December 2018
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Personalisation: Narrowed Choice or Narrow View?

In digital marketing we have spent a lot of time over the last few years talking about personalisation.  When we first started in the big, scary world of SEO (because back then that’s all there really was), content was created to be delivered via the huge dissemination powers of the internet to whoever might come across it.  In effect, this was a massive platform on which you could have your say and potentially reach whoever.

Then came Google apocalypse or whatever you want to call the myriad of changes to search that forced everyone (and not before time) to stop manipulating search with crap content and start delivering words, messages and visual media that meant something to the brand.  To create content that would engage audiences to the point where they simply have to share it and let others benefit too.

personalisation: start delivering words that mean something

Fast forward to today, where the personalisation of content is virtually impossible to avoid.  Google personalises SERPs based on whether or not you are logged in, plus a million other variables which none of us outside the Google circle of trust actually understand.  Facebook delivers content based on what we have already liked and engaged with, to the point where a best friend from school that you haven’t engaged in Facebook conversation with recently could announce the birth of their first child and you would miss it because your news feed is prioritising what Tracey had for dinner last night.  Netflix tries to tell us what films we’d like to watch and thanks to loyalty cards, your favourite supermarket knows how much wine you drink each week, whether you prefer red or white and how often you have to top up your much wine you drink


Whilst on the surface, this level of personalisation seems to be delivering information that is more useful to us as consumers, when you dig a little deeper you start to realise that someone is putting the blinkers on you.  Consider that personalisation is narrowing down our views, rather than doing what the internet is supposed to do – expose us to a wide range of opinions and experiences.  By only seeing the content that has been tailored for us, we start to see that single view point as the norm, as the general consensus of the populous, when in actual fact we could be losing touch on what is really happening.

losing touch on what's really happening

Still, personalisation is a good thing, isn’t it?

Not always.  In a recent study – Digital Innovation: Surviving the Next Wave of Change, YouGov – almost half (45%) of British consumers said they were not comfortable with personalisation of the information, recommendations and advertising they receive.

Much of this discontent could be put down to brands personalising on low frequency searches – just because you have searched once for something doesn’t mean you are happy to be bombarded with remarketing messages for the next three weeks.  Timing is also key. Just because you purchased a product today, it doesn’t mean you will be interested in refills, replacement parts or add-ons tomorrow.  Patience is the key to personalising your offering.

patience is the key to personalising what you offer

So even if you take this advice, time your offer correctly, target it in the right place and don’t overdo it.  How can you be sure you are even reaching your potential audience?

Well, you can’t.

The pitfall of personalisation is that you may not even be able to reach your potential audience because they are stuck in their own ‘echo chamber’, where the only voice they hear is their own.  Where the content they consume has already been personalised (narrowed down) for them by their purchasing and online browsing preferences.  Where the only opinions echoed back to them are their own, because there are no other beliefs within their pigeon hole.

Still think personalisation is a good thing?

think outside the box

To be honest I don’t think we can put the brakes on the personalisation bus as brands are just too ‘into’ it. But what we can do, as consumers, is keep an open mind.  This means sometimes reading content that is out of our normal safety zone, because there could well be a whole host of products and services out there that would suit us down to the ground but they just can’t penetrate the box we’ve become trapped in.

What I learned from attending IRX 2015 – The Power of Personalisation

Last month, I attended day 1 of the Internet Retailing Expo at the NEC, a yearly event that offers retailers and marketers the opportunity to take part in a range of workshops, conferences and one on one clinic sessions with a number of industry experts. I took part in a workshop with Alex Henry, Director of Client Solutions at Monetate and Rebecca Smith, Head of eCommerce at; this gave an inside view on the power of advanced personalisation and how it impacts the customer experience.

The power of personalisation

There are many great websites that get thousands of visitors each month. Each of these visitors are unique, they have their own background, interests, goals and dreams. But the problem we face is that we are delivering to them all the same website experience. We are displaying to them the same content, images, promotions and offers.

Every customer is unique

Personalisation allows us to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time. Data is already there and available, and we can use this to create a tailored and unique experience for each visitor.

It is no longer enough to invest time and money into attracting visitors to your website. We need to look at what happens when these visitors land onto our website. With very little regard given to the unique nature of each visitor it’s no wonder that bounce rates and conversion rates are very minimal.

The impact of personalisation

Personalisation allows us to meet each visitors needs faster and more efficiently than ever before. This is achieved by offering the visitor the most relevant content at all points throughout their journey on your website.

Through personalisation we can build up the relationship with the visitor which will help to increase their loyally, satisfaction and increase conversion and sales.

How to get started with personalisation

Many webmasters have data readily available, whether it’s from your website analytics or your customer data. Here are a few ideas to get started:

The profile of the visitor, this looks at what devices they are using, are they using mobile or a tablet, what browser they are using and any demographic information.

Historical data, if they made a previous purchase, what categories they are interested, what pages have they visited, what is their average order value.

Contextual and situational data, we can look at the time of day, geographical location, and contextual information that can help us to decide what products to promote and what services to push.

Personalisation has now become an essential part for retailers, it is no longer optional. Customers now have their expectations, expectations across all different devices.

Personalisation will not only apply to retailers but soon all websites will have the need to personalise. Our competitors are a click away so it is now more important than ever to turn those visitors into loyal customers, personalisation is one of the ways to achieve this.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at IRX 2015. It was great to see how other organisations have developed different solutions to help their business move forward online. I enjoyed talking to other like-minded people to see how their solutions will fit together or bolt on to their current online retail setup.

I also thought the hot chocolate at the event was very good!

Ridwan Mulla