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  • Writer's pictureKara Holm

The Age of Personalization

Late to the party, my daughter convinced me to download Bitmoji this week. Now I too have my own personal Emoji that can express my feelings in nearly every situation. Of course the expressions are reductive and totally lacking in nuance and subtlety – but they’re fun! The situations are intended to be simultaneously universal and personal.

This is one of the latest steps into the age of personalization: which is to say, I am a market segment of one.

We expect this type of customization with loyalty programs. One of the reasons I am so positive about the Optimum program at Shoppers Drug Mart is that the offers I receive by email and in the app truly demonstrate a knowledge of my personal preferences. Ditto the PC Plus program, offered through Loblaw’s grocery stores and its affiliates. This level of personalization can also be viewed in the ads we see on Google or Facebook – which are based on our previous searches or the content we repeatedly click. The marketing emails I receive from Amazon and The Book Depository are based on my past purchases.

We are also seeing personalized ads appearing on our smart phones that are location triggered. The most basic would be a notification from Cineplex or Starbucks when I am in the vicinity of a theatre or café to ensure that these retail and entertainment opportunities are top-of-mind. A more sophisticated application would be the kind of personalized offers Helen receives by text from her favourite retailers in a Vancouver shopping destination. Yes, please, I would like that offer from Marc Jacobs! It’s not quite the experience of Tom Cruise in the excellent film Minority Report (view the segment here), but it’s pretty cool.

There are benefits to this approach from a marketer’s perspective: you are able to get your message in front of highly qualified prospects. Obviously this is a great thing for businesses: namely, being able to direct your messaging to audiences you determine to be relevant to your business. This includes your current customers, as well as prospective customers who meet the criteria you define. Well-qualified contacts present better opportunities for conversion.

This approach requires businesses to understand how to activate the massive amounts of data much of which is being collected as a by-product of doing business anyway. Information is only valuable if you find a way to make it work for you.

From a consumer perspective, I sometimes wonder what I’m missing. There may, indeed, be many interesting things I may never expect to be exposed to because they fall outside of my existing interests or preferences. I also worry that I am not being challenged to consider other perspectives or possibilities, since I see my current self and preferences reflected everywhere I look.

Essentially we live in a curated culture. But it’s mass customization that is driving our experiences. In exchange for sharing our preferences and giving up our privacy, consumers should expect businesses to use this information to enhance our experiences and interactions.

So the advice for today:

  • If you are collecting data either directly or indirectly, please make sure to show your customers that you are using it to improve their experience. Don’t send customers an offer for a country music show if they’ve only ever attended pop shows. Don’t send adults who are in their 20s an offer for 50+ vitamins.

  • Have a plan for activating the information you collect, and clear lines of accountability. Who is responsible for interpreting data in your organization? How is the intelligence converted to business activation strategies?

  • Don’t be creepy. Make sure it’s clear to your customers how you know so much about them.

We all love to feel special and do business with the businesses that recognize our individual needs and preferences. When done correctly, it can have a huge impact upon your short-term outlook by influencing your behaviour and long-term loyalty. It’s great to be a microsegment of one!

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