It's about the experience
Walk into a café where the staff know you well. They’ll say hello in a way which has far more meaning than if they were complete strangers. And they’ll even prepare your favourite coffee without you asking. It doesn’t feel like a ‘personalised experience’. It feels relevant, appropriate and warm. Done well personalisation doesn’t look like personalisation. It just feels like a great experience.
The internet is becoming the internet of experiences
We’re all in the business of creating experiences now. We’ve got more data and more opportunities to reach people than ever before. But that also runs the risk of feeling like a privacy invasion. A café owner knowing my favourite coffee is one thing. Having them pop up all over the internet talking about flat whites is quite another. The one thing which often seems to be missing is how we’ll make people feel. Which is a rather big problem, given that feelings typically drive behaviour change.
Just because we can doesn't mean we should
We must avoid the temptation to tinker with individual parts just because we can. And instead remind ourselves that we’re looking to make the whole customer experience better. People don’t care about organisational siloes. They quite simply want a great experience across the board, be that more effortless, more rewarding or more useful.
But it’s difficult. How do you set yourself up to engage consistently as people hop from website to phone to physical stores? How do you evolve the way you engage as you dip in and out of people’s radars over time? And how do you do all of this in a way that doesn’t make people think they’re being stalked across the internet.
There are 3 things worth remembering about people that can help you create great experiences, and turn hyper-personalisation to your advantage.
1. Don't bash me over the head
Great experiences don’t incessantly and repetitively shout at you until you finally give in and say ‘oh go on then’.
But if we looked at many brands and their communications through customers’ eyes we’d feel the full force of the targeting arms race that’s now on.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about hyper-personalisation purely from the brand’s perspective. Remember that you’re playing a part in the lives of real people.
2. There's only so much I can take in
While the number of touch-points and data-points marketers have to play with increases daily, humans still only have two eyes, two ears and one brain. So whilst marketing becomes increasingly efficient in terms of reaching the right people about stuff we know they’re interested in, there’s only so much interest people can actually muster.
Very rarely do people actually want a brand to be ‘always-on’ in their lives. We need to be ‘appropriately-on’ for them. Hyper-personalised experiences, done well, are hyper-appropriate experiences.
3. Don't personalise your way out of my conversation
Brands have always played a role in helping people establish their identity. Great brands can do that because they’ve worked hard to create a common understanding among people.
In the excitement about hyper-personalisation we should never attempt to personalise the brand to individuals, because doing that would diminish the common understanding of brands that people have. Lose that and you lose the chances of people congregating around your brand and talking about it.
It’s time we started thinking how hyper-personalisation might play out in the relationships we aim to build between brands and their customers.
What people really want is for brands to be hyper-relevant to them. To create experiences that are personal and helpful, not personalised.
And in doing so, do what good brands always have – reduce complexity of choice.