Personalization has long been a ‘fantasy’ most marketers indulge in where they’re able to directly interact with individual consumers, whilst controlling the context and timing of the content that’s delivered.

But as technology has improved–and data has become easier to generate–what might’ve been somewhat of an illusion before, is in fact now more real for marketers.

It’s important to realize there are limits to the personalization fantasy. For example, organizations will never have the levels of control that one-to-one, human-to-human, real-time personalization would require. But then again, why would they want to? The overheads of managing such a thing would be enormous, and the gains are typically less clear.

Major digital businesses like Amazon and Netflix can attribute much of their success to powerfully predictive personalized content recommendations, and email marketing has long been using basic personalization tools. Yet historically, when marketing departments tried to recreate the personal, connection-creating experience of having a strong, responsive–but restrained–shopping assistance, there have been technological stumbling blocks.

For all confident use of the word, personalization really is a spectrum. For many e-commerce businesses for example, diminishing returns have been found when trying to build cumbersome programs into their backends. Similarly, the speed at which content could be tested meant that automating optimal content servings to specific user segments proved time-consuming – and they were ultimately unable to keep up with consumers’ constantly shifting needs.

All of this has meant that the majority of existing personalization has existed at the shallow end of the spectrum.

But personalization–as Amazon or Netflix would have customers envisage it–is just the beginning.

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