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THE POWER OF PERSONALISATION: FROM MARKETING TO MOTIVATING

Thu Feb 24 2022 Michael McQueen

In a world of seemingly unlimited options, it has become necessary for nearly all successful businesses and brands to personalise products according to the customer. Personalisation is now widely recognised as a powerful tool for selling and engaging customers. However, there is a range of contexts in which this same strategy of personalisation can serve just as powerfully.

For customers, the demand for personalisation is greater than ever, driven by a market saturated with an array of products, advertising and brands. It comes as no surprise that the companies that have risen to the top are those that have offered an intensely personalised customer experience. Companies like Netflix, TikTok and Spotify have utilised the capacities of personal data to offer customers a range of products tailored precisely to their taste. TikTok users regularly report being stunned at the specificity of the humour, activities and ideas displayed on their ‘For You’ page – a name highly reflective of the personalised product.

Netflix’s recent introduction of the ‘Play Something’ feature builds on their already personalised display of shows and movies. Users suffering from all-too-common decision fatigue can leave the choosing up to Netflix’s algorithms which, given the precise data collected on prior viewing and interests, can probably make a better choice than them. Spotify especially capitalises on personalisation in initiatives like its 2021 ‘Only You’ release. This initiative allowed users access to the data of their own listening habits, offered personalised playlists based on this information and provided a collection of shareable infographics boasting their top songs and artists. With the punchline, ‘Nobody Listens Like You’, this move epitomised the personalisation strategies that are continuing to prove so effective in our era.

Our prioritisation of personalisation is clear when examining the stats. In one recent survey, 75% of online shoppers said they expect their experience to be personalised.[1] According to statistics gathered by Forbes, ‘91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them’. In a clear indication of the growing value of personalisation against other priorities such as privacy and independence, ‘90% of consumers are willing to share personal behavioural data with companies for a cheaper and easier experience.’[2] Despite our claims of opposition to privacy violations and data collection, the way we shop indicates that when it is customisation and convenience versus privacy, convenience wins every time.

The reason personalisation is such an effective sales tool is that it is inherently persuasive. When someone feels significant, seen and acknowledged, their compliance becomes far more likely. However, the power of personalisation is not limited to marketing. The ability to persuade people is necessary in almost every sphere of life, from professional to personal. For those in business, personalisation is a highly effective and often overlooked tool for motivating clients, teams and employees. While we often turn to flashy presentations and logical arguments when attempting to convince someone of our perspective, it is often the sincere, unexpected and personal touch that gets people onside.

This power of personalisation was underscored in research by social scientist Randy Garner who examined whether something as simple as a hand-written Post-It note could make someone more likely to comply with a request.

In this study, Garner sent surveys out to three groups of people along with a request to complete them. The first group received a handwritten Post-It note requesting the survey’s completion stuck to the cover note. The second group received a survey along with a cover letter and a blank Post-It note, while the third group received no Post-It note attached to the cover letter at all. He then waited for the surveys to be returned. When the results were tallied, 69% of the surveys with the handwritten Post-It note were returned completed compared with 43% of those with the blank sticky note and 34% of those with no sticky note at all.

Reflecting on why there was such a difference, Garner suggested that people were more willing to comply with the hand-written Post-It request because this indicated a personal touch and also activated the law of reciprocity. The extra effort by the requester made responders more inclined to follow suit. As evidence of this, not only were those in the first group more likely to return their surveys but they also did so more promptly and “gave more effortful, detailed, and attentive answers to the questions.” This dynamic was even stronger when Garner added the simple words “Thank You” along with his initials to the sticky note. A similar approach was used in a recent Irish postal survey where response rates jumped from 19.2% to 36% by simply adding a handwritten sticky note on the front of envelopes.[3]

It is easy to see the range of possibilities for personalised acts like this one. The simple move engages people’s natural desire to feel both helpful and significant, as well as adding a semblance of humanity that cuts through the impersonal bureaucracy that we are all so used to. Wherever there is a need for persuasion, the personal touch has persuasive potential that more often than not far exceeds that of logical argument.

It is worth mentioning, however, that personalisation within the context of motivating and persuading has the potential to become manipulative if it is not sincere. Beyond this, in an era dominated by marketing and a wide mistrust in institutions and authorities, people will quickly see through personalisation that is crafted solely for persuasion. While it is an effective tool, it is the sincerity of the personalisation that makes it so powerful.

When used with purpose and integrity, personalisation significantly empowers the persuasion of people. Whether that is in the form of marketing to consumers or motivating teams, its persuasive potential is unparalleled. 

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Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and is a bestselling author of 9 books. His most recent book The New Now examines the 10 trends that will dominate a post-COVID world and how to prepare for them now. 

To see Michael speaking live, click here.

For more information on Michael's keynote speaking topics, michaelmcqueen.net/programs.

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[1]  Arora, A. 2020, ‘E-commerce: How consumer brands can get it right’, McKinsey & Co., November.

[2] Morgan, B 2020, ‘50 Stats Showing The Power Of Personalization’, Forbes, 18 February.

[3] Slade, P 2020, Going Apes#!t, Decida Digital Pty Ltd, Australia, pp. 272-273.