Personalization Can Add Dazzle to New AND Older Platforms

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A company called Lost My Name created an illustrated children's book, unique to every child, based on more than 150,000 names. Their technologist designed software to generate all of those individual versions. The book, titled The Little Boy/Girl Who Lost His/Her Name, sold more than a million copies. 

According to a recent story in The New York Times, computer codes "weave personal details into the storyline," and it comes out looking like an old-fashioned children's book. But... it took a dozen developers and more than 25,000 lines of those codes to accomplish this.

Though the effort certainly shows there's life in print, it even more shows that there's life in personalization. We see it everywhere now and for good reason. It works. According to Gigya's 2015 State of Consumer Privacy & Personalization study, "Brands failing to deliver on the personalization front should beware—upon receiving irrelevant information or products from a brand... 27% of U.S. consumers have stopped visiting the company's website or mobile app."

Catherine Karabetsos, president/CEO of telemarketing company QCSS, told me a couple months ago that an important part of their training process now is "identifying data points for each prospect or customer we are calling that will be useful during our sales calls. The more data our clients can provide us, the better! We then teach our agents how to leverage each data point during their calls. This not only allows our sales professionals to have more targeted, relevant conversations, but it also helps us to remain that seamless extension of our client's internal teams."

Christina Karabetsos, director of client communications for QCSS, will be one of two presenters on SIPA's Jan. 20 webinar—Dialing for Dollars: How to Increase Event Attendance and Close More Sales—and will certainly expound on this theme. Sherry Oommen, director of marketing, OilComm & ShaleComm, Access Intelligence, will also share their success with a new in-house telemarketing initiative for their OilComm conference.

Of course, personalization still makes the most impact digitally. Yesterday I wrote about the Winnipeg Free Press which implemented a content-recommendation engine on the website. Each page is personalized based on a "complex set of rules marrying newsroom curation, popular and trending articles, and what is important to each individual reader based on their past behavior on the site, their demographics, and how they arrived at the site." It has really boosted their engagement.

But personalization for print also has a future. SIPA member PaperClip Communications sends out a very simple package to its "Hotlist" that includes a $100 savings certificate. But it's hand-done, highly personalized and comes with a big paper clip. "The ROI on this package is ridiculously high," said Andy McLaughlin, president of PaperClip. "Seventy percent of people who get this package buy something. People who have most recently purchased from you have higher interest in you at that moment in time."

While that initiative doesn't intrude on anyone's privacy, some can get close. Lines may be blurring as businesses get more sophisticated with data, but "our feelings about what's intrusive are evolving," said Jeanne Jennings, managing director, digital marketing, for Digital Prism Advisors. Personalization also should reduce the irrelevant emails we receive.  

Lost My Name is careful. While customers do have to enter their child's name, gender and home address—and a couple preferences—they are assured that information will be kept confidential. The software then generates a preview of the book, and once an order is placed, a unique book is made at one of 10 print-on-demand locations around the world. Books cost $30 each.

Moving forward, it would seem easier to "dazzle" your audience with savings certificates than personalized books. But a natural melding should take place—the more those certificates can go towards personal preferences, the better. And maybe those books can work with a few less codes.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…