Greg Ng
A Closer Look at Relevance During the Personalization Process
Greg Ng
November 1, 2017

A Closer Look at Relevance During the Personalization Process

In August, we dove headfirst into the world of personalization. Our blog post walked through classical psychology and behavioral economic theories and how we can apply the lessons they teach us to our own personalization efforts. We found two key takeaways.

First, that personalization must be appropriate. Second, that personalization must be relevant.

Appropriateness gets at the heart of personalization trends today. Users simply want experiences suitable to their daily lives, and they want them to come with as little friction as possible. It’s relevance that often proves tougher to nail down.

Relevance requires greater vigilance to keep updated, as it fluctuates often and is influenced by a wide variety of factors. Consumers want to feel like their experiences are unique and responsive to just them, and for e-commerce players that means never forgetting users when creating content and other digital experiences.

To avoid being one of the 83 percent of marketers that still say creating personalized content is their biggest challenge, let’s explore just a few of the metrics we can turn to when evaluating personalization:

Relevant by device

Today’s diversity of shopping channels offers brands more opportunities to engage customers. However, such a complex device landscape also means brands have more opportunities to get communications wrong.

For example, it doesn’t make sense for Uber to send direct mail to its customers. Rather, since the majority of Uber’s users connect via a mobile app, the ride-share company relies on push, text and email notifications to keep customers in the loop. This ensures that communications from Uber feel like extensions of the relationships it has already earned with its users, not intrusions.

Relevant by time

With purchases always at our fingertips, timing is everything. This means that messages must reach customers at the right time of day and that the messages themselves must be timely.

Consider a deli that’s offering a deal for two-for-one breakfast sandwiches on Valentine’s Day. To be truly relevant, this coupon needs to be timely, meaning it arrives before or on February 14th. Then, it also has to come at the right time of day. An offer for a breakfast sandwich at 6 P.M. misses the mark.

Relevant by product

Some products are better off without personalization efforts, and too much personalization at the wrong time can actually creep shoppers out. This does the opposite of what personalization is intended to do – decreasing loyalty while boosting attrition. Have you ever wanted to find personalized content when shopping for toilet paper? Probably not.

To avoid misguided personalization, ask if your type of brand makes sense to offer relevant content. If yes, then ask yourself the same question about the individual products/services your brand retails. For example, while our toilet-paper retailer may avoid personalized ads for that specific item, maybe it also sells beauty products, which are better suited for customer-curated content.

Relevant by feature

Relevance by feature is where you can personalize experiences for customers at a more granular level to showcase that you really do see them as individuals.

For example, imagine a customer who always uses the same credit card to pay for purchases under $20. This desire may seem random, or even strange. But as you begin to cater to preferences like these, your brand will incorporate points of relevance before customers expect them, or in ways shoppers have yet to experience when interacting with other brands. This creates a differentiated experience between you and your competitors.

Together, these four metrics point to the same conclusion – mastering relevance cannot happen without also learning more about your target audiences.

No matter how hard you try, without data-driven information about customers and opinions sourced directly from them, you’re shooting in the dark when it comes to making experiences more relevant. Add on the fact that it takes just one negative personalized experience to turn shoppers off for life, and the risks of getting it wrong get even higher.

That’s why we at PointSource have developed a range of strategies for learning more about your customers. From in-person research and persona building to outside-in technology frameworking and roadmapping, we have the expertise to help you better understand your end users and then find and implement solutions to facilitate the experiences they desire.

Interested in learning more about how your company can be more relevant? Let us know!


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