Technology trap or the way of the future?

Is personalisation definitely the way forward or are we losing control to computers?

By Sean Masters
Friday, February 21st, 2020

It was a huge topic at this year’s TFM show, and it’s clear to see how technology is helping marketers make massive improvements with regards to the customer experience. But is personalisation definitely the way forward or are we losing control to computers?

The concept of personalisation is far from new. Even before the idea of digital marketing was around, marketers would profile their customers and sort through data in order to target their audience in the most individual way possible. But the advent of automation and artificial intelligence has meant that this basic concept has become a massive driver in shaping the customer experience online. Marketers can now engage with customers on a truly individual level, giving them content that relates to their personal interests and works around their day to day preferences.

There are many positives surrounding this. Increased engagement, brand loyalty and improved conversion are just some examples. And these benefits are increasing the amount of personalisation we see online and boosting the technology that is there to help us. It sounds so good.


Despite the many statistical benefits, however, there is an argument that personalisation is actually the least personal thing we could do. Rather than treating customers as people with varying emotions, multiple interests and differing personas, the very nature of personalisation through data and analytics means that we are essentially number crunching to make decisions on people as though they were more simplistic.

As complex as these decisions might be, they still try to summarise us and fit us into neat little boxes. We may be creatures of habit to some extent, but we all have different elements of our lives, we all love to learn about new things and be challenged, and we all go through numerous changes. If computers are making decisions for us and we’re relying on that data in our marketing, how does it cater for the true complexities of human emotion? Or does that not really matter?

Customer first

One of the positive aspects of personalisation is that it does put the customer first and it drives marketing strategy to do the same. Knowing where customers spend their time and money, what their general likes and dislikes are, and some basic demographics is invaluable information that will inevitably increase the chance of sales.

However, as with any marketing strategy, personalisation must have a purpose. Why are you contacting these people and what do you want to get out of it? It has to be driven by a strong strategy with messages that will resonate with the customer, and the channels must be carefully chosen. The omnichannel approach seems to be favoured at the moment, but you need a good marketing budget behind it. The more modest budget will need to carefully choose what channels are best suited to provide the best chance of achieving the original objectives. Personalisation isn’t going to help in the long term if it doesn’t have sound thinking behind it.

The human touch

It’s a massive step forward that we are now able to learn more about our customers and provide a more tailored experience when they deal with our brands. However, marketers still need to be very much in control.

It would be dangerous to have a future where people can only find out about what they’re already interested in. Technology is making more and more decisions for us, but as marketers we have the power to influence beyond that. It’s important we utilise all available assets and give everything that human touch. After all, the best marketing comes from people and is aimed at people. It’s emotional. Technology will never be able to achieve that. As marketers we must make sure we’re always understanding what we’re trying to achieve, driving the strategy to directly achieve that, and we must constantly adapt to our customers’ needs. It’s too easy to let automation shape the customer journey when there is so much more power that we as marketers have.

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