5th January 2017
This time of year brings a time of reflection, where we look back at our accomplishments and failures and learn to make better decisions and choices in the future. As well as personal goals and adaptations comes that of technology. In this industry it’s a constant battle, journey and vocation to stay on top of what software people are utilising, to what tech is being used on websites and film to printing processes to name a few; and with the integration of social media into almost all customer journeys and marketing, a particular field is presenting itself as another vital element of the design industry’s future. Personalised Internet.
What is personalised internet?
Not exactly a new concept, however something that has infiltrated the way we buy, to the way we shop and even how we use our devices. But what is the meaning of this term and how will it affect design’s future?
Personalised internet or marketing is the process in which data is collected from the user and then used to influence their buying decisions and choices, not only throughout the site but via email and ads you’ll notice that follow you in the side columns of other websites. Its main purpose is to make the customer’s journey as articulate and convenient as possible which is why cross selling is popular when using this strategy.
For example, if you’ve just bought a top from a site, you’ll more than likely receive notifications via ads or emails from the company that may recommend the trousers that go with it. Therefore predicting the user’s next step.
Another type of personalisation is how the company stores your name and details and dependent on how much data is supplied by the user, the marketing becomes personalised to the results, e.g. using your name and age on a birthday email maybe or as you enter a site. Although this is basic surface personalisation, it’s more of an acceptable less invasive marketing where the user feels that they’ve been remembered, rather than bombarded with reminder emails.
PVM (Personalised Video Marketing)
We are a nation of video, from skype to blogging and online tutorials, more than ever before we watch rather than read. So it makes sense that a strategy such as PVM is becoming a more evident option in today’s marketing. A strategy of many levels, PVM again requests the user to supply a very common pieces of data that we subconsciously don’t even think anything of anymore as it’s second nature, for example uploading an image. To sites such as “Elf Yourself” where the user can create their own animated e-card with the upload of a few images is becoming a fab way of getting the user to interact with the sites they use. Or top and tailing emails with header and footer videos dependent on your membership level, the idea that one video does not fit all, only supplying users with the most relevant information that’s individual to their needs only.
As useful as this marketing is, it does get mixed reviews. The main concern being that of individuality, how can we make our own decision if our journey has been tailored to our “usual” buying habits? What if we want to try something new? Some find their privacy invaded and the extra emails and ads as spam that fills their inboxes up. The way it could hide unpleasant and important details to give us what we want to hear and less of what we need to hear. Questions arise like, if we buy a product, why would we want to buy the identical item again? And one very real concern is the high street, we all look to online shopping and even socialising online via the likes of Facebook and Twitter, making us an online nation. Creating our own social and e-commerce bubbles that pulls us away from society and actually stepping out our front door.
Finding a way around data
In this industry the main currency in everything we do is the information we get from our users. From the details they type to tailor a product, to the competition entries, to feedback and reviews, information has become the new currency and incentive for most campaigns. This therefore presents a particular issue with the level of personalisation companies can offer, as the technology and data protection laws are still dependent on the amount of data the user input themselves. We still rely on the details we are supplied with to tailor interfaces and with this being a major issue from the user’s POV, having to take time out to input the info, is going against the ease value that the marketing stands for, therefore presents a sticking point. However, companies are starting to find ways around this idea.
Fabletics are a good example of this. They have challenged the information exchange by taking away the usual somewhat boring questions of “Name, email, address” and made their tailoring a multiple choice journey, where the user doesn’t need to actually input data but choose one of the four options. Asking very specific questions filters down the user’s selection so they are completely focused to their buying intention and don’t deviate.
However, is there a way of collecting and using data without actually getting the user to supply it, whilst still abiding by data protection laws?
A few companies have already been dipping into this idea over the years. By partnering with another site, especially such a popular global site as Google, we can gain data with one question to the user “Can we use your current location?” Sites such as Flixter have been using this socially acceptable less invasive idea for years with their cinema app and now that it’s just a button click away the user doesn’t feel put out by the question, as they are used to performing the action daily. Targeting current location opens up an array of possibilities such as convenience, creating specific information based on where they are in the UK. Such apps as gluten free eating target your location to enable you to find places easily when you’re out and about, taking away the stress. Or on a surface level, as a visual solution on websites, using the location or even time / timezone to add extra glamour to a site. For example, dependent on when the user steps into a site, the interface changes the design, so that maybe it’s more daytime friendly. Sat navs have been doing this for years, by changing their interface dependent on time of day to a darker roadmap at night so it reduces glare.
Or omission of irrelevant information. Another way of filtering and tidying up a user’s interface with things they don’t need to see. E.g. by targeting a simple thing like location on e-commerce sites we can take away the distasteful shipping cost ordeal, so that a user in say Dubai who will inevitably pay more in shipping from UK than a UK user just sees their shipping cost, opposed to annoying them by seeing that the UK get it for free.
Time of year or weather
Picking up on the time of year, which sees the user supply no data whatsover, but can increase sales. E.g. a running gear website, giving the option of more reflective gear as we are in the Winter, darker night season, compared to showing everything or asking the user to filter themselves. Or even weather can be a contributing way of supplying day out options dependent on your location and weather so you don’t waste the day and do an activity that is worthy of your current conditions.
By targeting these areas we cannot only make the experiences easier for the user, but also add that little spark that makes the user remember our company, making them more inclined to use us next time.
There will of course always be companies that use this strategy badly and we will in turn get a bad interaction to tar our own personalised marketing experiences. However, as humans and technology we adapt, which we can only do by experiencing these negatives and learning. So as this strategy gets more and more popular, we will find that it becomes a much more rich, articulate buying tool that we all favour more than ignore; and for those of us that are still nervous, there will always be an on and off button or deletion of cookies available for those that wish to go it alone, but remembering that this ease of usability is only a button click away for when WE decide to use it. In turn, creating a future world of one to one, not one to many.