We've all had the experience where we're speaking with a contact about something, and the next thing we know we're being bombarded with ads associated with that exact conversation. Or, whenever you meet a person for the first time and they suddenly pop up as a friend suggestion in your social channels even though you have no mutual contacts. Creepy, right?
It's natural to feel unsettled by this, and it raises the questions: Don't let stop engaging with AI and technologies which make personalised experiences possible? And what's at stake if we do?
Since the dawn of commerce, businesses have been trying to tailor their customer experience offering as a way of building customer trust and loyalty: a trend that has sky-rocketed with the advent of technology. A 2021 survey discovered that 80 per cent of self-classified frequent shoppers stated they'll only shop with brands who personalise the experience. This leaves businesses trying to find the fine balance between as being a smooth operator and creepy stalker.
It's all in the design
Personalisation is an incredibly powerful tool, with an almost infinite number of ways it may be implemented to enhance interactions with customers and vice versa. However, with power comes responsibility and also the onus is on businesses to become accountable for the systems they've created.
Many developers tend to have a rosy view of the utopian wonderland they believe technology will deliver. However, at some point, they lost sight from the needs of the customer and instead began “stalking” and bombarding all of them with ads based on their search history to drive further sales.
Moving forward organisations have to actively drive developers to rethink their approach and style technologies from a completely different perspective, and ask themselves, “What are the moments within the customer's journey where we are able to provide a solution or address their needs?” This considered and empathetic approach is likely to do more to build a customer's trust in a brand than spamming with ads for services or products we assume they want.
Intention is everything
Personalisation technology was originally intended for marketing at scale, and for targeting purposes – it knows you've shown curiosity about one thing, and uses that to calculate what you'll do next. Not necessarily creepy or cool. But this has been distorted by many companies into a mass-service experience, using a one-size-fits-all model that is a complete contradiction to the original intent of “personal touch”.
With advancements in technology, businesses can now individualise the customer experience like never before allowing for a truly hyper-personalised experience. Technology means organisations no longer need to make assumptions about you; they are able to understand your changing needs and last the way you want to be served.
By flipping the intent these experiences enhance the intrinsic value of your service offering in addition to brand loyalty and trust.
Keeping personal in, and creepy out
As humans, we like to feel special. We get a kick from a birthday voucher or loyalty discount; stuff that wouldn't be possible without technology leveraging our data and capturing our emotional response.
So, if we want the benefits we need to accept personalisation as a tool, but we don’t need to accept organisations weaponising these tools to bombard us with ads or to manipulate our behaviour.
Successful organisations know that we aren't just numbers, we're people. We have the power to vote with this dollar if we feel our data is being used against us. This really is happening on a larger and larger scale – especially as our digital consumption keeps growing.
In the long run, misuse personalisation at the own peril. Those that do will inevitably lose their most valuable asset: their customer.