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Personalization (again)

Over the last couple of days I have been pointed towards a couple of items that made me think some more about personalization and the fit of enterprise decision management, EDM, with the kind of targeting and focusing that personalization requires. Firstly a fellow author (hi Ann) sent me this link Epic 2015 - The Future of Media? It is quite long, but definitely worth watching to the end. The piece basically predicts (though that may be too strong a word) that media will become more and more personalized over time. I am not going to get into the general rights and wrongs of this - the video does a good job of portraying them - but the video talks a lot about how technology can be used to deliver targeted and personalized content. Secondly Seth Godin also had an interesting piece on personalization - Ego - that my old buddy Ken sent me. Lastly I had found an interesting piece by Jack Vinson about relying on your network. All of these came together to make me wonder about personalization.

EDM is ideal for personalization because it allows you to combine rules (for preferences, simple control of interfaces and content as Seth suggests, explicit recommendations) with analytics (for predicting interests from past behavior or for grouping people by like interests). Furthermore it assumes that the right personalization is not static but must be evolved and changed, challenged and reviewed using an adaptive control approach. By focusing on the personalization decision as a separate opportunity for targeting customers it also supports a multi-channel world, bringing data from all channels to bear on a decision that can then be intelligently applied to all channels. Because personalization decisions are typically micro-decisions, this is critical. There are lots of examples of this:

  • Allowing customers to specify rules for what kind of offers or content interests them
  • Allowing marketing to specify rules for cross-promotion based on analysis
  • Predicting likely future behavior to personalize a retention offer
  • Predicting which menu items are most likely to be interesting to take best advantage of a small screen
  • and so on

The good news about personalization, as Seth noted, is that you can engage people more readily and make content, offers, products seem more relevant to them. People like to be recognized and acknowledged. There is a downside though, as noted by the Epic video. The downside is that you pre-filter what someone sees. Even if you do this using people's network as Jack noted or by using the power of networks to find those things likely to be interesting to you (as suggested by Chris Anderson), you still start to narrow down how people see the world. If you recommend products based on what you know about someone, or based on what they tell you they are interested in, they won't see the full range of products you have. If someone sees book recommendations based on what people like them read, you will have your interests reinforced and not broadened.

Me, I think personalization and targeting are both valuable to people (who seem busier than ever) and essential given the rapid growth in information and product options. I think we need to be careful though as we consider how personalization affects mass media, news and more.  you are interested in some of my previous thoughts on this topic, I gave a presentation on extreme personalization a little while ago and blogged on how to scale personalization. You might also check out one of my favorite posts on hits and niches, a post that resulted from reading The Long Tail.

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