Thought Leadership
  • Product design & build

Does personalisation really matter - is it was customers want?

Tim Dodd
15th August 2018

"No Daddy, no lion. Stick Man, Daddy."

At just 22 months, my son has discovered personalisation. Until now the magic talking picture box in the corner of the living room had been a hugely useful morning distraction tool (don't judge!). One short programme followed another and my tiny digital consumer would be satisfied with whatever he was served by CBBC’s schedulers. Not any more! Now he’s figured out that he can choose between more Raa Raa and Julia Donaldson’s classic animation. And with that realisation has come demands. 

He’s certainly not the only one. Long gone are the days of rushing home from school to catch your favourite show, knowing that if you didn't make it in time, you'd miss the latest drama in Byker Grove or Ramsay Street with no chance to catch up. Content consumption was a scheduled event, not a choice. You changed your routine if you didn’t want to miss out on the latest must-watch show. 

Making it personal

The acceptance of digital content providers from BBC iPlayer to Facebook articles has been so successful, so rapidly adopted and has evolved so quickly, precisely because it satisfies an innate desire for personalised, on-demand experiences.

It’s at least in part driven by our biology. When faced with significant choices, our brains will seek to filter out the irrelevant and consume only the relevant. So when we believe we are being offered something different to everybody else it peaks our attention and cuts through the noise.

The neuroscience for this is complex, but essentially, we have a Reticular Activating System (RAS) which acts as the gatekeeper and filtering system for the trillions of impulses the brain constantly receives from all the major nerves in our body.

For example, we react differently to the feeling of a gentle breeze on our forearm, versus a sudden, loud bang. And it’s this prioritisation of stimuli, based on importance and perceived relevance that personalised experiences hack to gain our attention.


Personalisation - the illusion of choice

Because the reality is that this technology only delivers the illusion of personalisation and choice. Log onto Facebook and the content you see from a specific network of friends is generated by an algorithm. Same with recommended shows in Netflix or suggestions from Google. We didn't decide on the digital experience. The brands did. They simply learned from our behaviours to heighten the relevance of their tools, prompts and content to enhance our digital experience and choose from the selection of options they put in front of us.

It’s the digital equivalent of hearing your own name through the background conversational hum at a party. The job of the technology is to filter out background noise and pique your interest to gain your attention.

It’s the same premise email marketeers known for a long time - simply addressing the recipient by their first name at the start of the communication piece drives much deeper engagement and uptake. But far too frequently, this value is not explored further into the digital experience.

Planning for success

Personalisation requires consideration. Do too little and you don’t cut through the rest of the background noise. Go too far and your brand will come across as creepy or intrusive. It’s a complex balance that requires the right tools and data to work in the first place (first and third party ideally). It then requires constant measurement and analysis in order to attribute value to the personalisation methods you've implemented. 

It’s an approach of constant optimisation which requires a robust strategy. But get it right and audiences will literally demand your brand.

How are you personalising your digital experiences?

Cut through the noise and create personalised digital experiences that make a difference. Get in touch with digital experience agency Mediablaze, we would love to hear from you -

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