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Why tech giants need to personalize, not generalize

Why tech giants need to personalize, not generalize Ivan Imhoff

Like millions of people every year, I was recently shopping for a new smart phone. Smartphones are a high involvement purchase, especially in the higher end market where they can cost over £500 a pop. In the Android market, choice abounds with dozens of models. So the large companies such as Samsung and Sony spend hundreds of millions of advertising dollars to get their smartphones to the top of your mind. Your mental short list of the two or three devices you will investigate and purchase from.

I started my phone search using review sites, comparison sites, and the brands' own product sites, building up to a shortlist of candidates. The brand sites, such as those of the Samsung S7 or the new Sony Xperia X, are supposed to be key to my persuasion. But it was at this point that the great imbalance hit me.

With the millions of dollars Sony spends on advertising its phones, with the billions of data points it has on users, is this Sony Xperia X product page the best they can do? People don't buy advertisements -- they buy the promise, the idea, the vision in the ad. It's your product pages that persuade your visitors, gets them to fall in love with the product, to go "Wow, now that's cool, that's just what I wanted." Don't forget, most purchase decisions are 65 percent emotional.

Instead, the Sony Xperia X page is run-of-the-mill static and generic. Fifty percent is about the camera -- and while I understand the value of a good selfie, a great camera isn't going to make me any prettier. Twenty percent of the page showcases the phone's design, those pretty pictures that were probably taken with the phones camera. Twenty percent of the page is on battery life. As for the remaining 10 percent? I'm not sure, I nodded off.

The paradox is that Sony can tailor its digital marketing using the billions of data points and cookies it tracks or has access to in order to deliver targeted, dynamic, creative ads bespoke to each user. In addition, the persuasive product pages are a meager and generic one-size-fits-all solution. Come on Sony! You know you can dynamically personalize the entire content story on your website based on what I love, right? And I know you know me -- after all, you have billions of pieces of data.

The fact is, I know that you know the websites I visit and the interests I have. You know my Facebook preferences, you know I'm into fitness because I looked at your fitness band, and you even know that I can afford your phone because I browsed your website using a previous Samsung flagship phone, the S6. Sony, you do know you can get audience credit data from Experian, purchase profiles from MasterCard Advisor, and so much more?

It's not hard for you to know I don't care about the camera, but I do care about security. It's not difficult to know that 4k video isn't that important to me, but fitness apps and connecting to fitness gear is. Sony, talk to me, not the masses. Create product webpages that can change automatically to show me the content that addresses my needs, that connects with my interests, that resonate with my lifestyle. It's called Dynamic Content Personalization (DCP).
DCP is hard and complex, I hear you say. Yes -- to a degree, it is quite sophisticated, but it's not as hard as building a phone or deploying a worldwide advertisement campaign. And it's relatively cheap, at just 0.1 percent of your ad budget. If you have a good Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) program, you are already 35 percent of the way there.

You see, DCP utilizes all the methodologies of CRO, with novel frameworks and new personalization engines to permit teams to design and deploy multi-message frameworks on your website and product pages. Using the billions of data signals available to you, you craft rules and permutation inside the frameworks.

You then build dozens and dozens of different content pieces. As far as Sony is concerned, some of the content pieces talk about Xperia X fitness apps, others show how the Xperia phone connects to the fitness band, and still others cover security features and functionality, finger print scanners, and encryption. You build content blocks that cover all the features, all the benefits, and all the uses. Yes, it's a lot of work.

In the end though, using the data points as triggers, your website content can change in 100,000 different ways, each specific to a visitor. That means the entire website experience can start changing and adapting to individuals with the content, the images, and the entire page stories morphing dynamically using those user specific data points. The experience adapts to what I love, to what I need, to what I want. I now start connecting with your product, with your brand. You are now speaking to me and I now want to buy an Xperia X.

Well that's what would have happened if you were using DCP. Unfortunately, Sony, I see that marketing campaigns are more important. I understand, but DCP should be done in conjunction with campaigns to get more bang.

So in the end, the Xperia X smartphone didn't fall into my shortlist. I really don't care about the camera so I bought something else. All that marketing gone to waste because you couldn't dynamically personalize the content, and talk to me instead of the masses.

Ivan has extensive digital expertise and has spent many years delivering effective conversion rate optimisation (CRO) for blue-chip brands. Ivan began his marketing career at Hilton Worldwide. From there he went on to head up two online businesses...

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