Personalization: Just do it. But don’t overdo it

Published February 17, 2016   |   

We, as customers have always wanted personalized services, whether we are buying something from a store or checking into a hotel for a stay. Services that satisfy our unique taste would make our life easier and save a lot of time.
Apparently, companies have begun to accept the fact that personalization is very important to gain competitive advantage. The E-consultancy and Monetate survey affirms the same.

The problem is that consumers don’t want to tell about their likes and dislikes each time they interact with their favorite brands, instead consumers want a personalized products/services at the right time through the right channel.
Personally, I have come across some mind blowing personalization experience from companies.

For instance, consider my favorite apparel retailer – they follow both brick & mortar and e-commerce model. A few days back, I was surfing their site to get a pair of shoes, but I couldn’t find one that would fit me. A week later, I went to a shopping mall near to their retail outlet to meet my friend. The moment I crossed their store, I received a SMS message that said “Dear Customer, we have some exciting collections and deals on shoes exclusively for you. Visit our store today to avail it”.

The timing of the text message was impeccable. I decided to go to the store. The moment I stepped in, I received a notification from their mobile app to try out their interactive map feature. The map pinpointed the exact location of the pair of shoes I was looking for in their website! I tried the pair of shoes and bought it straightaway  – this is what I call as “Cool Personalization”.

Just do it. But don’t overdo it

When done right, personalization can be a powerful differentiator to improve customer engagement and loyalty. However, it can also go disastrously wrong if it is not done right. The classic example of that is when the American supermarket store Target sent a coupon for baby items to one of their customer who was pregnant( Target figured out the customer was pregnant based on her purchase history). The unsuspecting and angry father of the customer then stormed into Target to yell at them –  for sending his daughter coupons for baby clothes and cribs.
Eventually, it turned out that the customer was pregnant and hadn’t told her father yet! Awkward! This is what I call it as “Creepy Personalization.”

The recent survey by Accenture and RichRelevance gives you some interesting insights about what is cool and what is creepy, in personalization.
digital personalization - Rich relevance
Digital personalization - Accenture
Strictly speaking, what people think is creepy or cool in personalization has evolved considerably in the past 20 years—and it will continue to change. The onus is on the providers to find out which is cool and which is creepy at an individual level. But this gets really messy and tedious when they have thousands and millions of customers. To support these types of advanced personalization services and software platforms, a range of start-ups, like Crayon Data, have come up.
To sum it up, personalization has become very important in the world of customer engagement and many vendors have started to realize it. But they are really struggling to find the thin line between creepy and cool personalization. Offering no personalization at all or offering creepy personalization will both end up irking your customers. The trick is to find the sweet spot in between.

So now you know what to offer to your customers. Think about it.