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Making the Case for Personalization to Non-Technical People

Personalization can be a daunting and confusing term for some. Here's how to break it down into terms even non-technical people can understand.

“I’m not a technical person” is perhaps my least favorite excuse for avoiding new tools and trends. Working in web development, and being the person who is in charge of introducing my clients to new technologies and strategies, I hear this line almost daily.

Although it can be frustrating to hear, I know what people are actually saying when they tell me they are “not a technical person.” They mean: “I won’t understand this.”

My clients are responding not to the message, but the messenger. They mean: “this isn’t made for me. This format does not have me in mind. It’s for someone else. Give me something personalized, and I’ll listen.”

How Personalization Sells Itself

This past month I attended Evergage’s 2017 Personalization Summit, which was all about Machine Learning. During the event, I found myself thinking about the “I’m not a technical person” excuse and what it says about how web visitors perceive digital ecosystems. People select experiences that are personalized to their needs. Self-selection is an act of efficiency in a world overflowing with content, variety, and competition. Categorization is the means by which most people find what they’re looking for quickly. If you know who you are as a consumer, you’re more likely to find the product that has you in mind.

The inverse of this is: if you don’t know how to describe what you’re looking for, you probably won’t find it. And placing the responsibility of content discovery solely on the user is a lot to leave up to a visitor. A better approach is a site that doesn’t ask a person to laboriously describe themselves over and over again with each visit, and instead simply knows what to do. In other words, the site personalizes the experience to each visitor.

“Personalization is the direction the internet is heading,” writes Karl Wirth in his new book (of which attendees received advanced copies at the Summit), One-to-One Personalization in the Age of Machine Learning. I agree. Expecting someone to sift through your site, and then doing nothing with the data you collect, seems irresponsible. Instead, Evergage puts forth a world in which a site (or any other marketing channel) can accurately personalize itself to fit a person’s needs based on their behavior, in real time.

When I explain how Evergage works to a client, I’m never met with “I’m not a technical person,” because marketers dream about this sort of interactive, personalized experience. And it just makes sense to them.

Personalization in Practice

Attending the Summit gave me a lot of ideas about how I can better help my clients provide those personalized experiences. At a morning breakout session “Designing Personalized Experiences for Your Brand,” I was so excited by how personalization could help my clients that I outlined a campaign that would provide messages with a personalized call to action to certain users, funneling towards a lead generation form. At my next session, “Unveiling the Keys to Great Segmentation,” I refined this campaign to a segment based on a user’s visit frequency over a set time, and match against the global goals of the site. At a session later in the afternoon, “Testing and Attribution Analysis,” I put together a framework for testing against the goals I’d designed my campaigns around.

I spent my entire day like this, flitting between digesting information from workshops and presentations  and jotting down ideas for my accounts. Along with some new strategies, I left the summit with a much better vocabulary for talking about machine learning and personalization, which was my main reason for attending. It was a major success for me, and one that I hope to channel to my clients.

And, all that aside, there was a magician! A real life, actually magical magician. I can’t tell you how he did what he did, though. I’m not a magical person, after all.