David Sealey, Senior eBusiness Consultant in Capgemini’s Technology practice asks if personalisation really delivers the ultimate experience for a customer, challenges the value that is attached to personalised services and products, and asks whether in our complex digital world is personalisation always the best way?

Consider the scenario, a personalised holiday costs thousands more than the package holiday, Lamborghini offer endless personalisation options – “would sir prefer the atomic-mauve hand-reared ostrich leather gear knob to match the understated neon orange paint?” And my snowboard boots were heat moulded to the exact size and shape of my feet – now that’s personalisation.

A heavily personalised Lamborghini

A heavily personalised Lamborghini

Personal Challenges

But, is personalisation always necessary? Amazon may continually recommend Justin Bieber calendars and books to me because I once bought his album as a gift for my daughter, but would it be appropriate if McDonalds made personal recommendations on my choices like  “Perhaps you should try the diet coke today!”

Robert Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer highlighted that customers sometimes prefer ease of service rather than the bells and whistles in their seminal book “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management“. Then there’s the case study of Seven-Eleven famously spending millions developing a customer experience strategy that didn’t deliver a return. Customers just wanted to get in, pay and get out. Convenience was the experience desired.

Similarly businesses spend thousands developing personalisation options for their website. Not just in software and hardware costs but on employee time strategising around how to create a personalised experience – “should we call it My Account or Your Account?”

In today’s digitally transformed world this adds further dimensions to customer experience. As a consumer, I want to be able to use an app on a mobile phone to check my bank balance, order a book or view cinema times. Availability, speed and access are the hygiene factors that I’m concerned about.

Social media also has its part to play in the rapidly expanding digital eco-system. There is strong evidence that search results are now being prioritised based on the number of Likes, Tweets or +1s . Not so long ago, we all worried about Big Brother peering over our shoulders, now we can’t wait to upload holiday photos and share what we’re doing. The modern marketer is now faced with ballooning amounts of data to try and make sense of and personalise to. Try creating a Facebook advert and you’ll see how detailed social targeting can be.

Example of segmentation on Facebook

Example Facebook ad showing the granularity of social targeting available

Relevant, high quality content is what is driving traffic and customers to your brand – this has been the rallying cry of many SEO experts for some time now. Blog posts, white papers, price calculators, news articles, feature lists, brochures and videos have all been produced to get links, raise company profiles and aid the conversion of visitors and traffic.  We all know consumers want to get information fast, however If we over personalise – do we risk frustrating the consumer or worse missing an opportunity to build our relationship with the customer?

You are unique. Just like everyone else.

I’ve worked with many clients on personalisation strategies and have found there are 2 basic principles that anyone considering personalisation should stick to:

  1. You do not need to personalise for the sake of it. I’ve seen a lot of organisations spend a fair amount of time and money developing a personalisation engine that that over complicates the customer journey
  2. Segment don’t personalise. Getting your customer segmentation right from the outset makes it much easier to personalise for a segment of your customer base. In the digital world there is a lot you can tell about a visitor from the very moment that they land on your website. This basic data can be used to quickly segment your customers and deliver a much richer and personalised experience.

With these 2 core principles in mind, it is important that organisations focus on delivering value in the shortest amount of time, and customer segmentation is clearly core to this. I’ve develop a 4 step methodology for achieving added value personalisation;

Step 1: Identify Two Customer Segments

Identify 2 of your most basic visitor groups through brainstorming sessions with your team. It could be registered/unregistered or even is it a weekend or weekday visit.

Step 2: Plan and implement an Approach

Using the chosen customer segments create on page calls-to-action to quickly change for either group. For example; If they’re unregistered then the action is “Register Today”. Likewise if they’re registered the call to action may be to purchase an upgraded account.

Step 3: Use Appropriate Tools to measure success

The results of the segmentation exercise are critical to understanding how you evolve your personalisation strategy. For example, If your unregistered customers are converting to registered customers then this is a clear indication your strategy is working.

Step 4: Report, Improve and Magnify

As with everything is important to review your web analytics to evaluate and see your strategy is working and delivering an uplift in conversions, click through rate or basket value. You should then re-segment your data to identify new opportunities to refine your segmentations. Continue to learn and improve using this data.

An in-depth understanding of your customer should ultimately drive your decision of whether to personalise and segment . Business needs are also a further component of the decision making process as you assess your own journey through digital transformation. Essentially we should not write personalisation off completely. The decision to personalise the customer experience should not be one that’s done because it’s what everyone else is doing, the decision should ultimately be the one that delivers the greatest value, in the shortest amount of time to the business and customer.

David Sealey can be contacted via email, LinkedIn or Twitter.