The Biggest Misconception About Personalisation When Optimising Customer Experience

When customer experience optimisation is concerned, what is practical personalisation, and more importantly, what is it not?

I met the daftest store assistant in the world the other day. Having visited a furniture store to look at beds I popped back for another look, and the conversation went like this:

  • Hey, we’ve got some great deals on sofas

  • I was here the other day looking at beds, don’t you remember?

  • ‘Were you? Hey, we’ve got some great deals on cushions

  • I’m leaving now.

Fortunately, this was not a real person. It was an online retail brand that had, like most online retailers, totally failed to make any useful connection between my various sessions on the site.

That might seem trivial, but there can be no doubt that annoying ‘customer experience glitches’ like that hurt sales. On the other hand, had the online store greeted me with a message like ‘Welcome back. We have some great deals on beds today’, there’s no question I’d have enjoyed a better experience.

Had it said “Hey Steve. Those beds you were looking at are now on offer’, there’s no doubt I’d have been much more likely to buy.

So, what looks at first like a fairly trivial issue can make a difference where it matters.

Clearly, what I am talking about here is ‘personalisation’. But not any personalisation - and certainly not personalisation driven by business imperatives like upselling. I’m talking about personalisation driven purely by customer need, or ‘practical personalisation’ as I call it.

Not New, Just Not Right

Personalisation is not, of course, a new idea. Any number of retail tech providers profess to offer ‘eCommerce personalisation’ solutions, and you could argue that the A/B testing platforms are now essentially personalisation engines.

The trouble I have with personalisation, as it is currently understood, is the driving force behind it. Most personalisation now is about selling more after a sale - it’s not about meeting a real, current user need at all. It’s about business need.

Think about it. Just because I bought a pair of black trainers, does it really mean I’m only interested in trainers, or in black shoes?

Is it useful for me if that retailer only shows me black trainers in future? No.

Will I buy more black trainers just because that’s what I’m shown? No.

This is an approach to personalisation that essentially follows the kind of linear idea a caveman might have been proud of:

“Man buy black trainer. Man like black trainer. Man buy more black trainer.”

To my mind, that is not personalisation.

For information on how to implement personalisation into your customer experience, get in touch.