The Secret Sauce of Personalisation

Good morning. Would you like some statistics with your breakfast? Of course you would. Who wouldn’t? So here you go:

  • 90% of marketers say that personalisation significantly contributes to business profitability.
  • 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that uses personalisation.
  • 91% of consumers will give repeat business to brands that remember them, give them tailored recommendations, and treat them like a person rather than a number.
  • 45% of Gen Z will leave a website if it doesn’t immediately provide them with relevant, personalised content.

Can you guess the topic of our new blog series? 

That’s right! It’s personalisation.

When you think ‘personalisation’ you probably think of those ‘personalised’ gifts you can get. You know, mugs with your name on them, that kind of thing. 

Well, digital personalisation is a bit like that, but more so.

Personalisation is a pretty big topic, so we’re going to be covering this over the course of a couple of blogs. Today, we’re going to explain what personalisation is and why it’s needed. Actually, the other way round. We’re going to explain why personalisation is needed first, and then explain what it is.

Don’t worry, it will make sense as the blog unfolds (we hope!)

Why is personalisation necessary?

Let’s zoom out for a second and take a long look at the digital landscape.

If, like us, you’re old enough to remember a world without the internet, you’ll also remember how overwhelming things like Wikipedia were at first. We grew up being told that the Microsoft Encarta CD was the closest humanity would ever get to the Great Library of Alexandria…

…and then, within a few short years, the entire sum of human knowledge could pour into our brains through a pocket-sized screen. 

It was a lot, at first – far more information and stimulation than the human brain was designed for. And that’s before social media came along to completely blow our minds.

RIP, Encarta. You were so exciting, once upon a time.

But those things aren’t so overwhelming any more, are they? Why? Because human brains are incredible things that quickly develop defence mechanisms. 

Without properly realising it, we’ve developed ways to filter out extraneous digital information and hone in on what’s important to us. 

Don’t believe us? OK. Tell us everything you saw last time you scrolled your Facebook feed..

Did you clock every single advert, every single meme, every single conspiracy theory posted by your slightly unhinged neighbour?

Or did you just notice the posts that directly engaged you? The posts that were funny, eye-catching, exceptionally infuriating, or that otherwise resonated with you?

It’s the latter, isn’t it? (Come on. It definitely is. Don’t lie to us!) And there’s a good reason for that. 

Your brain, presented with thousands of competing claims on its attention, efficiently filters out everything that’s not relevant and leaves you with a much more comfortable browsing experience. If you concentrate you can, of course, study everything that’s on your Facebook feed – but it would take hours to investigate every single post and advert, so why bother?

Gen Z, the first truly digital native generation, have been doing this info filtering thing since birth. They’re incredible at it. And, as a consequence, brands need to work extremely hard to get past those mental filters and grab their attention.

This is where personalisation comes in.

What is personalisation?

Put very simply, personalisation is the process of making digital content talk directly to the individual.

Good personalisation involves things like:

  • Greeting the customer by name
  • Targeting all content towards their particular needs and interests
  • Remembering important anniversaries (for example, sending birthday emails)
  • Giving highly relevant product recommendations
  • Timing content releases to be convenient (and impactful) for specific customers

You almost certainly know what personalisation is already, even if you don’t know it by that name. Chances are, you’ve even come to expect it. 

If you’re a customer of Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, or pretty much any of the other big name platforms, you’re already consuming a highly personalised experience.

For example, here’s what our writer sees when she logs into Amazon. It’s fairly easy to intuit her needs and interests from a glance at what Amazon thinks she’d like: She has dogs, she’s renowned for breaking bluetooth keyboards, she is somewhat obsessive about dishwasher hygiene, she cooks a lot of kung pao chicken, and she has a snake who’s currently being very fussy with his food (and costing her a fortune in mice. Send hungry thoughts to Heather’s snake, please)

It also greets her by name and, if the weather is doing something exceptional in Moretonhampstead (let’s face it, a break in the rain would be exceptional by this point) it will recommend things appropriate for the weather conditions. Sunscreen, for example (chance would be a fine thing!)

This is personalisation. Amazon uses the data our writer has given it to present her with a unique, tailored homepage. And, while it often gets the broad strokes a bit wrong (Heather doesn’t constantly want to buy frozen mice, for example), it’s shockingly intuitive when you dig a bit deeper. 

For example, if she clicks into the books department it will show her the latest releases by her favourite authors. When searching for any given item, it will show her the products that can be quickly dispatched to Moretonhampstead first.

Amazon is far from the only company that personalises like this. All of the biggest, most successful brands personalise their digital experience to some extent. 

And you can too.

But should you?

Isn’t personalisation a bit creepy?

This is the big issue with personalisation: to do it well, you need a lot of customer data. And delving into that data can feel a bit…well…icky.

There is a fine line between ‘friendly, personalised, relevant experience’ and ‘creepy, intrusive abuse of data’. A lot of marketers will frame personalisation in terms of ‘getting to know your audience’ in order to ‘build brand/customer relationships’, but we’re a no bullshit agency so we’ll say it like it is: you need to be a bit creepy to do personalisation properly.

Is it worth it? Unfortunately, yes. You really do need to try and personalise in the modern market. Without providing a digital experience that speaks directly to consumers on an individual level, you’re likely to bounce straight off those mental filters we spoke about earlier. 

Luckily, there are ways to gather and use personalisation data in open, honest ways that will actually help build trust with customers. 

Tune in next time for how personalisation works, and what it looks like in practice.