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by David Mennie
Working at Acquia has given me new appreciation for Hector, an artist with a paint brush… and a roller, and masking tape.
Hector works at my local hardware store; he can usually be found around the paint section.
What I appreciate about Hector is that we don’t have to start from scratch, every time I walk into the store. We can generally pick up where we left off after my last weekend visit.
So when I asked him about interior paints a few weeks ago, Hector knew I was probably not looking to create a faux finish, or something “distressed.” More likely, I wanted something semi-gloss, which Hector refers to as “a parent’s best friend.”
He also already knows that easy clean-up is more important to me than the subtleties of the finish. So instead of trying to sell me a natural hair brush with a varnished handle, we started by considering the humbler, synthetic tools of the weekend home maintainer and improver.
And, remembering my last painting project, he asked if I still had a drop cloth, and tape. (“Drape it and tape it,” is his advice for avoiding the agony of drips, mistakes, and spills.)
Translate my old-fashioned real world relationship with Hector to the digital realm, and you have a cutting edge, personalized digital experience. Keep your eye on that old-fashioned ideal, and you’ll be on the right track.
Remember, and Recommend
What’s the current benchmark for personalization? That’s easy: the recommendation engines that power Amazon, Netflix, and a host of other online retailers.
These companies have trained online customers very well. Today product recommendations are the third key method that consumers use to navigate a retail site, behind using the search box, and site navigation.
In fact, if you are too timid about implementing personalization into your digital experience, you could be hurting your reputation with your customers, according to Bob Gilbreath, cofounder and president of the content marketing firm Ahalogy, and author of the book, The Next Evolution of Marketing.
“It’s easy to understand why technology is being used for marketing personalization: greater relevance leads to more responses, which leads to better revenue,” he said. “What you may not know is that consumers are increasingly expecting your business to use this information to serve them.”
As an example, Bob cited that customers are now accustomed to Amazon remembering their purchase history and making recommendations. As a result, people come to expect the same when they walk into Macy’s or Nordstrom. Because Federal Express allows you to track your packages online, people expect Domino’s to let them to track their pizza, and Dole to let them track their bananas. People expect customer support to know their names and addresses when they call because they know caller ID works that way in their homes.
“People know your company has their data,” Bob said. “If you are not using it to offer better service, then you will lose their business.”
Delivering on personalization requires that you keep your eyes on the horizon. New technologies and platforms continue to bring individual customers into sharper focus.
Apple’s iBeacons, for example, which will soon start showing up in retail outlets, will be able to close the loop with consumers, recognizing, and interacting with, the phone of an online customer as soon as he enters the store.
Another technology to track: predictive personalization, which uses analytical algorithms and big data to develop models that will predict customer behavior, needs, and wants, and then deliver the most relevant content, products, and services for each visitor .
Eric Siegel is the founder of the Predictive Analytic World conference [http://www.pawcon.com] and the author of the book Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die. Eric told me that predictive personalization allows marketers “to proactively pounce upon every individual customer opportunity by predicting beforehand to which content, creative, or product will each customer respond.”
“Predicting clicks and purchases in this way is the ultimate means to serve up relevancy,” Siegel said, “since it increases the chances the consumer will see something they will want to take action on.”
At the moment, much of this personalization technology is still in beta, but it’s coming online fast.
“The trick to personalization is that it’s a goal, a process,” said Jason Thibeault, one of the authors of Recommend This!. “The motivation is to establish a relationship, to get to know your customer, to get better at reading signals, and to use that information.”
“The goal is to translate the human intuition we all have about relationships into the digital realm,” Jason added.
That’s not here yet, so the next best thing, Jason said, is to create a digital culture that understands the ideal and pushes towards it continually.
“You have to move towards personalization every day, in small steps,” he said.