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Is Personalisation The Death of Exploration?

Personalisation has been one of the big trends in recent years, and I’ve worked with many brands who consider the personalisation of a customers’ digital experience to be key to their business and credibility.

Many well known brands have been slow to get on board with personalisation, and in particular, working to adopt a multi-channel approach with a joined up digital strategy.

The same brands are now starting to realise the power of personalisation, and what it can do to engage with their audience, improve customer service, and ultimately boost revenue.

Over the past few months I have written many articles about personalisation, talking about how personalisation helps brands to deliver more relevant content through targeting specific customer types when promoting products, services and any other content published on their chosen digital channels.

I’ve also shared tips for developing personalised user experience.

But what I have shared is simply a set of tools. As we all know, every business, website, and audience is unique; the ability to use the tools effectively comes down to how well formed and considered a brand’s digital strategy is.

Brand Bags

It’s becoming increasingly common to read blogs from key industry leaders that talk about how brands are becoming publishers, but this principle is at the moment, in reality, just a label.

Publishing has evolved over decades so can a brand really claim to suddenly have that experience overnight? Are brands truly capable of using the rapidly evolving array of digital marketing tools to deliver a perfect engagement strategy? The truth is that they can’t; the journey is just beginning.

The more I engage with brands online, the more I realise that we are in the absolute infancy of personalisation and we all have a great deal still to learn. It’s fair to say that most marketers treat personalisation like mail merge; it’s just the volume of fields that have expanded through the ability to collect more data. A great deal of mistakes are yet to be made before this technology can come of age and create real value to brands and users.

“Traditional publishing companies have developed highly tuned creative processes to craft and distribute content. They have skilled resources at their disposal to plan, research, generate, edit and deliver content to their audience. The majority of businesses and brands we work with simply don’t have this operational set-up available to them – meaning content production is usually split between multiple departments and is often a struggle to maintain.”

Tom Dougherty, User Experience Director at Delete.

So what does the present look like…

Personalisation is the process of tailoring content to individual users’ characteristics or preferences, also referred to as personas. Commonly used to enhance customer experience, personalisation is sometimes referred to as one-to-one conversation between the business representative and the customer, because the brand’s content is tailored to specifically target each individual consumer.

What are consumers expectations?

Online consumers visit websites to access content that they want to see – personalised and relevant to them in a responsible and transparent way. However most of the time we are served information that has nothing to do with our personal interests or demographics. When I talk to anyone about personalisation all I hear is that people feel overwhelmed and are running out of patience. People get frustrated with websites when content, ads or promotions are absolutely irrelevant, or worse – completely wrong.

Where is it going wrong?

Part of the problem is a consequence of the approach, marketers should look at how they can invest the right amount of time and budget into developing personalisation strategies that are really fit for purpose.

Personalisation is often being treated as mechanical. Marketers and brands are not spending enough time crafting personalisation plans and not following the right rules giving the customers a way back or an opportunity to easily disable their personalised experience.

Not many journeys are A to B. People are often inspired by looking at things that capture their imagination, things they didn’t think of or consider before. If personalisation removes that opportunity will it deliver a great user experience or be annoying and uninspiring?

Death by personalisation is when we no longer have the opportunity to stumble upon information, services or products that you never imagined would inspire you. Worse still, when personalisation is so structured that the website you innocently visited is now tailored to what the marketeers thought we wanted, rendering itself unusable.


What lessons are we learning?

Personalisation should not feel mechanical or impersonal, it’s about delivering intelligent convenience that is aligned to the overall user experience. We should not lose sight of our core responsibility to excite and delight or engage and inform users or customers.

Personalisation must not overwhelm, annoy or feel like an invasion of privacy. Personalised communications that are irrelevant can often have a negative effect if  applied without careful thought. It’s important that care and consideration is used in the personalisation of digital experiences.

Marketers need to learn to fail fast in order to have an opportunity to improve faster rather than be mechanical and ignore the dangers that poor or over the top personalisation carries.

How do you clear out your unwanted personalised experience?

Until technology and expertise catches up and personalisation adds real value to the user experience, should there be a simple buttons to “like” or “dislike” personalisation?



Polly Pospelova is a passionate online marketing professional who thrives on delivering unique value-driven search solutions. As well as managing Delete agency’s natural and paid search teams, Polly works closely with both technical developers and UX specialists to maximise customer experience, customer engagement and conversions.