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What is the Difference Between Personalization and Customization?

Posted by Phil Davis

June 02, 2015

email customization and personalizationWikipedia has plenty of helpful, well-researched, well-cited articles on nearly every topic you could imagine. Aside from Google, it’s probably the most widely used tool for quick fact-finding. But, there’s one thing Wikipedia got dead wrong: Personalization 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 Start with the Definitions

The best place to start is by defining the each term. Here’s what you need to know:

  • 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, according to Merriam-Webster, is a method of “changing something in order to fit the needs or requirements of a person, business, etc.”

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, but your spouse is working from home so you’ve decided to take your shared 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.

In short, personalization is achieved through customer data and predictive technology while 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?”

Glad you asked! 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.

So there you have it: a short guide to personalization and customization. Now that you know the difference, it’s time to put your knowledge to practice with an engaging, personalized campaign.

Effective personalization starts with great data. Get all the information you need to wow subscribers with InstantData. Try it free today!

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Topics: InstantData, Consumer Data, Email Personalization

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