The power of personal
Why personalization can be so effective
The power of personalization is linked to a variety of psychological benefits we experience when something is tailored to us as individuals - whether we're conscious of the personalization at play or not
According to a study from the University of Texas, we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors:
1. Desire for control
Even though a personalized experience doesn't necessarily involve the recipient making any actual choices, receiving content overtly tailored to you and your interests gives your brain the impression that it's more in control. And people feel much more positive towards you when they feel like they're in control of the situation.
2. Information overload
With personalization, you aren't forced to sort through and consume lots of resources to find what you're interested in. You're given exactly the information you were looking for. This helps reduce your perception of information overload and brings across a more positive experience.
The brain's response to
Some of the most effective personalization is the kind the prospect doesn't even notice.
Research has found that people prefer personalization even when they're unaware of it. This is all thanks to the brain's reticular activating system (RAS).
The RAS acts as a kind of gatekeeper, filtering out irrelevant information and allowing the information you need to pass through. If your content is full of information the reader doesn't need or want, the RAS has to work overtime, creating cognitive overload. A well-tailored customized content experience will pass right on through the RAS and make the biggest impact.
Most commonly, the RAS is associated with the concept of selective attention, which means that we naturally orient to information or ideas that we are invested in
Dr. Rachna Jain
What's in a name?
One of the types of personalization we now largely take for granted is including a person's first name ina piece of comms. This might not seem like much, but don't underestimate the power of calling someone by their name.
A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Research found that the brain lights up in certain areas when it hears its own name, particularly in the middle frontal cortex, associated with social behavior. The areas responsible for long-term, visual, and auditory processing are also affected, all from hearing one little word.
of people would rather buy from someone who recognizes their name
How to get it right
And not be creepy
Three principles to put into practice
Personalization (if poorly done) can feel a lot like a creepy guy stalking you in a club. You look at a toaster online for a few seconds and every ad on every website you visit for the next week is selling you toasters. Everywhere you turn, there it is. Coincidental? Absolutely not. And you’re not the only one who thinks so. According to InMoment 2018’s CX trends report, a whopping 75% of consumers said they find personalized ads and branding at least somewhat creepy.
Marketers need to remember when clicking the send button on their personalized campaigns that behind the data they’re using are living breathing humans, with emotions, opinions, and voices. We need to consider the context in which our messages and tactics are experienced.
Effective personalization offers audiences at least one of two things:
- A sense of personal importance and value
- The removal of friction in the achievement of a goal
These two features neatly tie into what we humans psychologically want and need from our experiences and relationships – including those we have with brands and businesses.
Content that relates to our sense of self and how we experience the world stimulates our sense of belonging
According to self-determination theory, human beings have three underlying psychological needs that are important to their wellbeing.
1. A sense of belonging
The first is relatedness. We’re social animals and crave to feel significant to and understood by others. Our interpersonal relationships are strengthened by a sense of common ground and shared understanding.
Content that relates to our sense of self and how we experience the world stimulates our sense of belonging. It's positively received, so long as it's perceived as authentic.
EasyJet’s 20th birthday personalized content campaign is an example of getting this right. They used 28 points of customer data to create personalized stories about each person’s travels with the airline – their shared journey over the years. Customers loved it.
2. Freedom to choose
Our second psychological need is autonomy. We want to feel like our opinions and emotions matter – that we have the freedom to act according to our minds, rather than the minds of others. Personalization that appears manipulative, stalkerish, or insensitive jars with this need and quickly lands a brand in the creepy category.
3. Mastery of tasks
The third psychological need is competence. This is where removing friction comes in. We want and need to feel both challenged and accomplished, which is why most of us continually set ourselves goals.
Personalized marketing or communications that help a customer achieve a particular goal tap into this need. If a COO downloads a report about anti-bribery and we later send them our practical guide to establishing a culture of compliance, chances are we’ll get their attention. If we send them our report about AI ethics, maybe less so.
In B2B, when it comes to approaching personalization from the perspective of benefit to the audience, rather than business, then removing specific sources of friction and nurturing competence in a way that’s meaningful to the individual is a clear winner.
What do you need to get started?
The 4 requirements for implementing and scaling personalization
1. Customer data and analytics
In order to get started, you need to be capturing some kind of meaningful data about your customer and their needs. A third of marketing leaders identify marketing analytics as one of the most vital capabilities supporting marketing strategy. This is a surprisingly low number given the significance and opportunity of digital channels where data is key to understanding and improving performance.
You don't need a perfect 360 view of your customer to start doing personalization, but you do need to know the right kind of things about them - which will vary depending on your sector - to personalize in a way that is relevant and meaningful. This is about using the most contextually informative data you can get hold of, like which products they've spent the most time browsing, or which content topics they've been most engaged with.
2. Decisioning and triggers
What are the behavioral events you're able to capture that will steer how and when a particular communication or offer is sent out? When starting out it's totally ok to use common sense and hypothesis for this, which you can then return to and refine based on performance data down the line. This can range from a complex centralized "brain" that automates decisions and distribution to a tool that helps frontline staff shape an offer or piece of content.
3. Cross-function collaboration
Executing personalized customer experiences at scale requires teams from across the business to work together. No silos allowed. Agility is key, and scaling agile initiatives well requires key experts working across the customer journey to be brought together regularly to evaluate performance and pivot as needed.
4. The right tools
To put personalization into practice you need tools that capture the data required for decisions and triggers. You also need tools to support the creation and distribution of personalized content across digital channels. The latter depends on the format and nature of the personalization you would like to do, but the wrong tools, or lack of them, is the biggest barrier to scaling the personalization of communications beyond emails and webpages, which in the B2B space is where the real value lies.