If Big Data was 2013’s hot trend, “personalization” might be 2014’s. With successful companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify reaping the benefits of their recommendation engines, others are looking at ways they can leverage data about their users to offer a better experience. But reducing users to a number in an algorithm can be risky. What’s personal about that?
As participants in a recent panel at Huge stressed, people are complex, with shifting tastes. Just because someone wants a chocolate chip cookie today does not mean they will tomorrow. Narrowing users into a specific type without considering their larger personality and behavioral patterns can create unwanted filter bubbles and remove the joy of discovery. Personalization that works, though, without constricting users’ autonomy, can boost the customer experience and the company’s bottom line.
Not all companies can pull it off. Creating personalized content requires really good content to begin with, and a sound content strategy for disseminating it. Further, sometimes it’s just not the right strategy. If a company has thousands of products available to many different customer types—like Netflix and Amazon—then personalization makes sense. But there are a lot of businesses that don’t have large volume of products or a lot of customer types.