image by freeimageslive.co.uk – aussiestock
I got a glimpse of the trends in personalization in Australia, when I participated in a networking event in Sydney yesterday.
Conventional wisdom has it that it takes two years for markets and trends emerging in the USA to reach Australia. But based on what I learned at the meeting, the personalization trend is moving quite a bit faster. Some 20% of attendees already had personalization initiatives in place, and another 25% aspired to taking the first steps. This was based on a show of hands, a method that usually under-represents actual interest. (Full disclosure: I rarely raise my hand to vote, because it spoils the effect of my outfit). But it is probably safe to say that half the group wasn’t yet committed to investing in personalization as yet.
If this was a group of retailers, one could be a bit concerned. But this was a broad swath of industries, including financial, entertainment, education, government, services, and manufacturing. Thinking back to personalization trends in the U.S., 2011 was not a big year for personalization, outside of retail.
So I think Australia is a year ahead on personalization, vs. where the conventional wisdom would have them at this point.
Why is personalization so hot? The barest glimpses of the results that leaders are achieving is enough to pique everyone’s appetite. The leaders are often global brands, so their achievements in personalization are more visible, more relevant, and more credible outside the U.S.
One of the presenters, Tim Elleston of Digital Balance, described how Murdoch University in Perth had personalized search results to deliver the most valuable information to students, staff and teachers. He used the search for “timetable” as a great example. At the beginning of the semester, students were looking for course schedules. Toward the middle of the semester, they were looking for exam schedules. Staff were interested in neither – they were looking for teaching schedules. Murdoch University’s search takes into account the visitor’s segment, as well as the date, to select search results and search facets. A great example of useful personalization, which reduced time spent searching by 40%.
Andrew Robertson, a senior consultant for Adobe, gave a great lesson on using visitor information. His point: you collect data about me, so I expect you to use it to make my experience better. His example: I am an outdoor sports enthusiast, and I buy a lot of gear. I am a guy. I don’t do snow. So why would you show me down parkas for girls, and snowboards? And yet, that is exactly what he sees at his favorite online stores.
The audience was interested in how the privacy initiatives and attitudes would affect personalization efforts. The panel of experts (me, Tim Elleston, and Tim Chapman from 2Datafish) opined that the impact would be slight. The real constraint to using visitor data is brand protection. You don’t want to be publicly upbraided for misbehaving with your visitors’ information. The most painful question for the panel – has any company managed to integrate marketing for all its channels. Sigh. Not quite yet. Tying all devices to a visitor is still the holy grail, unless your customers always log in to interact. Currently, only financial services has that kind of relationship.
The event was sponsored by the Adobe Systems, and attended by roughly 100 marketing professionals.