Getting Personal: Trends in Digital Personalization

Personalization is the practice of tailoring a product, platform (site / app) or service to the preferences and needs of each user. For the purpose of this post we would would restrict the discussion to digital personalization as that is something that most of us may have already experienced.  

Personalization is not new. Its already here and been here long enough. An ecommerce site recommendation (Amazon screenshot below) based on past purchases and searches on the site, is almost an expectation these days. personalized product recommendation

So is the Youtube's video content recommendations based on content browsing history.

Another example of personalization is Google Now. Based on your past searches, travel plans / events in your email or even other signals gathered from your behavior, you get personalized cards. 

Google Now Personalized cards
We are touching just the tip of the iceberg here and there are several solutions around for a while:
  • StumbleUpon provides content based on selected categories and other “Stumblers” you follow. 
  • Flipboard’s personalized magazine is like a social news platform where you personalize your own experience by curating content sources and following people. 
  • Pinterest has a follow model for people, their content and topics. It also has a guided search with combinable keywords works as an additional interface alongside the curated feed.
How important is personalization and why are brands striving for it
An interesting survey by Janrain highlights the need as well as urgency for personalization. This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Janrain from June 28th – July 2nd, 2013 among 2,091 adults ages 18 and older. Here are some key insights from the survey.
  • 74 percent get frustrated with websites when content, offers, ads, promotions, etc. appear that have nothing to do with their interests
  • 67 percent would leave the site if asked for donations from a political party that they dislike the most
  • 57 percent would leave the site if they were married and shown ads for a dating service
  • 50 percent would leave the site if shown a recommendation to purchase underwear that is for the opposite gender
Brands have taken note and Personalization is working - not only for consumers but brands as well 
While personalization is key to ensure customer experience, its yielding much more than customer satisfaction for brands. 
  • Personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.[Source:]
  • The top reasons for U.S. email users to unsubscribe from a business or nonprofit email subscription are too many emails (69%) and content that is no longer relevant (56%). [Source: ChadwickMartinBailey]
  • In a study of more than 93,000 calls-to-action created using HubSpot, and hundreds of millions of views over a 12-month period, HubSpot found that calls-to-action targeted to the user had a 42% higher view-to-submission rate than calls-to-action that were the same for all visitors. (Source: HubSpot)
  • In-house marketers who are personalizing their web experiences and who are able to quantify the improvement see, on average, a 19% uplift in sales. (Source: Monetate/eConsultancy)
  • 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels. (Source: MyBuys)
  • Leads who are nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities. (Source: DemandGen)
  • A high-impact recommendation from a trusted friend conveying a relevant message is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than a low-impact recommendation. (Source: McKinsey) 
  • In a study of 650 multi-channel marketing campaigns, personalized campaigns consistently and overwhelmingly beat out static campaigns in generating a high response rate from recipients. (Source: MindFire) 
Potential challenges in Personalization 
As we saw earlier, personalization is gaining traction within many technology companies. However as per a survey by Neolane and DMA, the top three reasons for not having implemented “dynamic personalized content” across channels were as follows:

  • Complexity of systems (50%)
  • Access to real-time data (46%)
  • Data privacy issues (45%)

While complexity of systems and real time data access are technology issues which companies are solving through technology investments, data privacy is a larger issue hindering progress, which is prevalent across use cases we have seen so far.

As we have seen, personalization works for both businesses and consumers. Infact as per a Janrain survey, 57 percent consumers are OK with providing personal information on a website as long as it’s for their benefit and being used in responsible ways. This shows that while consumers realize the benefit of personalization, there is a trust deficit towards the usage of their personal data.

Transparency is the key

In the same Janrain survey mentioned above, 77 percent of respondents shared that they would trust businesses more if they explained how they’re using personal information to improve their online experience. Knowing what data is getting used by personalization system helps build trust for the system which can encourage customers share more information with greater level of comfort. This can in turn help the personalization systems perform better both for the consumers and for the business. In addition, personalization systems should consider informing customers why they are being recommended what is recommended. This gives consumers ability to shape their preferences as seen by the personalization system thereby helping co-create the best personalization solution which works for both the consumer and the business.



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