We often hear how impersonal the world has become. We text rather than talk. We interact online through social networks instead of in person. However, marketing and training are two areas that are actually trending more toward the personal side. Both have shown the positive results of personalization. Customers are responding with increased sales and brand loyalty, while learners are showing higher engagement and knowledge retention. Companies are responding by innovating ways to meet the needs of their audiences on a more personal level.

Personalization isn’t a new concept. For decades, advertising has been geared toward specific audiences. Ads show products in ways that appeal to specific customer demographics. Messaging can be tailored to a publication’s audience. Digital ads are presented based on online behaviors and searches. All of these are examples of personalization.

Companies use personalization to build strong ties with customers and differentiate themselves from the competition. It has the power to improve the customer experience by making people’s lives easier. Filters on shopping sites allow customers to find the right product by personalizing the results based on color, size, style, brand and more. Personalization also makes it easier to find information. For example, Google considers a user’s location and previous searches to deliver the most accurate results.

Amazon is an industry leader in personalization. Anyone who has shopped the retail giant knows it recommends products based on past purchases and items viewed, and presents similar items that others have purchased. The company uses artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and a team of specialists to continually refine and personalize the experience it delivers to shoppers.

While personalization requires an investment in people, data and technology, it has shown a significantly positive return on investment. According to a study by Infosys, 86% of shoppers said personalization had at least some impact on what they purchased. The study also showed 59% of shoppers who have experienced personalization believe it has a noticeable influence on their decision to purchase.

Content is another way to personalize the customer experience. With the amount of content being created every day, consumer attention is being pulled in an ever-increasing number of directions. Delivering content and messaging that is relevant to their interests can cut through the clutter. For example, websites can present customized content based on the visitor’s location, and emails can include messages tailored to the customer’s interests and behaviors.

Consumers are more likely to appreciate an email that contains content relevant to them than they will a generic email sent to the masses. Personalization is not only an effective way to reach consumers, it can also be used in eLearning to drive engagement and knowledge retention. Learning has evolved to include training based on job role, experience level, strengths, weaknesses and goals. With developments in learning technology, learners no longer have to endure training that has no relevance to their responsibilities or interests. Learning Management Systems (LMS) can present content relevant to the learners’ job roles based on their unique log-in information and allow them to access learning on-demand.

Adaptive learning adjusts content based on learner activity, performance and interest level. This learning technology considers learner responses to interactivities, quizzes and pre- and post-assessments, and modifies the content that’s presented. For example, if a learner is showing a low level of understanding of a certain topic, a module further explaining that topic will be presented.

Microlearning is another form of personalized learning. Shorter modules accommodate shrinking attention spans and reduced time available for training. Learners have more control over the pace of their learning and can quickly go back and access information they want to reference in the future.

Personalization in marketing and training is one of the most effective ways for companies to stand out and connect with their audiences. It shows a commitment to understanding and responding to customers’ unique needs, which builds stronger relationships. As technology and data collection evolves, the opportunities to make customer and learner experiences more relevant and beneficial will only grow.

BARRY LABOV, a two-time Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year and inductee into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, is founder, president and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training in Fort Wayne. He has written and co-authored more than a dozen business books and is a regular columnist in business publications.

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