Personalization & Recommendations – Do users necessarily like it?
You have probably read about the different acquisitions made by eZ during this past year. One of them is Yoochoose providing a sophisticated Recommendation Engine. This brings eZ Publish Enterprise users new opportunities in improving the stickiness of their content / brand by personalizing content for their different audiences. This is without a doubt my favorite new feature of the latest release of eZ Publish Enterprise, Annapurna.
We have already talked a lot about Yoochoose to our clients, partners and prospects. It was a key topic last Friday at our Release Breakfast Seminar in Helsinki. The feedback I got from all the people I talked to is definitely positive and many see new opportunities. Clients are able to improve their customers' experience, and partners can deliver more value to their clients.
"Are you watching me?"
With that being said, I had an interesting discussion the other day with a marketing manager of an airline company. This person was challenging the way personalization and recommendations is perceived by the end user. For sure, the content is more relevant and interesting to him, but does he like the fact that this airline knows his interests? Does he necessarily like the idea that the airline knows where he has been, the destinations he likes or the hotels he has visited?
Some users do not really care, but I tend to believe that some users will be skeptical. The question is how many of them.
My view on that, and my answer to this person is that the user perception pretty much depends on how much you involve end users in that personalization process. As a user, I would probably like to be asked whether I would be interested in either filling out a form or completing my profile in order to get more relevant content. Or on the other end, I prefer not to get personalized content. When being asked in a proper way, I feel like this organization wants to help, advise and guide me so that I find exactly what I am looking for.
While I hate when a salesman immediately tries to sell items to me when I walk into a clothing store, I really appreciate it when someone tells me where I should look and where I may find what I am looking for. This is probably why I do not like the targeted advertising I get from Google on YouTube. How do they know what I like? Why is a banner about this hotel where I have stayed twice in London popping up when I am surfing on YouTube? This is the kind of situation where you feel tracked and spied on, and it does not necessarily improve the user experience.
I would be curious to know how many people think this way. But in any case, I think users should be involved in the decision of getting personalized content in order to really profit from the power of tools like Yoochoose. When the user is aware and is in a buying mood, he will buy more!
The next weeks and months will be interesting. We will get a lot of feedback about the usage of our Recommendation Engine, and I will probably find out if it is only me being paranoid or if involving audiences in the personalization process is actually a best practice.