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Personalization vs. Customization

Posted by Kirsten Onsgard

February 22, 2012

People often use the words personalization and ThinkstockPhotos-838618996.jpgcustomization interchangeably. But there is a subtle, important difference between the two.

Personalization v. Customization

Customization is explicitly stating your interests and preferences with whom you are interacting, from the barista at Starbucks to your favorite app to your favorite music service.

On the other hand, personalization is when a brand understands your needs as a customer and meets them. You don't have to ask your app to change something to your liking - it's already there when you arrive. As a customer, personalization is the "Aha!" moment you experience when everything is just right from the start.

 Consider these other examples: Customization is when you buy music on iTunes to play on your iPhone. Personalization is when you stream Pandora  and it  creates a profile of your music tastes based on the artists and songs you have searched for or played.

 If you’re using a marketing software, for example, and you choose what you want to see on the dashboard when you login, that’s customization. Now, if the software analyzes your data, recognizes your actions and serves you what you want to see without you having to adjust the settings, that’s personalization.

Customization is a feature that you have to put work into getting just right. Personalization is just there.

 Personalization aims to create that strong user experience both on and offline by anticipating the user’s needs.

Personalize with these Email Examples

Ask your audience questions: A key to effective email personalization is to ask the right questions to your subscribers. Ask customers questions about why they’re visiting your site or what they intend to use their purchase for, for example. These examples from Rent the Runway and wedding website Paper Style show why someone would use these respective sites.

Once you know why someone is visiting your site or using your product, you can then tailor your emails accordingly.

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Take note of what they like: Now that you know why your customers are coming to your site, use your data to personalize emails based on what they’ve browsed, purchased or liked. This example from Pottery Barn knows the subscriber has looked at this decorative tree a few times and encourages him or her to have another look.

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In this example, MLB Shop uses personalization a bit more subtly. The logo of the subscriber’s favorite team is included in the email so she knows she’ll go right to her team’s merchandise when she clicks through instead of having to scroll through all of the MLB teams to find that perfect gift.

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Whether it’s like one of the examples above, or a different option like a coupon or customized report for a B2B email, when you personalize your emails, your customers will thank you for it.

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