Is Personalization a Myth?

True site personalization, in which a website dynamically tailors its content, layout, and user experience to each individual visitor based on their preferences, behaviors, and characteristics, is not a myth but rather a rapidly evolving and complex area of web development and digital marketing. It involves leveraging various technologies and data sources to create a more engaging and relevant experience for users.


For the better part of my career I have been hearing the same requests coming from prospective clients:

Client request #1: ”We want a pizza tracker”,

Translation: “We need to better inform our customer on what we are doing behind the scenes so they feel engaged“

Client request #2: “We need better customer insights”

Translation: “We need to better understand how our customers think and act”

Client request #3: “We need better personalization”

Translation: “Lets sit in a room and create customer type buckets, stuff those customers into said buckets and try to appeal to those buckets by creating more content”

Let me first start by saying we need to stop with the term ‘pizza tracker’ its antiquated, and there is an entire industry around customer data management that we can talk about later.

With that out of the way lets focus on request number 3. This line of thinking has recently piqued my interest. Is personalization a mere myth? Yes – kind of.

If your efforts are concentrated on placing customers into predefined buckets or constructing personas, you're not truly personalizing. Instead, you're creating generalized personas based on assumptions about your audience. The key is to move beyond these limitations. After all the goal is for the customer experience to feel well…”custom”. Remember the golden rule in grade school “Treat others as they want to be treated” - well today, customers want an engaging experience that gets them what they need quickly.

Over the past decade, our attempts at personalization often involved implementing page-level variants or tweaking individual components – all labeled as personalization. Broad collectors or rules on interactive channels were deemed sufficient, such as changing a banner based on the user's IP location or page history. However, it's time to question whether these strategies truly make a meaningful impact on conversion rates.

In countless workshops, we engaged in debates, crafting segmentations and attempting to categorize customers into like-minded groups. While these efforts weren't futile and played a role in the evolution of those organizations' digital journeys, it's crucial to recognize that the future has arrived.

We're on the cusp of a paradigm shift. It's time to move away from group-based personalization strategies and embrace the concept of a "segmentation of 1." Thanks to advancements in tooling and artificial intelligence, coupled with the immense volume of data at our disposal, we can now elevate our personalization initiatives to unprecedented heights.

Customer engagement platforms today allow businesses to personalize and optimize their messaging and targeting across various channels. Creating and defining business events, evolving rules and behavioral triggers to instantly engage with your customers are things, once dreamed about in the past are completely accessible today. Striking a balance between defining business events, establishing the right architecture, and generating the right level of customer engagement is paramount for the successful adoption of the personalization of 1 approach.

The era of personalized marketing has outgrown its infancy. The days of debating over segmentations and relying on broad rules are behind us. Embracing the concept of a segmentation of 1 opens up new possibilities for genuine personalization. As we navigate this evolving digital age, the old construct of personalization (not to mention the 'pizza tracker') behind and embrace the tools and strategies that propel us into a future where personalization is not a myth but a reality.

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