Ultra-personalization isn’t easy – but it doesn’t have to be so robotic


Share on LinkedIn

In 1850, William H. Bovee figured he could roast and grind coffee beans and sell to people who didn’t want to do the lengthy chore themselves. Coffee lovers rejoiced, and Folgers was born, ushering in the first wave of coffee. Then came Starbucks, which made coffee highly customizable and a brand destination in its own right. Now, companies like Intelligentsia and Stumptown are bringing in the third wave of coffee, personalized to every consumer. Today, you can find out exactly which farmer grew your coffee beans or talk to a barista that knows you by name – and perhaps has even named a particular order after you, too.

The same rings true with technology and ultra-personalization.

Today, we’re seeing businesses everywhere focus investments in customer experiences. Industry examples like Amazon and Netflix are leading the way. And the pressure is on, as 31 percent of shoppers want their experiences even more personalized than they are now.

In today’s “skim everything” economy, when you can measure attention spans in the seconds it takes your website to load, personalization is the competitive edge everyone wants. However, you don’t need tremendous data sources, big data pipelines or sophisticated marketing stacks to provide one-to-one customer experiences that leave a lasting impression.

Below are three ways to personalize successfully without getting your data science degree or creating mega-marketing technology integration projects.

1) Become a reality TV show.
Look to television for more evidence of ultra-personalization, with reality shows about everything. Not just celebrities, but bakers (“Ace of Cakes”), carpenters (“Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna Gaines) and duck hunters (“Duck Dynasty”), too. In addition, Netflix reverse-engineered creative programming, freeing itself from commercials and time slots, enabling it to create something for everyone. In 2014 alone, Netflix had 76,897 micro-genres of movies and TV shows.

Businesses should take a hint from their favorite TV series. Like the Kardashians, it’s time to open up to customers, but take it a step further. Be authentic. Explain how you make decisions, run your business, even manage your life. Share why you want to help your customers.

Make a mistake running your business? Struggling to balance work with raising a child? Tell everyone. Your customers’ lives aren’t perfect, and they appreciate hearing yours isn’t either. Empathy matters.

2) Send ultra-personal messages to your customers.
Stand out from the robots sending everyone else’s messages by individually crafting your own. For example, use a tool like Bonjoro to record and send individual video messages to each of your new customers.

How does that scale? It doesn’t, and that’s OK. Why? Because everyone else is trying to tackle personalization at scale. If you’re growing, you’ll only be able to do this for as many new accounts as you have time and staff to handle. You can’t get to everyone. But you don’t have to wow everyone identically to benefit from customers spreading the news about how awesome you are or becoming repeat purchasers. Look at Zappos. Everyone talked about how awesome its free overnight shipping was, but it was originally a treat given to many, not all, customers. Then it grew and became the company’s ethos.

3) Constantly customize your email templates.
For those people for whom you can’t send ultra-personalized messages, use templates to save time sending in bulk. However, make sure to segment your recipients, so everyone doesn’t get the exact same thing.

Your customers have different needs depending on even a simple detail about them you can probably surmise quickly. What kind of account did they sign up for? Were they invited, or did they sign up on their own? Use that data to make even the tiniest change to your message for a big impact. Consider these two options: “Thanks for signing up! How did you hear about us?” versus “Welcome! I saw you were invited by so and so. That’s fantastic.”

You should go even further than just segmentation. Every day at Highrise, I update the templates we send to our own customers with a few sentences about my weekend, what my three-year-old did this time and even about the dog we fostered as part of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and how our cat doesn’t like him. Yes, that personal.

The response is amazing. Customers notice those small details. They’ll write back saying “thanks” for an email that isn’t so mechanical. And sometimes they’ll even go on to open up about their own lives.

Convenience. Customization. Humanity.

A lot of factors go into deciding which brands, products and companies we give our time to, and these three waves of personalization are playing out in technology today. Your customers now expect convenience and customization; are you delivering on the final wave – the actual personal connection?

Nathan Kontny
Prior to Highrise, Nathan was a software engineer and designer for 15 years. He began an entrepreneurial career with two Y Combinator backed startups: Inkling in 2005 and Draft in 2011. Nathan is also an active blogger on Medium. 


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here