Every day I get “targeted” emails from retailers that are designed to appeal to my personal profile and preferences. Much of the content is driven by search history, browsing patterns, shopping cart contents and the assembled profile that the retailer has created for me. Which is great in theory. I want more relevant experiences that are tailored to my unique needs and interests. However, the reality is that my profile is actually an amalgamation of my entire family. You see, when I get home at the end of the day, my phone, my laptop, and my tablet become public property. My wife and my kids each take their turn and have their own experiences online. Experiences that include, disney princesses, monster trucks, cake decorating and yoga. So now when I get an email from a retailer, it is typically reflecting a diverse set of browsing experiences. For instance, the other day I got an email from Amazon that was promoting a set of jungle gym related products (a rock climbing wall, gymnastic rings, a play tunnel, etc..). From that, I could tell that my wife was thinking about remodeling our play room. To which I replied, “you are not turning our playroom into jungle gym.” Helpful for me, but perhaps not the intended goal of the email campaign.
So while personalization is becoming more engrained into a variety of web experiences, some of the methods need to be re-evaluated. It is not safe to assume that devices are personal. They can easily be shared and frequently represent a group of users. Therefore, the challenge is for retailers to focus on a personalization model that supports individual interactions vs. broader profiles. This can be achieved by looking at the context of the interaction to understand the intent, mindset and ultimately the needs of the individual user. Only then can personalization become truly personal.