Personalization is on the slide as consumers refuse to share data

via Flickr © stusmith_uk  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via Flickr © stusmith_uk (CC BY-ND 2.0)

  • Consumers have developed an increasingly jaundiced eye toward marketers’ efforts to embrace them
  • Gartner predicts  80% of marketers will abandon personalization efforts by 2025

‘Personalisation’ has been snooping around the edges of the telecoms market for many years but has thus far has failed to break through in any meaningful way, at least the obvious ‘personalisation’ versions that ISPs, in particular, have tended to come up with.

Over the years I’ve had several personalisation use cases explained or demo’d and they usually involved some sort of low level extortion. This is invariably committed either on customers (“We know best what you want and how much you want to pay for it”) or on upstream or third party content providers who are often the ones who are expected to pony up for ‘access’ to the personalised customer. 

As we pointed out in 2017 (see - The ‘Personal Internet’ - another attempt at a walled garden) personalisation was very often a fairly obvious attempt to impose a species of ‘walled garden’ whilst getting around looming net neutrality regulations. 

So it’s heartening to see that the concept, not just in telecoms, appears to have shot its bolt. At least according to the all-seeing keeper of our technological future, Gartner. 

In its latest report, Gartner makes the bold claim that by 2025, 80 per cent of marketers who have invested in personalization will abandon their efforts due to lack of ROI, the perils of customer data management or both. It calculates that 27 per cent of marketers believe data (by which it means the lack of it)  is the key obstacle to personalization.

“Personal data has long been the fuel that fires marketing at every stage of the customer journey,” claims the report author.  “It and the drive to find new forms of fuel and devise new ways to leverage them seems to be boundless. However, this quest has failed to meet marketers’ ambitions and, in some cases, has backfired, as consumers both directly and indirectly reject brands’ overtures.”

Exactly. In telecoms the rather brutal personalisation often deployed boiled down to: ‘You don’t want to be confronted by all that choice on the Internet while constrained by the data caps we’ve imposed on you. Why don’t you choose which things you want to access and we’ll charge you for each one.”  

To which the customers promptly replied. “Er, no thanks. Think I’ll just choose the content and apps I want for myself.”  

That approach clearly didn’t get very far, although different ways of getting there (owning large swathes of the content is the current favourite) and essentially controlling or part controlling the customer and his/her consumption is still the ultimate goal. 

Learning more about individual customers or,  failing that, better understanding collective customer behaviour, is still seen as the way forward for telcos as well as the rest of the consumer-driven economy, and that means collecting personal data, says Gartner. 

It points out that there are barriers, including the “continuing decline in consumer trust, increased scrutiny by regulators and tracking barriers erected by tech companies. While personalization comprises 14% of the marketing budget, more than one in four marketing leaders cite technology as a major hurdle to personalization.”

“Consumers have developed an increasingly jaundiced eye toward marketers’ efforts to embrace them,” continues the report. “Their increasingly cluttered email inboxes and mobile phone notification centers may lead them to ignore even the most carefully personalized and contextualized message [ingrates!]. Marketers must really adopt the basics when it comes to test and learn before investing in personalization technology and new tactics.”

So Gartner has a few pointers, including:

  • Leverage a pilot or proof of concept (POC) with a vendor before investing in a personalization tool. Go back to the basics and test tailored recommendations at the segment level to avoid unnecessary or premature investment in a personalization engine.

  • Grow personalization efforts from a set of tactics or tools to a capability by focusing on strategic planning, use case development and consent management as part of a personalization roadmap.

  • Collaborate with cross-functional teams to align personalization efforts and increase momentum. Sharing control of personalization efforts can lead to shared insight and expand collective impact and ROI.

But even Gartner seems rather pesimistic that all this activity is going to work out well. 

“By 2023, chief marketing officer (CMO) budget allocation on influencer marketing will decrease by a third as consumers continue to lose trust in brands and entities they don’t personally know.

  • By 2024, artificial intelligence identification of emotions will influence more than half of the online advertisements you see.

  • By 2022, 25% of marketing departments will have a dedicated behavioral scientist or ethnographer as part of their full-time staff.

  • In 2023, one-third of all brand public relations disasters will result from data ethics failures.


But maybe there’s another way of getting your users to ‘share’ info by convincing them that you’re not going to use it against them. 

After all,  telcos have an overpowering (commercial) need to build ‘relationships’ with their customers by knowing them (or rather, appearing to know them) better. So how might they present themselves and their services in such a way that it might build that rare commodity, ‘trust’, between the  increasingly commercially bombarded (and savvy) customer and the CSP/DSP?

One of the reasons most of the versions of ‘personalisation’ have failed in the past 10 years or so, I’d venture to speculate, is that customers could see the hooks poking out of the rather tatty old personalisation bait from yards away. Personalisation was advantageous for the provider, not the consumer, and it generally failed because the ulterior commercial motive was clearly glinting in the gloom.

Perhaps carefully developed, AI assisted ‘empathetic’ technology is the way through? See - Empathetic Technology: a more engaging & personalised HMI? (human/machine interaction).

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