Personalization is the future

Personalization is the future

The Personalization Storm : how the marketer has to become the consumer’s personal assistant

I recently met up with industry thought leader Peter Hinssen to pick his brain about the future of personalization. Peter has been writing about digitization and its impact on our daily lives for many years now. Here are some of his views on personalization.

Toon Vanparys: Hi Peter. We have smart devices and smart consumers. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on how smart our marketers are today?

Peter Hinssen: Well, we do have smart marketers, just not quite enough yet. [Laughs] You know, marketing used to be about creativity and awards. The typical ‘Mad Men’ style of marketing. Luckily, those days are over.  A creative award is no longer going to land you your next great marketing job. Many have predicted that the marketing department will soon outspend the IT department on technology spending, and I agree with that assumption. Today’s marketer must be immersed much more into data and number crunching. They need to get away from the drawing table and dive into the data.

Philippe Gosseye, a good friend of mine and a very seasoned marketer, has written a book about this stating that marketers must become ‘extraverted nerds’: marketers still need to be able to tell and sell their story (the creative part, if you like), but they must build that story on data (the nerdy part). Today, we still have too many extraverted and not yet enough nerdy marketers. But Marketing has been working on this for some time now and I’m convinced they will make the shift soon if they haven’t done so already. Marketers who are able to turn actionable data into proactive client engagement, will quickly outpace their lagging colleagues!

TP: Why is it taking them so long?

PH: One of the difficulties until now was that the technology was still pretty much in development. But this argument is crumbling now. The things you guys at Sentiance do with sensor and other mobile data, the leaps in big data technology in general and so much more … We see the technology is now growing out of the ‘early adaptor’ and ‘innovator’ stages. Technology has made great leaps forward and adoption by the early majority is now within grasps. I think we’re about to see the marketing profession change dramatically real soon.

TP: What role do smartphones and other smart devices play in all of this?

PH: Smart devices (smartphone, tablet, smartwatch) will most likely be the true stepping stone for advanced personalization. The sensors needed to capture contextual data are there and, today, already 90% of all smartphone owners have their device within arm’s length 24/7. They go to bed and wake up with their smartphone. Although we can expect a lot more ‘smart things’ in the next couple of years, especially with the Internet-of Things (IoT), the smartphone is already here and can deliver us a truckload of insights. So yes: the smartphone and today’s wearables will drive über personalization!

TP: What are some of the most interesting applications that we may expect in the coming years when situational and behavioral insights are combined? Given that situational awareness would mean that a system understands the actual situation of a customer, the context if you like, and that behavioral profiling is about cataloguing each individual in a series of possible profiles.

PH: I think that one of the most interesting new things to come our way will be the digital personal assistant. Every consumer will be surrounded by a series of digital personal assistants who will make our lives easier. These assistants will engage with us only at an appropriate moment and through an appropriate channel, delivering us instant value. No more waiting in line, always spot-on suggestions on what to do or where to go.

This digital personal assistant will be a clairvoyant. As more contextual data is captured from more and more people, predictive marketing will become a reality. Brands will start to predict our next desire before we are even aware of it. This will not only benefit businesses but also and perhaps even more the consumer, creating a win-win situation.

Gone will be the days of those annoying retargeting campaigns. It happens to all of us, weeks after you bought a pair of shoes online, you’re still being followed by banner ads, suggesting you to buy … the same pair of shoes. Really? That’s what you think I need? Targeted advertising will be solely context driven, or it simply will not be anymore. And rightly so.

TP: The number of connected devices is growing remarkably fast and every future outlook on the potential impact of the IoT is even more promising. Where do you think we are headed?

It also means that we, as consumers, will be more impatient than ever before. Companies that leave their customers waiting, will subsequently loose customers faster than they can say “hang on just a second.”

Marketing used to be about segmentation and target groups. However, with so much intelligence available, we’ll soon arrive at a segment of one: each individual will become her/his own segment. Mass marketing will be completely replaced by truly individualized marketing. We’ll arrive at a whole new level of intelligence.

TP: Is the future only bright or do you also see some dark clouds ahead?

PH: There are always two sides to each story. I think the privacy part will remain a tricky one, even more so in future. Consider the recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union on transferring and storing data of European citizens on servers in the US. The discussion about privacy will be with us for a long time still.

Also, with so much personalization going on, consumers might, at some point, get a feeling of being pulled too much in a certain direction. You can have too many nudges. It’s going to a delicate balancing act, and it will take some time to get it right. Companies (and thus marketers) will have to—at some point—shift from a short-term outlook to longer-term relationship building activities with their customers. If personalization is (mis-)used for spamming customers through every channel possible, the customer is going to withdraw. So yes, the upsides are enormous but there are some potential dangers looming as well.

TP: Any last remarks?

PH: The age of the smart marketer is dawning. Marketers better be ready and willing to accept and embrace their inner nerdiness. When done right, the consumer will be the ultimate winner in all of this.

Thanks to Peter Hinssen for the interview.

Check out Peter’s latest book, ‘The Network Always Wins’.

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