posted 8 Mar 2007 in Volume 10 Issue 6
Engagementisation or personalisement?
By Lynda Rathbone
There has never been a shortage of new technologies and trends to follow on the web. From the early days of Amazon’s personalisation engine, to new search algorithms, podcasts and social networking. They seem to be coming thick and fast.
But have you noticed how they never seem to get a chance to completely bear fruit before the ‘next big thing’ has landed and we’re off and running, trying to both understand and catch up with that, leaving the last thing half done?
What if we took a look back over the past few years and picked out the good bits that have stood the test of time and combine those technologies and concepts with the latest thinking? What would we get and would this be useful to do?
Well, what we might have is ‘engagementalisation’, or perhaps ‘personalisement’. Terms I think you should have guessed I just made up. We can probably make them the new buzzwords for 2007 if we try hard enough.
First, let’s take the concept of personalisation. This was (and is) a great idea but somehow, it got lost along the way for many organisations. The promise of knowing enough about your customer that you could deliver better, more targeted information to them, thereby creating a more engaging experience was great. There were also big debates about customisation versus personalisation (user-led versus organisation-dictated based on user behaviour) and how best to handle the user’s preferences.
Conceptually, though, it sounded easy and we marvelled at Amazon’s capabilities to recommend products related to other products we bought. We thought, ‘Wow, what if we could do that for our customers’? All we had to do was understand what our customers’ behaviours and desires were and cater to those with targeted content, using a combination of tracking software and site metrics to interpret the results. No problem, right? Wrong.
The reality was that Amazon was a new business and could start with a single source of customer data. Most older organisations didn’t have a complete picture of their customer as it now required combining offline and online data, making even the first step toward this truly daunting. Additionally, at the time this was the ‘new thing’, personalisation software was too new and too expensive and metrics tools didn’t really deliver the information you needed. Not to mention most customer-relationship management (CRM) systems were still outrageously expensive and didn’t integrate with any web or content-management systems (CMS).
The time is nigh, however, for revisiting this. As your customers are giving you more and more information via more engaging and interactive content, what are you doing with it? Tracking and metrics software is widely available and almost free in many cases. Not to mention CRM and CMS improvements over the years to include behaviour-tracking elements, which make this much easier to do. Your audiences or customers have become much more web savvy and don’t mind giving up more information in return for better content or services. Most are past those security fears that giving information online is unsafe.
So let’s get engagementalising! And we really have the Web 2.0 revolution to thank for it. Web 2.0 made it okay for users to interact with the site and other users and expose and contribute their opinions, likes and dislikes. It has created an entirely new industry of technologies that mine and segment data about audience behaviours and patterns. After all, the corporates that now own sites such as MySpace and YouTube need to derive something out of their ‘free’ services, other than attracting billions of users.
They need to derive something much more valuable – detailed pictures of their users so they can better predict and serve them in the future by delivering personalised, targeted, regionalised adverts, content and so forth.
So you can now have the best of both worlds – capitalising on the concept of things like the engagement and interaction of the Web 2.0 world, while still working with more stable and mature technologies. Audience segmentation analysis is now a cornerstone of most of the content management and knowledge management projects that I’m working on now as websites that started gathering this information years ago can finally start mining it and using it in the way that they wanted to when personalisation first hit, but the technologies and tools were too immature to support it.
And customer engagement can now take place at a level that is unprecedented as your user is now a much more sophisticated and willing participant. They want and need to be engaged so combine that desire to interact with your desire to understand and better serve and bam! I think we just may be onto something whether it’s called engagementalisation or personalisement. No matter what the buzzword is tomorrow, the important thing is to be sure not to lose sight of the hard work or past trends that have maybe just now come to maturity as you try to keep up with the exciting new worlds that await us going forward.
As always, I’d love to hear from you on this. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.