Have you ever seen the advertisement of a product or service you were searching on Google appear in your Instagram stories as an ad? Do you wonder how it happens or why is it so accurate? This is mostly because all the big companies do cross platform linking where a person visiting a website might see the website’s advertisement on any other site they visit. This method uses “retargeting” of people which falls under the broader concept of digital personalization.How is digital personalization creating a knowledge bubble for both customers and businesses? Click To Tweet
Digital personalization refers to the custom curation of content and advertisements on various platforms based on the individual’s demography, location, preferences and requirements . It is made possible by gathering the person’s online data via multiple devices the person has logged in from, search history, most visited websites, content consumed and preferences, and other minuscule parameters that reveal the psychographic segmentation.
This marketing strategy promises a custom-made, human and interactive form of communication with the consumers. But the problem arises when an advertiser or a search engine tries to over personalize their marketing or search results by showing only those content which the consumer approves about.
This in turn makes the consumer less aware of other products, services or information which probably might have been useful for them. This filtration of search results by search engines like Google is known as the “filter bubble”.
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According to Eli Pariser ( the person who first coined the term filter bubble) the algorithms creates “a unique universe of information for each of us, which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information.” Filter bubble refers to the algorithms that dictate what we encounter after searching for something online.
Now there are various platforms which serve personalized information
Search Engines- Google, Safari, Yahoo, and Bing:
The search engines customize and fulfill your requirements by displaying results based on your search history, preferences and your search term. The options can be limited as they are tailoring results based only on the existing data available. They can reduce the chances of you finding something “outside” of the algorithm. It limits your experience by systematically hiding new ideas and contrasting views
Social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter:
Social media platforms have enough engagement and visitors to make it compulsory for brands to invest a chunk from their budget on digital marketing. The comment you like or the page you review, everything helps in customizing the next advertisement for you. This personalization is enough to create an echo chamber where you don’t consume information from the opposite side and the diversity of your consumption reduces. This phenomenon is so successful on social media sites that it can sway elections on the one hand and fetch homegrown brands’ global recognition on the other.
Product or service provides:
SmarterHQ found that 47% of consumers check Amazon if the brand they’re shopping with doesn’t provide product suggestions that are relevant. They serve the customers with options based on their recent searches in and out of their website. So if you leave without buying a product after searching for it, they ensure that you’ll see the same product on various platforms frequently across the internet. You might also get discounts and sales offer ads which will help the company to gather better reviews and promotions in the long run. Netflix and other streaming platforms use artificial intelligence and deep learning to keep you hooked to the platform. They base their recommendations based on your watch history, most watched genre and other such parameters.
How does it create an impact on businesses?
“Personalization filters serve a kind of invisible auto-propaganda, indoctrinating us with our ideas, amplifying our desire for things that are familiar and leaving us oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark territory of the unknown,” says Eli Pariser.
According to a survey by Infosys, 86% of consumers say that personalization has some impact on what they purchase while a quarter admits personalization significantly influences their buying decisions. It has become a standard practice which helps businesses reach the audience with digital marketing. On the contrary ,it has also helped in market research, better customer service and product development for brands and service providers.
Brands are curating and driving traffic with personalized inputs to drive sales and increase ROI. Let’s understand Snapchat’s 2016 launch, Bitomoji as an example. It allows you to design your cartoonish yet real avatars and then use them in the app as profile pictures, on the Snap Map or stickers outside the application (on your approval). They’ve also added an auto-generated feature called the Bitmoji Stories, which creates a series of the old-school comic book images that narrate conversations you might have had with your friends! Snapchat users see this feature in the Discover section with their other branded content, which allows brands to target customers even when they aren’t interested.
Even a Google search can be different across various age groups and genders. Brands can personalize your communication channel, websites, application content, discount offers, and sale alerts. Douglas Karr, CEO of marketing and business consulting firm DK New Media says, “Personalization is about focused marketing initiatives based on consumer data to optimize ROI.” 95% of companies that saw 3x ROI from their personalization efforts increased profitability in the year after their personalization efforts. But, one must also understand that lousy personalization is worse than no personalization at all. As a brand, you must ensure customer privacy and understand the fact that no one likes being tracked online.
Your strategy must create a personalized experience which aims at providing recommendations and not mere substitutes to actually maximize the opportunities. Your content and ad needs to be timely and relevant, should generate accurate visitor profiles, and maintain a uniform brand image and narrative.
The possible disadvantages for brands aiming to market their products with a personalized approach are:
- Customers generally read multiple articles and visit many websites before making a decision. A study by SmaterHQ reveals that 70% of millennials are frustrated with brands sending irrelevant emails. It creates unnecessary clutter in their mailboxes and can give them a hard time choosing one option. This ultimately leads to confusion due to the magnitude of similarly crafted personalized experiences created.
- Money inequality: It can provide an unfair additional space to more prominent companies that can invest heavily. The ads are often repetitive and similarly crafted for websites, which can make it seem superficial and promoted. Remarketing needs to be done in a way that appeals and gives the customer confidence.
- Incorrect marketing data: The number of visits or views doesn’t justify and track a product’s popularity. A clickable ad doesn’t mean increased sales. This parameter is insufficient and inaccurate to devise the placement of advertisements.
- Most importantly, the customers already know that they’re being tracked, and an algorithm dictates their online decisions. In fact, Accenture states that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to create a more a personalized experience. If they see the ad of the product they were searching online the next day on their Facebook or Twitter feeds very often, they will definitely become reluctant and skeptical.
How does Personalization affect individuals?
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics make it most accessible for brands to find their target audience to serve customers with what they desire. People don’t mind ads when it serves their purpose and introduces them to better services and products because humans like to feel unique and valued. It makes their experience and interaction enjoyable and productive while shortening the process of research and information consumption. A study by SmarterHQ reveals that 90% of consumers are willing to share personal behavioral data with companies for a cheaper and easier experience.
But we need to understand that there are repercussions and possible psychological divides associated from a long term perspective. Customers only find about the advantages of the products and services but not the drawbacks, which in the long term, can cause a fallout for the brand in the future. Miscommunication, half-truths, and missing out on the details can be detrimental to the customer’s future interaction. A Google search displays only the benefits one can receive. No criticism and counter-narratives are being communicated.
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A credible source of information shouldn’t be biased and provide information that leads to better awareness, diverse options, and should lead to an informed decision. Reinforcement of thoughts, ideas, and stances is the most evident drawback of these personalized and cookie-driven algorithms. They reduce your ability to think critically by providing a simple solution through skimming and scanning. According to Pariser, it leads to “A world constructed from the familiar is the world in which there’s nothing to learn.”
Like everything in the world, this marketing strategy has its own set of challenges and advantages that both parties must consider to create healthy and long term practices.
Some of the benefits for customers are as follows:
- You don’t have to spend hours on the internet finding the right product with excessive sorting, filtering and research. You will be diverted to the destination in a matter of a few minutes.
- You get to compare and contrast between the thousands of options made available to you. A quicker purchase, more discounts, and discovery are made possible.
- You don’t have to go through the same content over by avoiding the unrequired and repetitive ads, posts, and recommendations.
- Get introduced to local, homegrown, and brands that reflect your persona and motivations.
The shoe brand, Crocs used a similar technique to gain global access after hitting the rock button because of the 2008 financial recession for a long time period. They did it by catering to audiences worldwide and expanding the variety of options for the classic clogs. They started producing various colors, sizes, and even customized footwear ditching the boring black clogs they began their journey with. The ugly feet trend and the rise of athleisure fashion in 2017, made their growth rapid as they catered to an audience which just didn’t wear their products on the beach but at runways, pubs and schools. Catering and curating styles for individuals rather than creating products for broadly categorized groups can change the game!
Disadvantages of personalization on customers :
- The audiences might miss out on the larger picture, which makes the product questionable. The truth or even a fact might be covered with extreme personalization.
- The brands reduce the individuality of the customers. The customers observe that the same product is being used by their friend, colleague, or people in the same socio-economic groups, making them think twice before purchasing even if they like the product or service.
- The customers feel that they’ve missed the benefits they could’ve opted for by choosing an alternative because they didn’t research enough before buying via the ad they saw somewhere randomly.
Customers can reduce the chances of falling into the domino effect by:
- Using cost-free ad-blocking browser extensions and reporting ads if they see them often. Amazon lets you know why you are being recommended as a product, and YouTube offers you the option of removing the advertisement for a better experience.
- Making an effort to consume content out of the algorithm, continually trying to absorb information to be informed and not just be updated.
- Deleting browser history and cookies or using incognito windows can be another way of defying the algorithm designed for you.
- Make companies accountable and ask for better laws to ensure their digital privacy.
To conclude, personalization has benefited both parties as it meets the supply to demand by improving the web experience, increasing return on investments and satisfying the needs effortlessly. The debates around personalization being forced isn’t the only side as we often ignore that it is a two way deal between individuals. The consumers know the tactics deployed and are aware of the competition between brands. It is a choice they make, but they must be catered with more diverse options, nevertheless.
Personalization is the process of keeping in mind the needs and preferences of your audience so that you market the right product and experience to the right person at the right time. By doing this, you stand a better chance of making customers feel heard, having more meaningful interaction and nudging them to convert.
Website Personalization is the process of creating customized experiences for visitors to a website. Rather than providing a single, broad experience, website personalization allows companies to present visitors with unique experiences tailored to their needs and desires.
Tailoring content to people’s individual needs increases sales. And the homepage is a place where personalisation can have a big effect. Helping people to find what they want quickly by showing them products based on their interests and past behaviour makes them more likely to buy.