“The Google policy about a lot of these things is to get right up to the creepy line but not cross it” declared Eric Schmidt when he was Chairman and CEO of Google. This statement was made during an interview with The Atlantic editor, James Bennett, for The Washington Ideas Forum in October 2010.
There is no doubt that the aims of Google, Facebook and others is to be able to anticipate the needs of their customers. As technology becomes more intuitive, is with us all the time and knows the location and context in which we are operating, it will be more possible for companies to fulfil this goal.
Every move we make in the digital world produces data, and that information can be used to provide more personal experiences. Moreover, as technology becomes increasingly advanced, it enables businesses to even predict requirements. Real time behavioural data, available with cloud based technology, provides the information and context to make this happen.
For example, by understanding the url, domain or keywords that led a person onto its website, and monitoring that visitor’s behaviour, a business can give its prospect an accurate persona. In so doing it can enrich the web experience, for that customer, by providing personalised messages and recommendations. This makes it more likely the individual will obtain exactly what they want more quickly. At the same time, it increases the chances of the business engaging the prospect and turning them into a paying customer.
Of course, all this information and data can be abused and there is no doubt that there are security risks involved. These cannot be dismissed and will be resolved, to a point, over the coming years. However, the benefits of companies using this information, for most people, outweigh the risks. The evidence of this already exists.
Many consumers appreciate sites, such as Amazon, understanding their preferences. Consequently, it is able to make interesting purchasing recommendations. Moreover, by allowing Amazon to store payment information, customers can make purchases quickly and easily with just a couple of clicks. Meanwhile, there are currently well over 1 billion Facebook users posting and sharing all sorts of personal information, and this is just one of many social platforms where this is taking place. In other words, many of us are discovering how we personally gain by sharing data.
The point is, people have always craved the ‘personal touch’. Going into a local cafe where you are known and can be served your favourite drink without even being asked, is normally something most people appreciate. The combination of data and automation is allowing all companies to be able to deliver this level of service in a scalable way. ‘Mass personalisation’ has arrived, is growing, and is increasingly expected, and for good reason.
We are progressively personalising our own lives. We are all having to deal with more information and communications than ever before. Therefore, the only way to manage this volume is to personalise. We can all read more if we can omit the sections of digital magazines and newsletters that are not of interest. We can watch more when digital technology and online services allows us to view programmes at our convenience, rather than at scheduled times. Digital streaming services, radio and downloads allow us to only listen to those singles, albums and shows which we choose.
The consequence of all this is that we are increasingly inhabiting a world which is highly personalised for us. We are, therefore, becoming more intolerant of companies that offer us inappropriate products or services. We simply won’t put up with ‘irrelevance’. It wastes our time and is extremely irritating. We may be worried about the data that a business can access and store, yet we want the results of them using this information.
Of course, being able to provide personal experiences makes it more likely that a company will engage with its prospects, turn them into customers and retain them over the long term. As technology allows customers to receive richer and more personal experiences, those businesses that don’t provide this level of communication will simply be left behind.
Google may be leading the charge to the ‘creepy line’ but organisations that want to be successful, need to start moving in that direction.
So how close to the ‘creepy line’ is your business right now. Maybe you need to get a bit closer…