The Personalization of Everything

by Greg Cangialosi on June 4, 2011

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the first Personalization Summit in Mountain View, CA. I was on a panel called “Personalization: Why its Happening Now.” Since I “Evernoted” some of my thoughts in preparation for our panel, I figured I would post an excerpt here in the hopes of getting others perspectives and opinions on the personalized world that is emerging very quickly. Below are some of my notes on the first, high level question we discussed:

How will the world be more personalized in five years?

From a marketing perspective, we have been in the evolution of personalization for years, and even so we are still at the beginning of what I think will be a HIGHLY personalized world in the very near future. Like anything else, it just takes time to get there, because in my mind all parties involved in the personalization revolution must be aligned, and clearly there are still many moving parts around this.

The obvious advancements in personalization in online marketing will continue in the areas of personalizing website experiences, email marketing, social media properties and of course one of the biggest, mobile. I think those three channels – email, social and mobile will be the most active in accelerating the personalization revolution. We are in a world now, where data is BIG. Think about the amount of data that is being generated every single day. Every web visit, every “like”, every “tweet”, every “check in”, etc they all say something about us.

The obvious advantages for personalizing marketing are clear – these channels are delivering incredible ROI, and the data backs up the fact that the more relevant i.e. personalized the message, the better the overall conversion rate. Its simple, think about the conversion rate on a highly segmented daily deal email (Which really hasn’t started yet, outside of location segmentation), or taking the amazon shopping experience to the next level. Now, and in the future, a lot of this will be driven by purchasing intent / peers / influence from a consumers social graph.

Even some of these channels are beginning to go through a personalization revolution – think about the mobile social network Path with its 50 person friend limit – its personalizing the social network. Where facebook is really a list of friends, Path is a network of people you really care about.

We are also going to see a lot of personalization in the offline world as well. There will be a level of personalization on so many things that are just starting – think about travel, auto, clothing, banking, etc.. you are starting to see all of these industries and markets are beginning to personalize products and services in the general sense. One example I discussed was the loyalty program for Kimpton Hotels, as a member when I go to any of their properties, I know when I check in they know I want a high floor, away from the elevator, a certain type of pillow, and the NY Times & Wall St Journal at the door in the morning. Everytime I visit a Kimpton, they simply say “We have your InTouch number here on file” and I know the experience will be the same – that is personalized travel.

Personalization clearly has its advantages. Today, think about how we are constantly being bombarded by media waste that is irrelevant to us. Imagine a world where there is very little to no media waste? It wont be in 5 years but in 5 years there will be a lot less of it.

I also think that more and more brands will continue to shift to implementing personalized communication preferences for consumers. I am talking about the uber preference center / ultimate in personalization across all channels. Let the consumer be in control over what messages they get, on what channel (email, mobile, social, etc), and on what frequency.


The challenges for a streamlined personalized world are vast, and we are seeing lots of moving parts as I mentioned earlier. One of the main issues is that there is data all over the place on consumers, and they are not in control of it. Consumers should be able to own and potentially even monetize their own data, almost the same way they should be able to ultimately control how they are communicated to as I mentioned above.

We are seeing a lot of new innovation and even industries trying to tackle the issue – check out Personal.com for example. This new startup offers consumers “data vaults” that you can share with whoever you want – friends, family, or companies. Once you link up things like this to data exchanges, where the consumer is in control of what they want or are looking for, it becomes a very personalized world. Probably not 5 years out, but I think that this may be where it is going. The question is can there be one place where the consumer controls all of their data?

Privacy & Compliance:

As mentioned, a big issue is that there is so much data about consumers in SO many places. There is no true over site, so that’s one of the nuts that has to be cracked. If industries don’t self regulate on issues like this, then the government steps in and regulates the industry. The bottom line is that the federal government is getting involved and proposing various regulation around this space.

There are obviously large threats that need to be considered, outside of general security, there is also a high risk of identify theft and being able to reconstruct an identity from a variety of data sources, among many others.

In my opinion, we are going to need to go through a real consumer education process on personal data online and make it simple for people to understand. To date, consumers don’t know whats going on out there, and are continuously not included in the conversation. The consumer issues don’t only lie with facebook privacy concerns with 3rd parties. There is a much bigger picture out there. I am not sure how it will all play out but one thing is for sure, personalization is inevitable, and we are only at the beginning stages of its evolution, and its creating a whole new horizons of companies in the space.

Those are some of my thoughts on the future of personalization. I would love to hear what you think and expand on this. Thoughts, opinions, rants in the comments below please. Thanks for reading.

Leave a Comment