With personalization comes complexity

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Who can argue against personalization? The benefits are clear: by effectively anticipating needs and desires, you can strengthen a customer’s relationship to the brand and boost sales. But there’s another side to the story: personalization creates complexity. And with increased complexity, a loss of control.

Personalization at scale means moving from a handful of customer experiences—one for each major customer demographic—to millions of individual experiences. Consider some implications: moving from one version of outbound e-mail to millions of individualized versions, a single version of a Web page to thousands or even millions. If each customer has a unique experience, each customer will have unique questions—and customer services agents will need to be ready for them. And if each customer has a unique experience, how do you ensure a consistent brand experience across such a variable range of possible experiences?

From a management perspective, a much broader collaboration is needed. Merchandising needs to know what goods to stock. Marketing needs to know what offers to make. Customer service must track incentives back to every customer. Personalization creates complexity. And everyone, including the CMO, should be prepared to lose a bit of control.

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