Everything you thought about personalization is a lie

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Personalization is failing us.

That might sound like clickbait or sensationalism, but in a landscape where brands are amassing huge amounts of data points on their customers, true personalization is all too often a buzzword rather than an essential part of marketing strategy.

Initiatives that purport to be personalization are commonly limited to torrents of display ads for products a customer has already purchased, lazy recommendations such as “people who bought item X also bought item Y” or the sort of creepy marketing developed from location tracking or surreptitiously acquired aggregated third-party data sets.

It’s these kinds of techniques that have led to the rise in ad-blocking technology adoption, an increase in email unsubscribe rates and consumers being skeptical about the personalization they receive.

The limitations of traditional personalization techniques

Watch “Avengers” on Netflix, and you’ll get recommendations for the many sequels to enjoy next. Stream some Taylor Swift on Spotify, and all her hits will appear in your daily mix playlist, complemented by some similar-sounding artists. You might think these movie or music recommendations are painstakingly curated and tailored just for you. They’re not.

They’re produced by  a simple curation algorithm that collects data about a user’s habits and then recommends more of the same, based on the actions of other users with similar habits. So when you listen to Taylor Swift, you’re served the back catalog as well as Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus because that’s what other Taylor Swift fans listen to.

This article was originally published at AdAge.

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