Personalization is Different From Customization

Do you believe there’s a difference between ‘personalization’ and ‘customization’? To the average person presented with these two words, it would seem that upon first glance and consideration they mean the same thing. But think about this: Customization can be looked at as being able to build your own playlist, while personalization can be viewed as your audio system actually knowing you listen to Top 40 during the workday, jazz in the evening and epic film scores when you’re gaming on Friday nights…all while offering you the right playlist when you want them.

In the world of marketing, a similar parallel can be made: As you have probably heard a million times in marketing circles, content is king – but PERSONALIZED content can be considered ‘king of the world’. Most of the time when we request something different from the standard offering – such as when we’re at a restaurant – it’s considered customization, but when we engage in an interactive conversation with another human being, it’s PERSONAL. It seems that the real benefit of personalization in marketing occurs when an individual experiences an ‘a-ha!’ moment when content adapts itself based on a user’s profile, providing something fresh, different and possibly unexpected.

In order to obtain these benefits, there needs to be a content creator who prepares material so that the personalization engine can tailor the content based on each person’s profile, and the user can experience the aforementioned unexpected. In other words, there almost needs to be a conversation between those who are creating the content and the audience member (our clients we’re trying to reach) through a website – still, it’s difficult to tell when a site is customized and when it’s personalized. What makes this differentiation even more difficult is that a customized site can provide personalized content.

For marketers who wish to engage each prospect in a conversation through a website, full personalization is required so that question-asking, question-answering and action observations on the site can be implemented. This requires the right type of personalization technology – one that can identify different types of customers a particular business serves and can effectively gather their information needs and product requirements.

Of course, some marketers feel the real question at hand here is not whether they actually utilize personalization or customization on a website…but whether they meet audiences’ needs so they will feel more comfortable with their clients, their companies and their products.