Is Mass personalization (Segment of One) a threat to Small and Medium businesses?

I completed my MBA in 1992 and back then sales would sum up like a picture of a man all suited and booted, carrying a briefcase in one hand and a bagful of sample products in the other, knocking on people’s doors trying to make a sale.

Marketing was also going through similar evolution with a few thought leaders who wanted to do a lot but were not able to do it due to limitations of the technology.

Marketers didn’t have it easy in the ’90s. They relied on customer segmentation models built around broad clusters of age, income, gender, ethnicity, religion, region, language, and family structure, which are poor predictors of actual consumer behavior.

The wider your net, the more potential customers you can get was the acceptable norm.

But technology has disrupted all that old way of doing things now, the opposite has happened. My eyes opened a few years back when I read a few case studies, videos from SAP and other technologies. I could see and relate to the frustrations we as marketers had in the 90s.  Knowing that we can now even target one customer is like achieving Nirvana

Great Marketers now focus on attitudesbehaviors, engagement, questions asked on the web, and social, frequently searched items. They are also able to club data from third-party sources. It is now that marketers even have a divine way to figure out what people are thinking and why people act as they do.

It is no longer enough to segment your customer by basic demographic data. 

In order to get the perfect message to the perfect buyer, you need to get much more personal.

Ten years ago, mass marketers discovered they could narrow their focus and create products for specific customer segments. Now a segment can be trimmed down to an individual.

Brands are actually creating micro-segments that target each customer uniquely, allowing the companies to convert visitors into long-term, high-value customers at very high rates. They are marketing a “segment of one.”

Think PandoraNetflix, and Amazon who in my opinion are world-class “One segmenters.”

Not sure what I’m talking about? Go to Amazon or Netflix and note what they are merchandising to you. And compare what they are selling to your wife or mother or sister. It won’t be the same.

How does it work? It is a vicious cycle. The more you use a particular website, the more they learn about you, and the finer the segmentation gets. Which, of course, encourages you to use them even more. Brilliant.

The foundation for “Segment-of-One Marketing” is the ability to track and understand individual customer behavior. It is the ability to use the technology to customize the product and personalize the service to the individual customer.

With the help of technology and new ways of thinking, you can now Identify your individual customer and speak to them individually. Every prospect/customer should feel that the message talks only to him/her and uniquely serves her/his needs. Technology has personalized, not standardized, the way companies serve their customers.

Technology now enables companies to instantly unlock sentiment and contact insights from both social media channels and company-internal sources to better target and influence prospects and customers in a variety of ways.

With deep pockets to invest early in the technology, large corporations have a head start on this as they started working on it a few years ago. The amount of data collected is gigantic, which will be used to further their interests.

During my daily conversations with small and medium-sized companies, investors, and business owners I make it a point to bring this topic up for discussion. Most of them are oblivious to new developments as their 100% juices are spent on running day to day operations of their companies. Technology advancement is democratizing and leveling the playing field only if we are open to new ways of looking at things. absence of which is like waiting for a tsunami.

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