Personalisation - The Good, The Bad, and The Awkward Stage

It’s new, clever and very exciting – But will we ever get it right?

Personalisation is becoming more and more ingrained into our daily online lives, but when it fails, it can be really annoying. It has the potential to make our lives so much simpler, however at the moment we are still lingering at the unrefined, in-between stage, where companies are getting it wrong more often than they get it right.

I’ve outlined a couple of my recent dodgy experiences below;


Retargeting me pictures of the dress I bought last week. 

Would it not have been better if they could have retargeted me some amazing shoes which matched my new dress?


As I’m stood in the lunchtime queue browsing Instagram, a sponsored post interrupts my scrolling - ‘grab some olives’ alongside a lovely picture (of course) – But why? I’m buying kitchen roll and washing up liquid, it hardly compliments my other purchases, plus how do you know I even like olives? 

Thomas Cook

I booked my holiday to Vegas 10 months ago for 2017 (organised I know) However, I’m still seeing Thomas Cook ads on Facebook for cheap deals to Vegas for 2017.

Why don’t you suggest some things I could do whilst I’m there instead? Or at least have the foresight to wait until I’m home from next year’s holiday, and target me for next year? 

Let me be clear, I’m not complaining (much). All of these companies are in their own right, Pioneers. They are the early adopters, they are the ones whose marketing bod said ‘Sod it, we’ll try it’ – and fair play to them. Arguably, these are the guys we’ll all be envious of 12 months down the line. But at the moment, some brands are still at that ‘none of us really know what we are doing' stage, and it’s all just a bit… well, awkward. 

All too often it falls down first and foremost, when brands don’t get the right information in the first place. But before we all nod in agreement at passing the blame onto the businesses – Us as consumers are partially to blame. Some of these well meaning companies might ask us questions online such as ‘what are your interests’ , they might ask us for ‘access to our social media accounts’ – Our collective response? (All together now) ‘No way!’

And so what do these companies do? They assume. *GASP*

They assume that the one time we bought a box of cigars for wedding favours, obviously means that we smoke 500 cigars a day, and need an annual supply. They assume that the personalised ‘Susan’ necklace we bought as a birthday gift, well obviously we need way more of those, so they bombard us with emails, retargeted ads, and unwelcome instagram and facebook sponsored posts. 

The trick is not only balance, but relevancy. It's knowing the difference between a one off purchase (yes you Susan, and your bloody necklace) and the things we love and buy regularly. We don’t want to feel like we are being stalked. More often than not, subtle reminders and gentle nudges feel far more personal, and can be way more effective than all out bombarding.

And so here are a few recent examples of where it does work for me,


I open my app, it knows what I like because it knows the ones I always download (food and clothes) and so those offers are always at the top, it also knows where I am (geolocation) so it can tell me which shops & restaurants nearby have offers on. Winner.

Boohoo (app)

I did some evening online shopping, added it all to my basket, and then as usual got distracted (emptying the dishwasher, hanging clothes up – you know the drill) and completely forgot about it. The next day, I get a notification, Hey Faye, you forgot to checkout, in case the price was stopping you, here’s a 20% off code. Winner.


Ah, Good old Amazon. Always knows what I want. Books and inflatable flamingos (don't ask, it's strangely relevant) However, on a serious note, I always find it interesting looking through the books which they have suggested based on my previous purchases. More often than not, I do actually buy from that recommended list. Winner.

Now whether or not it’s a long lived concept (what with ad blockers, data protection and the likes) is up for debate, but in the here and now, it feels like we are nearly there, we just need to tidy up the logic behind some of these campaigns. Brands need to think a bit more about our actual wants and needs, the relevancy of their ads, and what makes us as consumers, switch off. Once they get that right, i think that consumers and companies alike, will really start to see the benefits. 

One day, we might not even need to shop at all, one day drones might deliver exactly what we need, exactly when we need it via our brainwaves*

*(If that day ever comes – Stop the world, I’m getting off)


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