eat for dinner.

Knowing your customers' preferences and interests increases the likelihood that your marketing efforts will bring return because you won't be blindly pitching anything to everyone. Your messages will be focused and on point, befitting the people getting them.

3. Contextualization enables the creation of unique experiences for each customer

A major new trend in customer-business relations shows that Millennials—a share of the population with $200 billion in annual spending power—are willing to trade their personal information for custom experiences. They'll give their mobile phone number to a traffic-detecting app like Waze, but they expect any mobile alerts to be specifically relevant to their current situation and useful to their particular drive. They do not want to be bombarded by general messages or impertinent information.

In exchange for sharing their personal details, Millennials expect to be treated as individuals and understood. Contextualization helps in creating a unique experience for each singular customer.

4. Contextualization taps into omnichannel marketing

Say goodbye to the nostalgia of yesteryear when capturing all your potential customers meant having a great commercial air during the Super Bowl. Although such efforts are certainly still valuable, they're no longer the end-all-be-all for garnering a base of customers.

Today's consumers get marketing influences from multiple sources—from beacon-enabled texts that take into account the geolocation of a customer to Web searches. By using software that assimilates data about your customers' behavior, preferences, and demographics across all channels, you can have a fuller picture of your customers, giving you insight about how to most effectively reach each individual.

5. Contextualization helps to predict what customers want

Contextualization helps marketers know what a customer's next move may be before the customer even knows it herself. Perhaps browsing and purchase history indicates that your customer has bought a new home and is starting to procure items for a modern interior design motif. Predictive suggestions for household items could match both the design style and spending tier of recent purchases, delivering exactly the type of product a customer wants right to her email inbox before she's even begun browsing for it on the Internet.

This kind of bird's-eye view marketing puts retailers at a huge advantage of being not only on top—but ahead—of what their customers want.

6. Contextualization breeds customer engagement

When messaging is relevant to your customers' lifestyles and applies to their specific interests, they're more likely to engage with your brand—both online and in store. If you incorporate things that matter most to your individual customers, they'll be more inclined to click on a link in your special email offer, join in on your company's Twitter discussion, and visit your store... because what you're offering resonates with their values and priorities.

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Contextualization is about appealing to the unique tastes, behaviors, and values of each individual customer. This kind of ultra-targeted messaging fundamentally captures people's attention and serves as the key to supercharging customer-business relationships, cultivating fertile ground for long-term loyalty and brand engagement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Jess Stephens

Jess Stephens is CMO of Smart Focus, an SaaS platform that helps brands to deliver contextualized and personalized messages to customers.

LinkedIn: Jess Stephens 

Twitter: @JessStephens