The Personalization Trend (& Why It Isn’t Actually A Trend)
In 2018 something groundbreaking happened (even if you didn’t hear about it).
It was a release on Netflix that, for many, foretold of the future of a lot of things–
Of entertainment. Of industry. Of the way we interact with media.
And for marketers, it was a temperature read on the direction the world is heading.
Yes, there is the idea that up-and-coming generations appreciate nostalgia (hello Stranger Things).
Reality shows following the “dark side” of the lifestyles of the rich and famous are more popular than ever (Inventing Anna).
Thrillers with twists and turns that put inventive spins on the worn-out and often cliched horror genre are a crowd-pleaser (Squid Game!).
But we’re not talking about any of those.
We’re talking about Bandersnatch. A Black Mirrors episode that allowed you (yes, you) the intrepid TV viewer to decide what happened next.
It was a cinematic foray into new territory–and even new technologies. Netflix had invested heavily in the tools and equipment needed to pull it off with their children’s versions of the same idea (Puss in Book). But this was the first time such a thing had been re-imagined for adult viewers. And while the storyline itself tended to (by many accounts) fall short—the proverbial writing seems to be on the wall.
Customers getting to call the shots is IN.
Mass-produced is OUT.
Netflix’s Bandersnatch isn’t the only example of the streaming giant reaching through the TV screen and out to you, the viewer. How about recommendations based on how you rated previous shows? If you think about it, even your Dashboard is highly tailored to you, from your profile avatar to the “Continue Watching” section.
You may not think about it, but there it is… the trending word in marketing…
And the more you pay attention to it, the more you notice it. And it isn’t just in the media, either. This kind of one-on-one customization extends into more industries by the minute.
Personalization in Marketing… a Few Examples
Making people feel seen, heard, and like an individual is going viral in a big way. In fact, it seems as if personalization is just about everywhere. Pick just about any brand, and you can see it. Let’s just take a few of the top Instagram performers, for example.
- Nike: Through their Nike By You service, you can “co-create” a custom sneaker that lets you choose your color on anything from the laces to the swoosh itself. So go ahead, take that swoosh in “pollen” yellow.
- Victoria’s Secret: Not too long ago, the lingerie retailer announced its plans to get hyper-customized with its user experience. We’re talking matching items (Got cute pajamas? Here are slippers to go with that!). This personalization will even change the way you see their home page.
- Gucci: Gucci, a brand known for emblazoning its initials on everything from its belts to its handbags, is willing to make room amidst all that brand awareness for one person and one person only. YOU. Yes, with their personalization services, you can have your initials added to anything from your luggage to your sweater. In some cases, you can even add colorful patches and other accessories or details.
- Zara: The beloved brand is also hopping on the customization train. They now offer custom embroidery.
- Starbucks: Starbucks has gone ultra high-tech, using AI to really enhance its customer loyalty program. Their app, in particular, is getting wise to what customers want, providing their customers with the right offers at precisely the right moment.
These are just a few examples of personalization in the marketplace. But if you are a smaller business, you might look at these examples and become painfully aware that your business doesn’t have a huge marketing budget to create bespoke experiences for each and every client. After all, creating unique experiences can get pricey.
But here’s the good news… you don’t have to have a billion-dollar business model to apply these ideas to your services as well.
Case Study: How One Chef Makes Every Meal Meaningful
Take Ruth Oesterman–one of SizzleForce Marketing’s clients. Her personal chef service, La Bonne Vie, provides nutritious meals to busy people in her Kentucky city. But she goes far beyond the cookie cutter recipes that other national companies offer.
Everything Ruth does is bespoke. From the marshmallows she makes for her signature s’mores bars to her marinades and bone broths… all are made from scratch, whenever possible. And she uses local, organic ingredients whenever she can as well.
But personalization goes beyond using organic ingredients and buying local. When you sign up for her prepared meal delivery service, you get to call the foodie shots–down to your adoration of poppyseeds, your allergy to bell pepper, and everything in-between. One husband and wife client? He hates spices; his wife adores them. So Ruth’s team splits the food into carefully labeled packages so both can enjoy their dinner equally–one has spices, and the other doesn’t.
That’s personalization from beginning to end.
And what’s the reason for this level of care? Ruth explains using an example that might seem all-too-familiar to many of us…
“When people are planning a party, they often think, ‘Oh, gluten-free people can just remove the burger bun from their plate…no big deal…’ But I would rather provide a gluten-free option to those folks–after all, they want buns for their burgers just as much as everybody else does! People tend to feel forgotten in these situations. But I want every single person to enjoy the entirety of any food experience–not just a small part of it.”
Perhaps it is this level of care for the individual that garners Ruth such high praise. Her meals are made with love (they really are!), and it shows.
Tackling Personalization In Marketing
So what does this mean for the future of brands in other industries? And how can you adapt this trend of personalization to your own business? We think it begins with asking a question…
Much like Ruth’s party scenario–what are the ways that your clients feel like they are being forgotten? And what are simple ways you can turn that around for them? Small changes might take a bit of extra work on your part–but they can be the kind of meaningful extra touch that will make your brand memorable.
But maybe you’ve already thought about this… and you’ve come up with nothing. You want to make your product or service personalized, that it just isn’t feasible.
Don’t worry! We have a solution for you…
If your brand can’t give consumers a personalized product or service, the next best thing is to market to them in a personalized way.
Consider this sobering statistic from Segment–71% of consumers feel angsty when an email lands in their Inbox that seems to have nothing to do with them.
(Don’t make your would-be customers angsty!)
What people DON’T want is another boilerplate email that clearly bears no relevance to them.
But an email that actually (no… we mean ACTUALLY) speaks to their problem? Helps them have a better day?
Now we’re talking.
But how do you do this in practicality?
- One way is through segmentation. Instead of sending the same email to your entire contact list, take the time to parse through the noise and create content that will resonate with your audience. Giving them content of value is a win-win situation. They get something they need, you help them solve a problem–and when it comes to purchasing, they are more likely to choose you! But to do this kind of segmentation and one-on-one customer care you must first….
- Ask what they think! By asking your customers what they think about anything from your latest product release to their thoughts on your next offering, your customers will feel like their opinion matters (because… it does matter… right?!?).
- Timing. Did you just send out a bar of soap that you know, on average, will take your customer about a month to use? Take a page out of Target and Starbucks’ marketing playbook! Instead of sending them a blanket, mass email, or text message about your latest soap scent–why not remind them it’s time for a refill? Or suggest other fragrances and products they might like that are related to what they already purchased.
In the end, personalization shouldn’t be about creepy data mining so you can make more $$$. The reason for personalization is to take into account each individual and provide them with the things they actually need. The client gets better service, and products that they will actually use (that won’t end up in the garbage bin), and companies get to enjoy the benefits that come with customers that feel genuinely cared for… and satisfied.
That’s why personalization isn’t a trend. It’s a solid business principle that is here to stay.
There are a lot of ways to personalize your marketing! Need help getting creative about it? If you need help, you can always reach out!
Or… are you not sure where to start or where to put your energy when it comes to marketing? This free quiz can help.