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70% feel closer to a brand when it shows that it understands them as a person

30 October, 2014 - Source: JWT

 At JWT we have been monitoring trends for ten years. Think back ten years to 2004. In 2004, we had never heard of an iPhone. Never heard of Skype. Tablets for most of us were something to be found in the medicine cabinet. There was no such thing as Facebook, no Pinterest. Even the X Factor was only in its infancy.

Consumers adapt and assimilate new ideas so quickly, before you know it, the world has changed forever. For brands and companies it can be hard to stay ahead of the curve. That’s why we believe it’s crucial to monitor the shifts which can rapidly disrupt industries and markets.

Read what Marie Stafford, Director of Planning Foresight at JWT London, has to say about personalisation and data.

  • Marie Stafford
    Marie Stafford

 “Hyper-personalisation describes a shift away from treating customers as segments and towards the individual. It’s about understanding customers inside out and then putting them at the heart of what you do – tailoring offers, services and experiences at a specific time or in a specific context.

It’s not brand new – luxury brands have known for a long time that to retain VIP custom you need to meet every need or lose it. But the level of expectation is spreading beyond just VIPs, now more and more consumers want their individual whims to be catered to. And when brands pull it off – it makes them feel good.

70% of people feel closer to a brand when it shows that it understands them as a person


With information a few taps away, more choice than ever before and a whole host of social media platforms where they can air their views, today’s me-centric consumers are the focus of their world.
They have become accustomed to customization – personalised suggestions on Amazon, gig recommendations on Spotify, music choices on Pandora. And Burberry has just launched a new fragrance, named My Burberry on which they will monogram your initials and even personalise an ad for you. No wonder expectations are high.
Tailored services and experiences are becoming the standard that consumers expect. Almost half (46%) of our panel said they would be reluctant to buy from a brand that was not attempting to personalize.

From the company or brand point of view, it’s now easier than ever to get to know your customers on an individual basis, because so much of our lives are lived online and customers are accustomed to sharing personal information online. And now much of this can be captured and analysed – manually or with sophisticated analytics – to better cater to the me-centric consumer.
While not all consumers are totally comfortable with the idea of their data being tracked, they are fully aware of it: 88% assume that companies they interact with are gathering their data.
In travel, even first-time customers can become known entities as companies shift to proactively researching them before they arrive. A 2013 Travel + Leisure article went so far as to claim that “Prying is the new pampering.”

Of course, the information that consumers are consciously sharing is only a fraction of what’s out there. Data generated every day is vast, made up of clickstreams, GPS location data, point-of-sale, surveillance, video content, connected devices and more.
As data has mushroomed, the tools and techniques required to analyse it have become cheaper and more user-friendly. They are enabling us to see patterns and insights previously obscured by the complexity of processing data.
Some companies are creating algorithms which learn behaviour and predict or pre-empt a customer’s needs. Google Now for example, aims to understand the user’s life and act as a personal assistant – waking you fifteen minutes earlier than usual if there is heavy traffic on your route to work for example.
In the future data may even become autonomous – making decisions, recommendations or even negotiating purchases without our intervention (watch Intel’s vibrant data film).
For some inspiration, how some brands are translating the trend of personalisation? The retail sector has been one of the pioneers. Lyst is a fashion shopping site with a difference – creating a tailored store for every single user based not just on their brand preferences but also their social connections. Watch Chris Morton, the founder of Lyst, explaining how the site works.


This year Virgin Atlantic piloted smart wearable technologies to deliver enhanced service to Upper Class passengers at Heathrow in early 2014.
Staff used Google Glass to recognise and greet passengers and begin the check-in process straight away. They were also able to give information on the flight and destination – weather or events for example. The trial was a success and will reportedly be tested more widely over the next couple of years.

Disney is using wearable technology to deliver hyper-personalisation to guests at Walt Disney World Orlando.
Guests receive their personal wristbands – branded with their name and in the colour of their choice – before their trip and synch it with the website or app. They can then use the bands to personalise their entire visit: act as their park ticket, pre-book rides and restaurants, make payments, and it even acts as their room key.
In the future, the bands will enable a more interactive experience, allowing characters to greet parents and kids by name or wish them a happy birthday.
Disney can monitor data generated by the bands – understanding where and how guests spend time and money, and where they have might have free time and might be interested in offers or suggestions of things to do.
MagicBands are optional, in a nod to privacy. Disney claims also that it will only make use of data for marketing if guests agree to it.
This is a near perfect illustration of the benefits of successful personalization. Disney have made it opt-in, transparently clear how data is used so visitors don’t have to worry and it provides a clear enhancement to the park experience.


It’s easy to get carried away by the role played by technology, but essentially it’s a supporting one. They key to delivering hyper-personalisation is simple – it’s about an unparalleled understanding of the customer. Ideas don’t have to be complex, just relevant. For example, Delta Airways mobile app notifies travellers of cancelled flights but and allows them to rebook a convenient alternative in a few taps. It anticipates a problem and solves it before the customer has to think about it themselves.
One note of caution, 69% worry that too much personalisation could lead to a life of predictability and sameness. There’s no room to stumble across anything new or unexpected. Services like Lyst show that you can engineer serendipity, but it’s also important to allow people to opt-in or out as and when they wish.
Almost half of people told us they would be reluctant to choose a brand which was not making efforts to personalize. But not everyone feels that way: some see value and reward, others are suspicious and uneasy. Each brand needs to identify what its customers will be comfortable with and where personalisation starts to become intrusive or even offensive. A friend of mine is losing his hair and is distressed to be confronted by advertising for hair restorer whenever he visits Facebook.
It’s important to acknowledge that sharing their data can be uncomfortable for people – in many ways it’s a transaction. Most people are happy if they leave the transaction thinking they have got a fair return. That might be their preferred seat, favourite snack, or some precious time saved. At the Dallas Museum of art, visitors were offered free membership in exchange for registering and sharing some data – a clear win-win.
Finally, be a good steward of the personal information you collect. Protect it and use it wisely. Data breaches are distressing and can destroy a carefully built relationship. Be transparent about what you are using information for and how it is improving your service of offer. In the future, savvy consumers are likely to exert even more control over their data. For example, Citizen Me is an app which aims to give consumers the full picture on how their data is used and enable them to take back control of it.
Unless stated, all of the data comes from surveys JWT London conducted using the JWT SONARTM platform with 500 British adults in the summer 2014.

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