Consumers these days expect hyper-personalised digital experiences, from cosmetics and fashion brands to consumer goods, online marketplaces, and even video streaming services. Personalisation has become a focal point for user experience design and, when executed smartly, can be a differentiator for a brand’s customer experience.
Personalised user experiences can build brand loyalty and drive sales, as well as producing extremely insightful data for brands to evaluate and re-imagine their UX design. A smart personalised experience should allow users to complete tasks in a faster, easier, and more enjoyable way.
However, creating a personalised user experience can be complicated. A combination of data, research, and technological knowhow is needed, plus the vision and creativity to create something that engages and delights users. Here are a few things to consider when starting out with personalisation, or re-imagining an existing user experience.
Users today are digital-savvy and constantly connected, across a plethora of devices. To succeed in providing a consistently pleasing user experience, businesses have to improve the interactions they offer via every channel. This is the way to provide a more intuitive, sophisticated, and personalised relationship with their customers.
Digital consumers expect real-time responses and transactions with minimal effort, and access to compelling experiences that have been personalised for them specifically. And the only way to generate these interactions is through utilising data. Brands need to create data-driven strategies to target their audience with relevant, timely content to generate conversion and interest. But data is only useful if it is interpreted the right way.
In theory, every brand that sells directly to consumers has the potential to access the same data as their competitors. Where brands can differentiate is by creatively connecting the dots that this data provides. This is how the “magic” is created. It’s a blend of logic, imagination, and brand values, and connecting the dots to find the story. Quantitative data is a starting point, then it takes a bit of intuition via qualitative data, human behaviour, brainstorming, and creativity to create the magic and lay out the storytelling needed to make the journey happen.
Research firstly helps you understand if your brand actually needs personalisation. If yes, where should it be applied? And how much is enough? User research helps comprehend what matters to your users, what are their limits in terms of over-use, and if what you are doing and creating is relevant to the variety of your brand’s audiences. Essentially, personalisation is not the silver bullet for every brand, every audience, or every interaction. User research will help divulge where and how it can be applied most effectively.
Test and repeat. This is as critical as the research step and is the only way to understand if your personalisation application is ready to drive sales and brand engagement – by testing. It needs to feel seamless. Practically, this means it is simple to use on their device of preference, and clear what the objective is. An experience is ruined if users spend a time feeling confused, frustrated, or consider another option. Any type of personalisation will take you a step towards providing a frictionless experience. Hyper-personalisation should be almost unnoticeable.
Despite the fact consumers are becoming more accepting of organisations using data in a positive way, brands still need to be prepared demonstrate to users how they are obtaining and using their data. It’s a two-way street. In exchange for data sharing, brands are exploring innovative ways to deliver personalised, valuable moments across various touchpoints to customers that will make their experiences easier and more fun.
And to develop these experiences, brands need to understand how customers view the brand across all touchpoints. This understanding will allow a platform for brands to connect with their customers on an emotional level consistently across various touchpoints. Because of the explosion of customer interaction points, across channels and devices, the key for brands is to manage the entire journey, not simply individual touchpoints. And the secret is delivering a consistent experience across all channels.
Don’t be creepy
Personalisation is about context. It’s effective if brands serve up the right content at the right time for the right person. And creating a contextualised and personalised experience consists of knowing why personalisation is important and how it can help your users. In short, if a user is given a positive, timely, helpful experience, it shouldn’t feel creepy.
Imagine you’re walking past your favourite shoe shop. You get a push-notification that the sneaker you checked out online last week is available in-store at a discount for a limited time only, and available in your size. That’s peak personalisation – and it’s a positive experience.
And now personalisation is more commonplace, users are educated and so more accepting of personalisation. Brands need to be able to gather contextual data and segment users into target areas. Every user is different, and what some people may find uncomfortable, others may think is helpful or fun. For positive personalisation, knowing and segmenting your users is the key.
Who’s doing it well?
Amazon is an obvious choice, it would be hard to write about personalisation without mentioning Amazon, as its use of personalisation is widespread around their site (recent orders, previously watched videos, recommended items based on previous purchases, etc). Research indicates that Amazon drives 35% of its revenues through its personalised product recommendations.
Another example is Thread, which built its brand around personalisation, delivering hyper-personalised recommendations at scale. Thread’s free ‘personal stylist’ takes visitors through a survey to understand body type, colourings, tastes, and budget. The stylist then provides ‘hand-picked’ recommendations, delivered through personalized emails – usually a link to a curated list of items alongside a personal message.
Despite providing ‘hand-picked’ recommendations for over 650,000 customers, Thread actually employs fewer than 10 stylists. Obviously, personalisation algorithms are hard at work behind the scenes. Recommendations are generated via user data analysis, and emails are segmented by location, or what the weather is like, to resonate with customers. A handful of ‘stylists’ are used to face up the front end, making the experience feel super-personal.