Personalization in B2C Software Products has been a hot topic in Product Experience and Marketing for many years.  Users have come to expect elevated, personalized experiences in many aspects of their digital lives. In turn, they are frustrated when brands do not meet these expectations.  In the early days of the internet, and for years after the launch of the first iPhone, delivering elevated, personalized experiences required extremely large amounts of capital, expertise, and other investments to execute.  In recent years, these resources have become available to many more organizations, per the natural evolution of technology throughout human history. While some of these tools are becoming commoditized, I do not believe delivering elevated Personalized experiences has become so.  

So what is Personalization in B2C software products?  There are many perspectives as to why it matters, how to define and prioritize features and functionality, develop them, measure their impact, and iterate to make an impact for the business and its users.  In my experience, Personalization consists of three main areas that, when executed well together, elevate the user experience, increase product engagement, and more effectively retains users.  

Messaging & Personalization in B2C Software Products

Speaking to the user at the right time, in the right place (Web, Email, Push, In App, etc.), with the proper tone of voice, language, and contextual acknowledgement is one of the most crucial aspects of Personalization.  For example, simply acknowledging the time of day can help to delight users (“Good Morning, Sri!”, “Good Evening, Sri!”), make them feel “seen”, and give them the overall sense that you’re “with” them.  

Leveraging the user’s location in your messaging can have a similar impact, but also this context can help deliver unique experiences.  For example, “Welcome to New York, Sri! Check out [XYZ Product / Offer / Service / Content] here.”

Tone of voice can also be a powerful tool.  Does your user prefer a conversational, fun style of communication (i.e. “Thanks for checking us out!  Our fancy algorithms and robots have cooked up something special just for you.”), or a more straightforward, transactional style (i.e. “Thank you for visiting today.  Check out these picks just for you.”)

Contextual acknowledgement is also important to users, and lack of it can lead to frustrating experiences.  For example, if a user lands on a homepage on your website or app, then browses to another page and or takes some action like adding something to their cart, dynamic elements of the homepage or subsequent pages should adapt based on that action (i.e. “Nice find Sri!  These [Products / Content / Services] go great with that!). You can also display a different image based on the product category for which a user has shown affinity. If you run a travel website, and the user has been browsing ski related vacations, subsequent pages could feature snowy locales.  

Recommendations

This would perhaps be the top answer if you surveyed a group of marketers about what constitutes Personalization.  Product, content, and service recommendations are crucial to delivering a truly Personalized experience.

Collaborative Filtering is a commonly used technique which leverages “wisdom of the crowd”.  For example, if User A purchased a guitar and guitar strings, and User B purchased the same guitar and a guitar strap, User A would be recommended a guitar strap and User B would be recommended guitar strings.  While this is an oversimplified example, when this is done at scale, this technique has proven to be extremely powerful. Amazon is one of the most well known applications of this technique at scale.

Content Based Filtering leverages attributes of the product / service and recommends items with similar properties to those a user has previously consumed.  For example, Netflix recommends “Space Travel TV Shows” for users who have watched those types of shows previously.  

When utilized together, these techniques can help product experiences feel much more personal.  In future blog posts I will dive much deeper into recommendations, including why they work so well, and how to conceive, develop, deploy, measure, and iterate on them.

UI / UX

Last, but certainly not least, modifying the User Interface and User Experience depending upon the user’s preferences and behaviors can help to deliver elevated personalized experiences.  For example, do your recommendations always appear in the same order? What type of images do you use during different times of the day / week / year? Does your user experience adapt based on the user’s location, beyond messaging?

Executing on this promise requires generation and curation of micro-assets that can be targeted to your user base depending upon their tastes.  In the above examples, you would need many recommendation types, images, layouts that could be programmatically served at the appropriate times.  

Personalization is evolving, and the categories above are helpful for me to frame and guide conversations, and to define and prioritize work that ships.

In my next blog post of the series, I will discuss Product Management for Personalization:  Now that we have covered widely accepted definitions and applications of Personalization, what is the job of a Product Manager in this space?  How do they define their product, feature set, how do they establish KPIs, prioritize, release, measure, and more? We’ll cover these topics with practical examples.

About the speaker
Sri Rajan Equinox Media, Director of Product Member

I work closely with engineering and design teams to create a highly personalized experience that leverages customer data from partner Equinox companies, usage data from the new digital product, and intent-driven customer inputs.