The Personalisation Dinner

Posted by Adam Stead | 14-Nov-2017 17:18:30

This interactive dinner took place at Searcys at The Gherkin on the 8th November. It was a dinner for industry leaders from backgrounds such as finance, retail, media and the public sector. The dinner was conducted in partnership with Optimizely.

Optimizely have expertise in personalisation; their software enables users to test different choices, from design, to algorithms. For clients, they enable a ‘survival of the fittest’ process for features. Personalisation is one great an example of an area this capability can be applied.

Some of the themes of the dinner were:

  • How to transform customer experiences in a continually changing landscape of user behaviour
  • The breadth of experimentation to deliver ROI and minimise risk
  • How you can leverage every part of the customer journey
  • Creating clarity for your customers when you have a variety of products
  • Which of the latest technologies should you be considering for your business

Below are some of the most pertinent points from the conversation.



Personalisation has won the argument to show that it is worthwhile and lucrative. Previously, in most businesses, the customer’s desire has been guessed at by panels of experts. But where data is available this is neither good nor necessary. Experts are frequently surprised by what the data says, and will make the wrong decision in a business strategy despite (and in some cases, because of) their expertise.

It is possible, we hasten to add, that the experts can add value in some contexts. Particularly in media, where organisations have a moral duty to tell you more than what you want to hear. Mark Zuckerberg previously said: ‘a squirrel dying in front of your house might be more relevant to you than people dying in Africa.’ Which is true. But it might be important that we hear about the people.

There’s a broader concern, then; that as technologies become extremely responsive to customers, they are also more responsive to the subtler flaws in how customers think. That includes confirmation bias, prejudice, forgetfulness, and short-term thinking. Direct democracy does not make for a well-run country.

It is therefore vital that businesses keep a notion of their customers’ interests above the immediate data as to what people are clicking or buying.



Customers purportedly often worry about the changes that personalisation involves too.

In particular, businesses knowing more about customers means that some power moves away from customers and towards businesses. Many businesses will aim to exploit data-led insights without regard for the customer; such as when they have the most leverage.

In practical terms, the pain point comes when a business attempts to solicit data from the customer. Data has the power to fundamentally change business offerings for the better, but we did not get here by consent. Specifically, several websites and services we use today are extremely effective at soliciting information from customers which they then treat as an asset. The customer is left feeling faintly manipulated - and over-friendliness in customer service has a habit of appearing ‘creepy.’

The matter is complex. Companies such as Amazon have created a gold standard for customer experience. Amazon is inexpensive, accessible, easy to navigate, impeccably personalised, and just kind of there when you need it. They, and businesses like them, have created the expectation of the level of service which requires personal data collection. How can businesses solicit data in a way which is ethical, frictionless, and clear in its goals?

The question of friction is specifically important. Filling out forms is a hassle. Many customers would just like to tick a box and access the service. But here, close attention to UX and behavioural economics is key. How could your business make a customer feel that they were customising a profile, rather than entering a form? How can you frame data collection as a conversation, rather than simply soliciting data? How can you structure the pain points in such a way that the customer is not put off by them? How could you make the process as human as possible, without hiring an expensive human?


If you did not attend, but find these questions relevant to your business, consider attending one of our forthcoming events. You can find a full list here.


Topics: Thought Leadership

Written by Adam Stead

As Research & Content Producer, Adam finds and publishes up-to-date expertise regarding how disruptive technology will drive change business and life.

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