Whenever marketers start talking about personalization, there is a portion of the consumer audience that starts thinking about privacy. Clearly, the two are related, but one should never be seen as a threat to the other.
In the larger web world, the digital urban planners out there talk about an idea called serendipity or accidental discovery of relevant content. The idea is to recognize specific user preferences and captured behaviors and feed that information into their web searching experience so they see more things they may be interested in, but weren’t necessarily thinking about at that moment.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
The concept is to have this delivered as a seamless part of the web searching experience. They’re supposed to notice this as a happy accident – serendipity.
The problem with this idea of an engineered accident is that as soon as engineering or planning enters the picture, it’s no longer accidental.
More likely than not, the user will notice the man behind the curtain and lose interest in the idea, or worse, feel their privacy has been invaded. You’ve just entered the big brother world.
Personalization, not prediction
In email, we have an opportunity to deliver on the value of the idea without encroaching on the privacy concerns. We don’t predict what they want, we deliver on what they need.
Privacy, by definition, refers to information that needs to be protected. Personalization, on the other hand, is something that adds to the experience. Adds value. Adds convenience. Adds usable information at your fingertips. Adds a sense of belonging. A sense of community.
The first efforts at personalization in email began the same way they did in direct mail. If you had a database that included [first name] [last name], you could simply address your audience by name. The more information you collected about your subscribers, the more personal touches you could embed in your message and deliver dynamically.
Success in this approach was totally incumbent upon gathering accurate, usable information. And by communicating that you knew so much about your customers, you ran a risk of them thinking you knew too much.
In today’s mobile-enabled world, we have a totally new way of thinking about our subscribers. It’s no longer just “what information do we have on them that we can feed back to them?” Personalization is now about the reader’s preferred device, where they’re going and what they need when they get there. Or when they’re on your way.
The new perspective is more like:
- Where are you?
- What device are you using?
- What time is it?
- What’s the weather like?
- What information do you need where and when you are?
Because we can answer a host of other questions beyond basic geography and because we know what kind of device you’re using and where you are and what’s going on there, we can deliver contextually relevant information that actually delivers on the promise of contextually relevant information.
Who’s missing the boat?
A few statistics from recent studies lend a clear perspective on what some marketers aren’t doing and what you absolutely should be doing to succeed.
- Only 17 percent of US email marketers use personalization (Mailjet)
- 39 percent of marketers have no strategy for mobile email (Litmus)
- 80 percent of consumers will delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their device (Litmus)
When a subscriber opens an email, we can deliver not just corporate-level brand information, but local, date and time-specific information on offers, events and promotions. Personalized, contextually designed email programs can present automatic, dynamically served:
- Directions to an event or local office or address
- Creative and offers optimized for your device
- Creative designed for your location
- User-specific product offerings based on your actual choices
Pretty much anything you can imagine can be delivered in one way or anther. And all of this personalization is experiential, not based on any private information you’ve provided. You’ve virtually eliminated the risk of any kind of big brother reputation.