With all the audience data websites are collecting, marketers are now able to provide an impressive personalised experience at nearly every customer touchpoint.
Remember the scene in the movie Minority Report when Tom Cruise is greeted by the name “Mr. Yakamoto” by a holographic apparition as he walks into a futuristic Gap store?
Right now, this type of personalisation via facial recognition, Customer Relationship Management and digital screen technology is almost achievable by retailers, but everyone who has seen the film knows just how creepy this interaction was.
While most companies are now collecting masses of customer data, what most brands and advertisers do with this data at the moment is not very impressive. This will change over the next few years as the personalisation of everything becomes a reality.
So what are the major trends making all this possible?
If another person says “Big Data”, I’ll scream.
Collecting masses of data on your customers is fundamentally useless, unless you know what you want to find out from it, and how you’re going to adapt to it.
Businesses should be able to personalise a customer’s online experience by understanding what they’re likely to do or want next, and behavioural analysis tools are now maturing to the point where they can quite accurately predict what customers are likely to do next based on what other customers have done before.
Anybody who has ever shopped on amazon.com knows just how good they are at recommending products to buy based on what you’ve looked at or bought. But every now and then, their recommendations can be quite random.
We all want to be different, just like everybody else, but we’re often more alike than we think.
Online recommendation services like Hunch can provide personalised recommendations across a whole range of categories based on your social profile or online behaviour with frightening accuracy.
Recommending products via computer algorithm has historically been extremely difficult. But now there are recommendation engines that can be bolted onto most websites and eCommerce stores that will provide Amazon-style recommendations on the fly.
These systems are getting better and better, with suppliers like RichRelevance or Barilliance now offering plug-in recommendation engines that automatically generate product suggestions based on user data and are easily integrated into existing websites.
Dynamic Content and Flexible Content Management
Content may be King, but personalised content will become the Uber-Galactic Emperor.
One of the limiting factors of personalising a customer’s online experience used to be the need to customise the website content management system to be able to serve different versions of content to different audiences.
Now, web content management systems such as Sitecore and Adobe Experience Manager make it much simpler to define the rules for personalisation and to manage the content required, making truly personalised online experiences practical for many brands.
Changing consumer attitudes and the loss of privacy
Companies such as Google and Facebook are already sitting on deep and valuable information about you that allows them to target you with ads based on relevancy. In the future, any online transaction will be tracked, analysed and used by the company you’re dealing with to deliver more relevant and targeted service or offers.
Whenever we talk about personalisation of the customer experience, the conversation almost immediately turns to privacy, identity protection and intrusion – not the benefits that personalisation might bring.
There are howls of outrage; should advertisers have the right to follow people around the Internet trying to understand your habits, behaviours and intentions? In truth, nearly every interaction you have online is already being tracked, and adds to data profiles of who you are, what you do and what you like.
What’s next for Personalisation?
The technology driving personalisation of the customer experience online is commonplace, and getting smarter by the minute. Soon, you can expect the companies you deal with to be providing individual offers and promotions that magically fit your needs, predict what you’ll want next and pre-emptively provide you with value before you were even thinking about it.
The Personalisation of Everything is accelerating at a cracking pace. We can expect our online experiences to become more and more personal, individual and useful based on what we do every day. Being welcomed by name as we enter a store won’t seem creepy anymore. It will just be the way business is done.
This article first appeared in Perspectives 2013. Download the full PDF version or read it on Slideshare.
Stephen Foxworthy is Strategy Director in Melbourne and Tim O'Neill is Co-founder and Joint Managing Director.