Personalisation: easy to say, hard to do


Personalisation, what is it all about?

We hear the word personalisation all the time. The funny thing is, when you ask how many examples people have delivered themselves or that they can recall, there are not many out there. In this article I will look at a couple of examples of personalisation done well and less well.

The idea of presenting relevant content to our consumers is great, and the rise of websites has meant we can reach far more people, but speaking to them as individuals as we would have done in years gone by is a real challenge. So personalisation makes this challenge a little easier. Furthermore it means we can be more relevant to the people visiting our website, while not doing stupid things. I discussed examples of this in a previous article.

So why is personalisation not being used? Simply put, it’s really difficult to do it well. For marketers, actually doing the technical side of things is relatively straightforward; something I will explore later in this series. However, customers can be at odds with personalised content, finding it creepy rather than helpful. We also need to decide how explicit the personalisation should be, making it simple yet elegant. And we need to understand how much of the experience can–or should–be personalised.

Bringing It To Life

For this article I thought a simple example could be looking for a new car. The journey I took was:

- I searched for a Honda on Google
- I clicked through on Honda’s website to look at cars
- I browsed new cars
- I looked at a Honda Jazz
- I looked at offers on the Jazz
- I abandoned my session

Honda personalisation

All of this information on this journey was available to Honda; no login or data capture was required. However when I came back after my abandoned session I saw the following, non-personalised page, asking me what I wanted.

Surely my previous session which looked at a Honda Jazz and offers available should have been put front and centre? So back to more clicking, frustration and pain as a consumer.

So why on earth aren’t businesses doing more to understand their audience?

To create a comparison I looked at a similar journey in automotive:

- I searched for a VW on Google
- I clicked through on to the VW homepage
- I browsed new cars
- I looked at a VW Polo
- I looked at offers on the Polo
- I abandoned my session

When I go back to the VW website I see the following page:

vw personalisation

Clearly VW has recognised my previous visit. Furthermore it has surfaced the things which might be of interest to me, allowing me to pick up where I left off, by highlighting Polo offers. Interestingly the two buttons I’ve highlighted above changed from company car and commercial vehicle as these were not relevant.

From these examples we know personalisation can be achieved and there are companies doing it, while others are missing the opportunity.

Next Steps

With so many web pages and potential for personalisation, knowing where to start is very tricky. In the next instalment I will look at how identify your first personalised journey.

  • gautamtandon

    Very well said Ben. With customers crossing over across so many channels, an even bigger challenge is how do I take what I know about the customer from one channel to the next one in the most seamless fashion. People often start their searches on one device (say mobile), and do more research later, say when they have some more free time on their ipads, etc.

    While there’s a lot of technology effort going on to make this personalization experience as seamless as possible, whoever is doing this is walking a very fine/thin line of customer privacy.