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Q: The trick to effective personalization? A: Don’t do personalization  

By Alex De Fursac Gash | October 15, 2021 | 0 Comments

Personalization has and remains a hot topic for many marketing leaders that Gartner has had the pleasure of speaking with and for very good reasons. When well executed, it can help brands to design more effective messages that can break through a noisy digital environment; deepen relationships with customers by leveraging more relevant and timely content; drive brand preference and growth (either in the form of new or repeat sales).

Whilst ambitions do vary greatly among marketing teams – ranging from a desire to deliver more effective customer segmentation on one end through to achieving something resembling one-to-one personalization on the other – there is often one commonly shared assumption…

…That if we (as marketers) are able to acquire and leverage as much customer data as possible, that more personalization can only ever be a good thing. Good for the brand, and good for the end user.


Why over-personalization is even worse that no personalization at all

This assumption is mistaken. Personalization is above all a game of balance. Whilst no personalization at all does represent a missed opportunity for brands, Gartner research reveals a clear correlation between the number of customer data dimensions used in a personalized message, and the proportion of customer who perceive that message to be “creepy”. In other words, the more personalized a message or moment is, the greater the risk that the customer will perceive it to be inappropriate.

Furthermore, the consequences of over-personalization are significant. A Gartner survey of over 2,500 participants found that people are more than three times more likely to give up on brands altogether that “over-personalize” versus those that under (or don’t) personalize.

Thus, the balance brands must achieve is a delicate one: How to personalize just enough to be effective…but not too much to be perceived as creepy?


How a little customer knowledge can provide a lot of relevant, actionable help

There is one approach that appears to be most effective at designing personalizes moments that achieve this delicate balance.

Gartner research revealed that of all the different types of personalized messages received by customers, messages that are fundamentally perceived to be “helpful” are the most impactful. More specifically, messages that are both helpful but also include just a little customer data (up to three customer data dimensions) are the most effective of all.

This type of ‘tailored help’ message proved to be the most impactful of all in terms of improving brand intent, purchase and repurchase. Of all the profiled examples in Gartner’s Tailored Help showcase, the key to this approach is not to start with customer data, but instead to start with identifying the type of help customer require most. Assessing the minimal customer data requirements to deliver a helpful message comes at the very end.

(For more information on this, please see How Financial Services Marketers Can Best Position Personalization to Maximize Financial Empowerment)

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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