Personalization Is About the Person
Clearly, “personalization” is the buzzword du jour, actively pushing “Big Data” out of its short-lived glory. We can see that trend at conferences, marketing meetings, industry papers and blogs like this. And unlike other buzzwords that came and went in the marketing industry, I am boldly predicting that this “personalization” is here to stay for a foreseeable time. Why? Because consumers demand it, they feel that they are entitled to it, and marketers finally have the technology and data at their command to do it. But alas, only if they do it right. Unfortunately, I see a lot of marketers – even so-called leading online marketers – just personally annoying the heck out of their customers. As a result, it is very difficult to find good success stories about personalization. This, even as everyone demands case studies (as if they won’t commit to it, unless others succeed in that endeavor first).
So, I ask marketers this question: Are you really committed to do it, or are you just saying that word simply because it is a new thing to do now? I ask for commitment as an organization, because doing it right requires a lot more than just purchasing a personalized engine off the shelf.
Recently, I attended an eTailer conference and happened to sit next to a digital marketer at a networking lunch (i.e., a free piece of meat with a salad). When I tried to explain what I do for personalization efforts, she stopped me and said, “Oh, personalization engines do that for us.” Really? To me, that sounds a lot like saying that coffee comes out of an espresso machine. I didn’t say anything at the time (I was busy chewing the meat), but I believe that such a myopic view is the main cause for all of those rudimentary and ineffective personalizations. For you to enjoy that cup of coffee ever so conveniently, someone had to cultivate coffee plants (I bet without any fancy hose nozzle), harvest the beans, process them, transport them, do all the paperwork to go through customs, domestically distribute them, roast them to various degrees and package them for espresso machines. Likewise, for personalization engines to function properly, incoming data must go through some serious refinement process.
Stephen H. Yu is a world-class database marketer. He has a proven track record in comprehensive strategic planning and tactical execution, effectively bridging the gap between the marketing and technology world with a balanced view obtained from more than 30 years of experience in best practices of database marketing. Currently, Yu is president and chief consultant at Willow Data Strategy. Previously, he was the head of analytics and insights at eClerx, and VP, Data Strategy & Analytics at Infogroup. Prior to that, Yu was the founding CTO of I-Behavior Inc., which pioneered the use of SKU-level behavioral data. “As a long-time data player with plenty of battle experiences, I would like to share my thoughts and knowledge that I obtained from being a bridge person between the marketing world and the technology world. In the end, data and analytics are just tools for decision-makers; let’s think about what we should be (or shouldn’t be) doing with them first. And the tools must be wielded properly to meet the goals, so let me share some useful tricks in database design, data refinement process and analytics.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.