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Personalise me; but on my terms

Personalise me; but on my terms

For a good few years, the industry has been talking about ‘personalisation’, and why businesses need to be ‘relevant’. I’ve read so many articles about this that I’ve found myself almost switching off. But I still have two questions that none of the articles are really answering...

Q1. What actually is personalisation?

Plenty of businesses will claim, “we do personalisation” but here are some observations I have made:

  • Some (low maturity) businesses refer to personalisation as the welcome salutation you get from interacting with them, e.g. welcome back to our store Mr John Smith.
  • Others perhaps confuse personalisation with segmentation, e.g. people who bought this also bought that.
  • Some businesses use implicit and explicit data exchange to ‘influence’ behaviour, e.g. I saw you clicked like on an item 3 days ago, I’ll now email you and try and tempt you to buy it.
  • Then there’s Big Data, which is a whole different world of hyper-personalisation for the really mature that I won’t go in to right now.

The most important definition of personalisation for businesses to understand though has to be the Customers definition, and here is mine:

“When an experience is able to listen to me and learn from me, before satisfying my needs”.

Q2. How much personalisation is too much?

There have been plenty of tests carried out to provide evidence that personalising someone’s experience will yield better results than if not.

That’s not very enlightening though.

How do businesses really know they are getting it right? How do they know they are truly satisfying my needs versus just influencing them?

There is no explicit measure of relevance, e.g. nobody receives a badge from a Customer saying “well done for being relevant”, or “you were way off the mark there” or “thanks for discounting something I was willing to pay full price for”.

There is only an implied measure based on revenue or net promoter score or maybe some other KPI.

The amount of data floating around, being collected and used has reached overwhelming levels. And so there must be a point where too much personalisation breaks the boundary of relevance and starts to turn Customers off, or starts to cause other problems like the margin erosion in my example above.

Short of asking each and every Customer how they feel, it seems that the only practical way to tackle this issue is to put the Customer in full control of his or her own experience, i.e. “you can personalise my experience but it has to be on my terms” and then let them define the terms at any time.

Perhaps if businesses were able to do this more effectively, then the Customer’s behaviour and trends would be more telling, and they may be able to correlate the loyalty of Customers better and truly know if they were getting it right?