Wayne Newton once said about Vegas – “I miss the personalization that Vegas had – all the dealers knew the names of the gamblers.”
Personalization in the digital world is a long way away from providing the human intimacy that Wayne was fond of, but the core principle remains – the desire to create a better experiences for customers. And Casinos know full well a happy customer is a paying customer.
In the context of technology, personalization manifests itself a little differently than in Wayne’s time. Today it is more about providing comfort, convenience and ease of use for the customer. Personalization has the ability to make a good user experience not only better, but turn it into a signature, branded experience. And while it can be said user experience is the heart of personalization, the brains of personalization is the ability to learn about and remember the customer. The ability to turn all of this into something valued is currency. Bingo. Another happy customer.
Back to the Future
Today we take a look at where personalization has been, and where it will go. We look at some of the technologies and companies like Amazon, Netflix and Apple that make personalization a core part of their strategy, resulting in better customer relationships as well as company growth.
Cadillac Memory Seats
How’s this for starters – So you you thought personalization began with the first PCs right? Wrong. Now go back. Way back. In 1957, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham had a form of personalization with their introduction of memory seats. The result was a man’s car that could also be driven by more petite family members with a level of sophistication and luxury that fit the Cadillac signature experience.
Fast forward to the internet boom. The internet has grown from its military roots to include thousands of e-commerce oriented companies like Amazon, Zappos and Netflix all of which include filtering and recommendation engines as part of their strategy to personalize to their customers experience – “You liked that, you might also like this”. These stores also expanded the personalization to similar customers – “Customers who bought this item, also bought”. The result not only helped customers access similar items without the effort but also helped elevate these companies to the top tier in the e-commerce world.
Data Portability & Open ID
Today we live in an age where we openly share our personal information online. We have already signed up to Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn and told them who we are and what we do. New online and mobile services may attract customers but forcing users through a sign-up process is always a high point of abandonment. Add to that the time to track and record a users’ preferences. Instead these companies can use technologies like Open ID to allow the customer to reuse login credentials and preferences from the customer’s own services in the cloud. From there the customer’s experience can become rapidly personalized using the data from the originating account. The result is much faster sign-up and set-up for users, which reduces abandonment but also a familiar use – certainly a benefit for both customers and startups alike.
Siri Natural Voice Recognition
The most recent example of personalization comes in the form of Apple’s Siri – a personal assistant that is based on natural voice recognition. One of the most interesting aspects of Siri is not the fact that it understands natural voice, but that it can learn the accent and characteristics of your voice. I was also impressed by the fact it can lean who my wife is, or the nicknames of my friends. The result is a system that is both effortless in comparison to typing but also begins adding an element of personality. True to its brand vision and customer experience, Apple takes great strides in making complex systems seem effortless and yes, even friendly. Wayne Newton would be proud.
While user experience has improved an incredible amount since the old days where “human computer interface” was a buzzword, there are still opportunities to improve software through personalization. Take the XBOX Kinect. Microsoft’s cutting edge console incorporates gesture based technologies instead of remotes, using a camera to track your hand and body movements. While the Kinect does learn and recognize who the players are, it comes off feeling a little too mechanical – forcing the user to conform to the the rather rigid definition of movement. In the future you can bet that the XBOX Kinect will be able learn the nuances of people’s gestures and movements better, thus making the whole experience more fluid and natural to the specific user.
Artificial Intelligence & Adaptive Technologies
I can’t tell you when, but I do see a world where we will have a conversation with HAL 9000. This will be the culmination of various adaptive technologies including artificial intelligence, voice recognition, gesture UI, facial recognition and predictive technologies. HAL will know my family members and be able to understand them regardless of their human differences. All their data will be accessible via the cloud when and where they need it. It will learn our preferences and cater to our habits. The UX will always be personalized and therefore relevant.
While the future of personalization won’t be quite as intimate as a conversation between Wayne Newton and his dealer on the Vegas strip, it will likely be a vast improvement in user experience from today – otherwise close enough for me and for millions of other paying customers.