The Two Faces of Personalization

two facesAs personalization and big data analysis technologies continue to evolve, new possibilities are made available just about every day. In fact, the pace of change is so staggering at times that it can be challenging to remain focused on what’s really important to your business.

With all the new opportunities available to drive personalization, one thing that’s easy to lose track of is the fact that personalization has two distinct faces. In the online commerce world, many companies give attention to one face while completely ignoring the other…if they even realize it exists at all.

Face #1: The consumer’s public / online life.

Or in other words, the face that you as the online retailer sees. This is the person you know and recognize as a prospect or customer. You know their purchase history, including what they almost bought, but didn’t. You know their likes, their dislikes, where they live, where they ship to, how they pay, and much more. Predictive analytics even helps you determine what they may buy next, even if that item appears completely unrelated to anything they’ve looked for in the past.

A lot of today’s technology relies on hordes of data from various sources that’s merged into a meaningful mass from which value can be extracted. In other words: Big Data.. Companies invest a lot in this area because it’s effective, available, and can be done well in an affordable fashion. You can also pay millions, of course, if you’d prefer.

Face #2: The consumer’s private / offline life.

This is the face that the online retailer does not know; the face that the consumer doesn’t want to share with you. So what can be personalized if we have no data to drive recommendations? This is where some online retailers get it all wrong – you don’t use data to personalize an experience for the consumer’s private life. You provide options.

When a best-in-class online retailer provides options to a consumer, they approach it with an understanding that they won’t capture any additional consumer data if the option is exercised. In the brick-and-mortar world, this is the equivalent of purchasing from one location vs. another, being loyal to a store because of a great customer service experience, or making suggestions on a how a product can be used. In the latter case, the retailer may never know if the consumer used a product in any particular matter, but offering the option may have helped the purchase.

This is the face that the online retailer does not know; the face that the consumer doesn’t want to share with you.

The Amazon Dash Button is a perfect representation of how to provide options to a consumer in their private / offline life. Sure, Amazon’s will know which product they want to order, when they ordered it, and how often they ordered it.  But what Amazon doesn’t know is where the button is placed. They also don’t know if it’s moved, what other items are in its proximity, or any other offline experience enhancers. Shoppers appreciate having the option to personalize their interactions with online retailers, particularly when these experiences help consumers first, and merchants second.

Providing options to consumers without creating additional information capital can take personalization to an entirely new level. It can create experiences reminiscent of brick-and-mortar retail, while finally speaking to Face #2, a side of the consumer that’s been sorely neglected all these years by the more classic online retail approach.

Most online retailers are investing in personalization at some level. When done well, it can completely change the customer experience for the better while driving up conversions and average order value. But to make sure you’re getting the most from your efforts, remember that there are two faces to each customer. You’re probably already doing a pretty good job speaking to Face #1, but there’s still plenty of opportunity out there to personalize the experience for Face #2. Pay attention to both sides and you’ll provide a better overall customer experience, one that will ultimately build much more loyalty than data-driven approaches alone.

 

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