I started writing about personalization ever since I started this blog, back in 2006. I wrote extensively about privacy and how marketers should address it to engage in personalization. Consumers are now more at ease with online purchases, they have moved past initial privacy concerns of online tracking and now expect personalization.
I am a big believer in targeting and personalization and have written extensively about it in this blog. However, targeting and personalization is not “set it and forget it” strategy. It needs to be continually tested to make sure that it is working and driving value. Sometimes you have to test and see if “no-personalization” will yield better results than personalization.
To make my point, let’s take an example:
I get a weekly promotional email from a prominent marketing company. They personalize the email subject line (good so far).
Here are few subject lines
- How [XYZ Company] Should Kickoff New Clients
- Ensure that [XYZ Company] delivers great PPC campaign
- The rules of online branding that [XYZ Company] needs to know
Note: Instead of [XYZ Company] they use the name of the company I used to work with.
However there is an issue with the way they do personalization. Do you see the issue?
The issue is that they use the name of the company I USED TO WORK FOR. I left that company over a year ago and the subject line is so irrelevant to me that I don’t even open the emails. Though rest of the subject line may be relevant, adding personalization (company name) just makes me ignore that email.
This is a perfect example of why personalization fails.
This can be easily avoided by analyzing the data to figure out which subscribers are not responding to these personalized messages and test a different kind of personalization or completely drop the personalization.
Company names, titles, associations, job roles etc. change and your personalization needs to change when that happens. The key is to actively analyze the data and test.
Do you have any other examples of Failed Personalization? If yes, I would love to see those.
Also see: 7 Ways to Create Relevancy in Emails
Today I came across an article by Isaac Weisberg, titled Unintended Consequences of Targeting: Less Information, Less Serendipity – Part I. In this article Isaac argues that online personalization limits the exposure of information to the individuals. I agree that current personalization practices are very limited though it is more of an issue with the marketers engaged in personalization than with the technology. ( Note: Retargeting, Behavioral Targeting, on-site recommendations, customized emails etc. are all different forms of personalization). So it is not Personalization that limits the flow of information but it is the people engaged in Personalization.
The purpose of personalization is to provide information that is relevant to an individual and in order to do so you will eliminate a lot of information that the person is not likely to be interested in. However that does not mean that the person cannot be exposed to new information with the personalization.
The issue is that most of the marketers engaged in personalization (targeting) do not exploit the full potential of personalization and limit themselves to basic targeting. I highlighted one such issues in my post 5 Questions to ask before starting a Retargeting Campaign.
Personalization does not mean that you have to limit yourself to the same product or even the category. User’s behavior gives you a clue on what he/she likes. Use that to figure out complimentary items that you might be able to promote and even items that don’t make sense together but you have seen patterns from sales data that tell you that they might go together. E.g. particular pair of shoes is bought by lots of moms, so maybe kids’ shoes might make sense to promote to a user who has shown interest in those shoes. Isn’t that flow of information to the user?
I once worked with a client who used two mutually exclusive behaviors (people who read financial news and view international weather) to promote a totally unrelated product (high end international travel) with a great success.
So, yes exposing people to new information while doing personalization is quite possible as long as marketers doing the personalization are willing to use their creativity and move beyond their comfort zone.
- Online Performance Data Analyst at Announce Media (St Louis, MO)
- Web Data Analyst at Genworth Financial (Richmond, VA)
- Web Games Analyst at Arkadium (New York, NY)
- Web Metrics Analyst at Omnitec Solutions (Alexandria, VA)
- Web Data Analyst at Alzheimer’s Association (Chicago, IL)
- Web Analytics Manager at Tig Global (Chevy Chase, MD)