“Custom buttons go to the heart of the personalization we’ve done. We wanted a scalable way by which each user could customize the toolbar in a meaningful way.” – Sundar Pichai
The reason for the quote above is to state what most people seem to err at – personalization and customization are not the same things, although used interchangeably – a lot. They are however, two of most popular tools and words used in the business world, especially in the realms of customer service and marketing. The truth about these words is that they mean completely different things and have their own set of consequences. What is your understanding of the two terms? Personalization would be a company’s efforts to meet and maybe exceed the expectations of its customers more speedily and effectively. It would translate to putting in efforts to make every experience rich, interactions smooth and fast, and trying consistently to raise the customer satisfaction levels in order to gain more and repeated business. The better a company understands of its customers, the more personalization can be affected in its dealings them and in the products, it offers. Customization on the other hand, is a company affording the opportunity to a customer / business to change something in order to ‘fit’ their requirements and expectations.
Well, they do seem a lot similar, in so much as the fact that they achieve a single goal – that of keeping customers happy by tailoring their experience based on their preferences. However, the ‘road’ to each is where the difference lies. Personalization happens through using information about customers and technology that allows analysis in order to predict future behaviour. Customization allows the user to make changes manually, to get to the desired experience. In the current world, driven by technology and digitization, customers and users now expect these two aspects to be woven into everything a company offers – both personalization and customization. Even though both these aspects may be different, they do have the same effect on people – they feel special and emotionally connected to a company / brand that seem to fit right into their world. Imagine the feeling of being able to create a product that is only one of a kind, through the technological help from a company – a customized t-shirt or mug. It is an exciting ‘venture’ and people want to do more of this – something that companies could leverage to their advantage.
While customers know they want both personalization and customization, it is important for a company to know how to use these aspects in order to serve the customers better. They should be able to ‘make’ products based on the specifications and parameters given by customers – that is customization. At the same time, a company can use personalization in their communication and messages to target audience. The content in the messages would ‘speak directly’ to the person it is sent to given that it would be based on the information a company gathered about them. In the world of technology, when the system changes or ‘tailors’ its features to match the customer’s behaviour and preferences, it is all about personalization. When a customer or user is able to change things on the system, they would be customizing it to match what they want.
While customers seem to like the idea of being able to customize their experiences, personalization seems to be garnering more attention. Well, it would seem obvious why users and customers would prefer personalized products and services – to get a customized experience they need to put in time and effort, and most customers of today have too ‘much on their plate’ to expend energy on things that should ideally be done for them. Between personalization and customization, personalized experiences wins since that means a company has taken time to understand and truly know its customers. A deep understanding of the customer expectations and preferences allows a company to make value-added suggestions and provide insights based on those likes, making customers feel important and in control, without putting in the added effort.
In a business setting and as companies become larger with a much wider base of customers, personalization seems like an uphill task. However, with time such efforts can lead to great benefits and rewards for a company, as customers begin to see the interest and commitment on the part of a company to give them exactly what they want. Customers that experience such personalized attention become more engaged and connected with a company, and align themselves with the success of the company by enthusiastically promoting the brand / products. A company gains a lot of positive publicity and free advertisement, and with existing customers speaking well of it, others become interested in engaging with such a company.
With so much competition, so many products, and an increasing number of customers – mass production is a reality. Customers know this about the products in the market, but expect companies will give them products that have personalization and customization ‘written all over them’. Customers want to feel special and unique if they are to ‘stick’ with a company and its products. A company that makes the effort to enhance uniqueness for each customer will be more likely to retain their existing customers and gain more customers over time. By aligning its goals and objectives with the expectations of customers, a company would be in a better position to keep its profit margins, and may be even increase them. Customers want personalized products and are happy with customization possibilities too, it makes sense for any business to evaluate how best to give customers what they want, while sustaining profits and margins.
Both the realms – personalization and customization – require thought and detailed planning for any company, and encompass a wide gamut of considerations. It would include thinking of the manufacturing process, delivery times, the demographics of the customer base, and other such considerations. Even if the products are great, for example, but not delivered to the customer at the time they expect or the timelines committed by the company, customers are very likely to stop buying from a company. Cost of delivering the products, coupled with the time required to get the products to the customers, are important considerations in the realm of personalization, making it imperative for a company to pay close attention to these details.
What is making personalization even more challenging is that customer demands, preferences, and expectations change extremely quickly. It would seem that as soon as a company is able to get a grasp on one expectation, it becomes obsolete since customers want something diametrically opposite. Running a business is certainly not easy! A company cannot afford to lose track of its goals or sacrifice its profit margins, but all these tie-in with what customers want, and hence personalization becomes an act of balancing between business needs and customer wants – needs careful thought and deliberate planning. Of course, a company must be strong internally if it has any hope of ensuring that it gives customers both personalization and customization – inextricable aspects of customer service. Everyone in the company must understand and play a part in managing service to customers – the fact is that personalization and customization are here to stay, with the future belonging more to personalization. Customers now have the power to control how a business runs, and they are unlikely to give up that control – it gets them what they want, when they want, and how they want, right. Are you ready to mould your business in such a way that customers can choose between personaliza