Let’s get personal: Taking personalisation to the next level

Daniel Matthews JW

The privacy paradox

What do users want? A seamless experience on all device tailored to their personal interests. How do they want it? Without any data collected!

And managing this paradox is crucial to your company’s success – no matter if you’re customer base is 300 or 3,000,000.

We know it seems like a big job, but the real time is spent in understanding the challenges, deciding on the solutions and coming up with tips and tricks to give your users a personal experience without invading their privacy.

So, we’ve done all the hard work for you.

Design Ops

What are the challenges

Data (or lack of it)

Collecting data and working out what to do with it is the foundation of hyper-personalisation. Trouble is, most people end up as raw data collectors. They have email addresses and Google Analytics data but they just sit on it. Like an egg that never hatches. Sometimes you only have to pierce the shell to begin a new life for what’s inside.  

The vast majority of people fit into three brackets:

  • No real data
  • Have data but don’t know what they’re supposed to do with it
  • Have data, know what they’re supposed to do with it, but fail at actually doing anything meaningful with it

This leaves you effectively shooting in the dark and nowhere near where you should be in terms of talking to you audience on the intimate level they have come to expect.

The best laid plans

A lot of the time the IT guys have the ideas and know how to implement but the company’s infrastructure is the barrier to successful hyper-personalisation. There just isn’t the personnel to support what it takes to really personalise those experiences. Trouble is, you need an excellent knowledge of your customers and how the content will speak to them in a way to make the most out of your efforts. This costs money.

Even if that money will come back ten times over your investment, stakeholders still mutter clichéd excuses about budgets and ‘maybe next year’. Netflix didn’t wait for ‘next year’ when they started up. They do suggest Jaws to me because I’ve watched Jurassic Park. Thank you, Netflix. Take my money while I watch a rubber shark eating a boat. I don’t care if it was made 40 years ago, that stuff never gets old.

Not crossing the line

Respecting the personal space of your audience is so important and the boundary is hard to judge when differentiating between B2B and B2C.

Hyper-personalising to B2C is seen as more acceptable and data collection more widely collected (even though it may be implicit) as you are targeting a person. B2B is collecting from an organisation that has security measures and a protective barrier set up to prevent exactly that.

Therefore, personalised targeting of a company is often harder and, when it is done, the company gets twitchy as to what data you are collecting and for what purpose.  

Design Ops

I knew you were going to say that

Predicting how your audience is going to act is a fine art and with the integration of historical data it can be perfect when done right. Unfortunately, siloed data based on unintelligent analysis will not provide you with the insight you need.

Working out how to predict when to react to your audience’s emotional drivers is another level altogether. Finding this out is the tricky bit because it requires being there at the right time to record the right information.

Social listening is a great tool but, as advanced as tech is now, it doesn’t have human capabilities just yet. So, you need a human to be analysing it to detect intent behind the words, such as sarcasm.    


Pick the right way

Social media listening is a brilliant way of observing people in their natural environment. When people are chatting on social media they are being honest about their experiences and you will struggle to find data more personal and relevant to your needs.

One spa company found that certain customers were feeling particularly stressed at work on a Tuesday afternoon after lunchtime. Therefore they were most likely to purchase a treatment then and so targeted them at that time. Bam! They just increased their revenue. 

But, like I said, use a real person to analyse the conversation and detect the subtly nuances of human interaction. ‘Thanks. That’s exactly what I needed’ could be either a genuine expression of product enjoyment or a sarcastic jibe at your services. You need to know this in order to react properly.

Walking in their shoes

Digital maturity is a problem for so many organisations. They know how useful things like empathy mapping are (where you gauge the needs, wants, and pain points of a group) but they just don’t feel like they have sufficient understanding to start it.

So, get a bunch of your team together and start talking about who you are aiming your business at.

  • What do they come to you for?
  • Who comes to you for what?
  • Why do they come to you?
  • What problem are you solving with your offering?

This is just the start but it gets you closer to understanding. Also ask yourself whether you are set up to please internal stakeholders or to give your audience what they need? Answer truthfully.

Back to basics

Every company in the world needs to know their audience but not every company needs to do social media listening.

You need another approach to hyper-personalising that experience and some of you need to start at the beginning. Start by data collecting. You already have a database of some sorts – emails, names, phone numbers, analytics - but put it to good use and keep it organised.

One company reduced their email blasts but sent the lower numbers to the right audience. They increased revenue with less expenditure by researching their customers.     

Go omni-channel

Tuk-tuks are awesome fun, if you like that sort of thing, but I have no intention of getting one from Bangkok to Singapore. I’m going to get on a plane. So, in the same way you wouldn’t use snapchat to communicate with a client, you need to pick and choose the right tool for the job. Today you have:

  • Websites
  • Social media platforms
  • eDMs
  • Offline (phone calls, face-to-face)

All these should be utilised and maximised. Don’t just stick a link to your Twitter page that you don’t maintain. Start maintaining it and interact to start driving your own conversation. But be careful. Don’t go all salesy as people will shut off.

If you can get people to login to your site using Facebook or Google then even better. This then grants you access to high-level data that you can use to personalise even further.

However, the size of your business and goals is crucial. One startup clothing company operates solely online and is found only on Facebook. They communicate through Facebook messenger, send you photos of your custom clothing, and only use PayPal for transactions. A compact but very efficient system to start with a solid structure. They aren’t trying to expand too quickly and aren’t losing the ‘personal’ touch in the process.  

Design Ops

Tips & ideas

The moral compass

Even with all the data that you’ve collected (if you haven’t, start ASAP), hyper-personalisation needs to be done with your moral compass pointing north. No excuses. Be your own barometer of integrity.

People are fine with you using their high-level data, even cross-platform, if it means they get something out of it that will benefit them. It’s deemed OK if they bought a pair of women’s running shoes and a yoga mat from you then next time they login to your site there is an advert for 30% off women’s running shorts. It appeals to them, it links to their behaviour, and they get a good deal.

If they have landed on your site after a quick Google search, clicked on trainers and left your site pretty much straight away then they don’t want to see your ads popping up wherever they go.

Don’t cross the line                      

Which brings me to possibly the most important point. Don’t be creepy!

If I am at home with my other half and they suggest putting my favourite playlist on then that it Okay. However, if some random guy on the train asks me if I want to go to the cinema with him because he is watching me Google Marvel movies on my phone. Bit weird!

If people know you watched their behaviour in a place you shouldn’t and you haven’t entered into a mutual agreement with them, then it’s crossed a line. 

Accept you’re not in charge

Your client or customer holds all the power. They can engage someone else and start buying someone else’s product or service. They are still one person or business with one solution. 

So, treat it like any other relationship. Get to know their needs, wants, and pain points. I’m not talking about every single customer or client but segmented enough to make intelligent targeting based on personas and historical data.

Be in the position that when a client calls you, whoever talks to them has their history available to them. This avoids that that annoying process we’ve all been through of explaining ourselves over and over again. It will make them happy and buy-in to you that little bit more.    

Plan your journey

Most people just don’t know how to bring everything in and focus it into that end result – getting someone to buy your stuff, read your content, or sign up to your mailing list. For some, it’s like trying to herd bees. 

Get a strategy. Work out what your end goal is and how you are going to get to it. Simply put, how much of my thing do I want to push and how am I going to get the most amount of people to come to me for it?

Content: who am I writing it for?

Product: who wants it?

Service: who needs it?   

Only then will you be able to really begin hyper-personalising your offerings and making everyone happy.       

Ask yourself

Are you ready to take personalisation to the next step?

Want to come and meet the team?