Personalise
Without being creepy

Personalisation is nothing new.

Ask anyone who shopped in the pre-internet era and they’ll tell you. You knew your greengrocer, butcher, baker – and they knew you, your shopping habits – and could even bring a smile to your face on the bleakest of days. Mostly by remembering the simple things. Those little snippets of your life you shared? They stored them ready to use at just the right moment. Just like cookies, bots and algorithms do today.

In truth, online shopping innovation only briefly de-personalised our buying habits. Now our favourite online brands know us, know what we want and when we want to shop for it. The little personal touches like remembering our birthday and cheerful, cheeky messages keep the community spirit of local shopping alive. But can these insights and interactions tip over into something more sinister?

The urban rumours about our in-home assistants apparently listening in on our conversations has seen us all whispering our more candid thoughts now and again – just in case. In reality, what do all those little microphones dotted around our homes really want to know? The answer is simple: what we want to buy and when. The golden ticket. The million dollar question. But, we’re told, they’re not really listening at all … unless we ask them to.

So why then are we a little alarmed to see coincidental ads popping up when you least expect them? Chatting to your partner about a Mediterranean cruise and up pops the latest P&O sale!? Rest assured, it’s far more likely to be the result of a clever algorithm working away in the background than any subversive eavesdropping.

Still, many shoppers still find the perceived online snooping a little weird and even restrictive. If you’ve ever browsed your suggested items and felt disheartened, you could be in a personalisation echo chamber. As marketeers increasingly try to pinpoint our interests – our options get personalised into an ultra-specific corner. So where will we get our random finds? Those close-to-midnight impulse buys where, although you’ve never really considered crocheting as a hobby, you’re now buying needles, wool and patterns on a whim. Those magical moments of, frankly madness, will be lost.

So if coming off a little creepy and controlling is personalisation’s downside, where’s the upswing? What’s in it for both marketeers and customers? Time to break out some buzzwords: engagement, micro moments, smart content, customer journeys … the list is endless.

Personalisation is the key to all of those coveted online experiences. And, of course, increased sales. But for the customers – lost in an ever increasing world-wide web of wonder, personalisation makes them feel at home. At home in your website.

Consumers want that wow factor where they feel their brand ‘gets’ them – but doesn’t know too much about them. Walking that tightrope is easy, with the right data – you can personalise, without being creepy.