Psychology and personalization: two P’s in a pod
Guest contributor Tyler Marcum of Magnetic discusses the power of personalization in creating more effective digital marketing strategies.
I usually write this column, but, this time I invited a colleague of mine at Magnetic to write about a subject he is passionate about that I think you will find interesting: personalization.
Tyler Marcum started in an entry-level position at Magnetic; he has risen up through the ranks and now holds a prominent position as our Brand Marketing Specialist. He is famous within the company for his creative eye, running events effortlessly and producing witty content.
With that, I’ll turn it over to Tyler to break down just why it is that people are so passionate about personalization.
The number of marketing messages I receive in any given day is enough for me to throw my laptop, smartphone and tablet against the wall. We are getting content thrown at us from an obscene number of channels, so it is no surprise that we crave personalization.
Personalization shows up in so many ways nowadays, from food delivery services like Blue Apron and Uber Eats to Birchbox beauty kits that offer tailored makeup samples to the fully customizable cars we drive and (my personal favorite) the Netflix queue that is pretty spot-on with recommendations, ensuring that I watch “Hocus Pocus” the minute a fall leaf hits the ground.
We spend a lot of time talking about how to incorporate personalized marketing in campaign strategies, but I want to diverge from that path for a quick moment to talk about why all of us (whether we realize it or not) desire personalized experiences. From my digging around psychology websites, I can tell you that it comes down to this: our desire for control.
The University of Texas did a study on Consumer Control and Customization in Online Environments and found that we can attribute our preference of personalized experiences to two key factors: control and information overload.
Let’s dive into control. According to Psychology Today, research shows that people with an “internal locus of control (people who believe they are in control of the rewards they receive in life) are psychologically healthier and more successful than people with an external locus of control (people who believe their fate is in the hands of external, uncontrollable factors).”
Going back to the study from the University of Texas, we learn that technology has enabled an increase in consumer control when it comes to content and advertising. Today’s consumer expects to see relevant content and/or seek the information when and where they want. And as consumers begin to have more control, companies arguably now have less — evidenced by media becoming more and more consumer-centric vs. publisher-centric.
The power of choice
Diving even deeper, people love choices. In Sheena Iyengar’s book, “The Art of Choosing,” she describes how animals and humans both crave choices. In experiments with monkeys and pigeons, the animals learn to press buttons to get food. If given a choice between one button and multiple buttons, both monkeys and pigeons prefer multiple buttons.
In similar research with humans, people were given chips to use at a casino. They could use the chips at a table that had one roulette wheel or at a table where they could choose from two roulette wheels. People preferred the table with two wheels, even though all the wheels were identical. So it seems that on a very primal level, choice = control = survival.
Couple this with information overload and personalization quickly becomes the answer for consumers and marketers alike. Marketing mavens love to use the “cocktail party” example.
Think of your web experience as a bustling cocktail party, and then think of the noise that is created from the many different conversations. Now imagine the host engaging you in a conversation that has been tailored to a topic of your own interests. Suddenly, the noise disappears — you are tuned in and hear only the message directed at you.
This is a great metaphor for how successful personalized marketing can be. It can grab the attention of specific consumers while simultaneously reducing the mental clutter and “noise” of other marketing messages.
Understanding the psychology behind marketing can be instrumental in successfully prospecting and retaining your consumer base. As we’ve learned in the past, over-generalizations, assumptions, global labeling and the like will undoubtedly have a negative impact on your campaigns.
As marketers continue to optimize personalization efforts, the following are just a few ways retailers can forge a connection between the consumer and the company:
- Leverage in-store customer information to personalize across devices.
- Understand people’s preferences, style and tastes — and cater to them.
- Give consumers more granular choices to make about how they want to receive messages. For example, let people choose between online ads and email marketing.
- Improve email and site abandonment strategies to keep people engaged.
- Migrate personalization efforts across all mobile and social experiences.
- Have an integrated strategy that spans channels, from your media placements to your email marketing and site personalization.
I place additional emphasis on that last point: a truly personalized strategy cannot be disjointed. But overall, personalization should be based on what’s authentic to the person being marketed to, and our desire for control is very much a part of the foundation for success. Once we understand the psychology behind personalization, the rest is easy. Go ahead. Try it.