Personalization is a word we hear and see often. Big data, consumer analytics, and automation are other buzzwords tossed into the mix of marketing jargon. Research continues to show personalization and omnichannel capabilities drive profitable revenue for companies who have learned to do it right.
But what constitutes something as personalization and why is it so effective? How is it affecting us on a psychological level?
When we talk about personalization, we’re referring to marketing actions that occur in reaction to an individual’s engagement with a brand. You’ve probably experienced this type of personalization with companies like Amazon and Netflix. Their ability to recommend products based on each individuals’ previous behavior and ratings makes these brands seem friendly, trust-worthy, and somehow human-like. It is these brands that have figured out how to have educated, reliable conversations with their consumers, whether it be offline or online. The conversation may not be through a series of spoken questions and answers. Rather the sequence of opens, clicks, and downloads made by the consumer in exchange for personalized content is a dialogue all of its own.
It’s been said our craving for a personalized experience is due to our inherit need for convenience and control. This is very true. But I think our preference for personalized communications is much more than that. Personalized messages and experiences speak to our humanity and need for social relationships.
People Crave Interaction
We see it at the store, the dinner table, the office, and even in bumper-to-bumper traffic. People are constantly on mobile devices.
In a 2012 study performed by The Pew Research Center regarding mobile and Internet use, it was found:
- 67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
- 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.
- 29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”
I believe these habits are indication of a dependence that goes beyond convenience and control alone. This is about something more innate. It’s about social relationships.
Humans are social creatures. Interacting and investing with someone, or something, that does not interact back is unnatural, and quite frankly, depressing.
People Willingly Exchange Data for Interaction
It is no secret that brands are collecting and managing people’s individual data. There is almost always news about Google, Facebook, Amazon or some other company compiling individual information. Yet, people are still opting to share their information in exchange for some perceived benefit – i.e. convenience and interaction.
It is said that with great power (or shall we say, big data?) comes great responsibility. While a large percentage of the public agrees to have their data collected, there is an expectation for the data collector to use data for the good of the individual.
Personalized messages and offers are evidence that the consumer’s experience is a high priority to the brand. Content tailored to our preferences allow us to control the information we’re consuming. For instance, a twenty-five year old woman searching an online store with personalization capabilities would only view or hear offers for items matching her price-range and style. The more control the woman has over the content she views, the more convenient it is to search items. Due to this convenience and effortless consumption of relevant content, she will be more likely to continue navigating the website and make a purchase she can feel good about.
People Want to be Heard
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”
– David Augsburger.
Consider the people you enjoy interacting with the most. The people we prefer to spend our time with are usually those who remember our past conversations and preferences, and consider this information for future interactions. We are attracted to people who make us feel heard, acknowledged, and valued.
Creating a unified personality has become increasingly difficult for companies to accomplish. The touch points between a brand and consumer are numerous, and may range from in-store visits, phone calls, emails, social media, and more.
Personalization is just another step toward making brands more human-like. By collecting, managing, and executing on consumer information, companies are able to have more relevant and meaningful conversations with their audiences. Personalization and the rise of omnichannel experiences will continue to grow because it feeds our psychological desires for genuine relationships that improve our quality of life.