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What is the Difference Between Personalization and Customization?

Posted by Phil Davis

November 05, 2018

email customization and personalizationPersonalization is not synonymous with customization.

Personalization and customization have long remained two of the most popular buzzwords in the modern marketing world. Unfortunately, as marketers, we’ve fallen into a bad habit of using the terms interchangeably when, in fact, they have completely different meanings and implications.

To help you better understand, here is some helpful insight into personalization and customization.

Let’s Define Personalization & Customization

  • Personalization is “a means of meeting the customer's needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat visits,” according to TechTarget. It’s achieved when a system tailors an experience based on a consumer’s previous behaviors. For example, Amazon personalizes its home page for each user based on that user’s previous searches, views and purchases.
  • Customization, by definition, is "the action (by a user) of modifying something to suit a particular individual or task."

They sound pretty similar, right? But, here’s where the two differ: While both personalization and customization achieve the same goal — an experience tailored to a user’s interests — the paths used to reach this objective are different.

So, What’s the Difference?

To explain the how personalization and customization differ, let’s imagine a common scenario.

It’s 8 a.m. and you’re running late for work. You’ve missed the train, so you decide to take the shared family car.

You start the ignition and the vehicle immediately adjusts the seat and steering wheel height to meet your comfort levels. Your favorite album begins to play from the entertainment system, and the A/C blasts a cool 67 degrees—just how you like it. That’s personalization.

Now, let’s say when you get into the car, you take a few moments to manually roll the seat back, drop the steering wheel down, scroll through the radio to find your preferred station and turn up the air conditioning. That’s customization.

The difference between personalization and customization lies with who is making the changes. Users customize products or services to fit their own needs. Great companies personalize their products, services and communications for a user. 

Personalization is achieved through customer data and predictive technology. Customization is achieved when a user manually makes changes to achieve his preferred experience.

What Does this Mean for Email Marketing?

I know what you’re thinking. “Great, now I know the difference. How does this apply to my email campaigns?”

Here’s the breakdown: In email marketing, using personalization means sending subscribers targeted emails with content and offers based on demographic information and behavioral data. On the other hand, using customization means they receive messages based on settings they’ve chosen.

For example, a subscriber may have indicated she only wants to receive offers for women’s clothing, or travel deals for one specific region. If you’re using personalization, you’d already know your customer only makes purchases from the women’s section, or only reviews travel specials in the Caribbean, and send emails pertaining to those topics.

Why is this vital? Customers expect a personalized experience. According to the DMA, half of email revenue is driven by personalized and segmented emails. 

Personalization also: 

Now that you know the difference, it’s time to put your knowledge to practice with an engaging, personalized campaign. But effective personalization starts with great data.

Get all the customer data you need to wow subscribers with InstantData. Get a free test today.

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Topics: InstantData, Consumer Data, Email Personalization

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