Personalization: The Elusive 1-1 Conversation With Customers
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Personalization, the missing 1-1 dialogue For all the talk of personalization in the digital business, most of the times I get a feeling that we are way off the mark. There seems to be no one cohesive solution that puts the user at the center of personalization. You may think that the personalization is all about the user and they are in the center of it, all the time. That is correct, but the results speak a different story as personalization is failing due to lack of attentiveness when it comes to delivery of content. Failing, huh. What does that mean? Here is an example: Lets take the world’s biggest retailer Amazon, who of all the companies have all the data available to personalize content for their customers. However, we all can attest to Amazon showing products that do not make sense most of the time. Once, I was looking for a camera battery and ended up buying it from eBay. Amazon tirelessly tried to sell me batteries for many months. It was irritating when this happened, but I put up with such things because I love how well Amazon works when I want to buy something. And once by mistake, I looked to buy pasta online from a brand I found in a summer fair in my city. And I did not remember their company name and searched for Pasta brands many weeks ago in Amazon. And I have been badgered with lots of pasta related results for many months now. This picture is from my homepage of Amazon.
Another example here from Lowe’s. I searched for a Blackstone product with its model number and look at the results. Lowe’s did a cool job of letting me know which products in my search are available in store. But the “Customers who searched this term also browsed” shows the same product that is featured. The concept of showing some products that relates to my search is great, but a careless list is not.
This is not a 1-1 personalized dialogue. When it comes to personalization, it should be akin to my friendly baristas at Peets who make my Cafe Machiato exactly the way I like. They just know me because I have been to Peet’s as many times, or less, I have been to Amazon. But as much as I would like Amazon to know me, they seem to know me less and less even though they have more data about me than what my neighborhood Peet’s coffee shop does. So what is missing here? We all know that personalization should be about the customer all the time and not about the business. As we create a personalization journey for our customer, it gets side tracked with measuring results of conversion rates to see if it is working. The ROI of personalization is long term value of the customer and not immediate results from the next item (s)he buys from the retailer. With all the data, this long term value continues to be elusive with more digital providers today. The current path is, in the absence of good personalization lets just stick something easy and see if that works. And the results follow the efforts. For me, personalization is a hard game. Very much like how the baristas @ Peets have been taught to remember their customers’ ridiculous customization orders. My office has a wonderful coffee machine, but I still stopped by Peet’s today because of the personalized service I get. As digital properties go, we collect lots of data generating very little insights. That is because the insights are tied to a goal of increasing bottom line, ROI etc. You see, this step takes customer off the equation. Personalization is a vast subject, but treated like another toy in marketer’s mind. As long as some technology that promises to provide personalized content, it is plugged in, measured and gets stuck in the state of limbo, all the while irritating customers like you and me. Occasionally, there is a jackpot that puts smile on customers’ face. But there is lots to digital waste to endure for that smile. Have you had good and bad personalization experiences? Tell me your story.