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The ‘P’ word! It’s the focus for all brands looking to differentiate their products and services through superior experiences. Personalization can provide a number of benefits to the overall experience… if applied correctly, at the right time, and with the right information.

There’s also a caution that comes with this goal – over-personalized communications can come across as creepy. The digital transformation age we’re in provides us with so much more information at our fingertips and access to new people, places and things; however, that comes with the tradeoff that our actions are tracked and scrutinized by companies looking for an advantage. As consumers, we all inherently know that businesses, organizations, schools, and government agencies are all collecting our information, but we don’t need that fact thrown in our faces. It is important for brands to effectively walk the tight-rope of providing just the right amount of personalization – enough to make the customer feel valued, but not too much to make them feel like they are being watched.

As you think about personalization and how to create a better experience for your customer, consider the following scenarios:

There was a story at the end of last year about a woman that was pregnant but had the horror of a miscarriage. During her pregnancy, she began to see digital advertisements and promotions for maternity brands. Unfortunately, this continued even after she lost her baby and she still was inundated with new mommy messages and visuals from these same brands. Upset at the constant reminder, she stated “I was grief-stricken and the ads felt like more proof that everything in the universe was conspiring to make me sad. It all felt invasive because I hadn’t signed up for anything.”

This shows the social responsibility that we have as brands to make sure we’re using the data at our disposal correctly and respectfully.

The next example is one that you may relate to, as the anti-cable movement continues to swell. I have Netflix and enjoy a variety of different types of shows. I also often rely on the recommended content that Netflix provides based on my viewing history. While their suggestions are good, I didn’t realize how much I was actually missing until I visited my aunt and uncle, logged into their account and didn’t see a single familiar title! Granted, the romantic comedies are a bit outside my choice content, but I did note some to look up later that I found interesting. Netflix is spending so much money on new content, which is needed, but there’s also a trove of existing content to keep consumers interested… if there’s a way to open it up in the user experience algorithm.

The point is that Personalization is only as good as the CONTEXT in which it’s used and the integrity of the data that is driving decisions (including timeliness as shown above). The idea is that we need to put a concentrated effort into the data collection and maintenance as well as the deep understanding of customer desires and journeys as it relates to more than just our own brands. Until we have that foundation, trying to personalize the experiences of our customers is just guesswork, and may end up on the creepy end of the spectrum.