Why personalization, why now?

John Merryman
Publication Date
18 July 2021

Why personalization, why now?

Before COVID-19, personalization for digital user experiences focused primarily on  categories such as retail, online, and travel related use-cases. Shopping enhanced with personalization, surfacing new ideas and products in relation to a combination of shopping history and similar user buying or interest patterns, was seen as a delighter that went above and beyond in digitally advanced businesses. Today, while digital engagement is an absolute requirement for business survival, many businesses are playing a game of catch-up with major online forces, where personalization is already an embedded features. McKinsey indicates, “The rapid migration to digital technologies driven by the pandemic will continue into the recovery,” and we are projecting companies with a lagging position will shift 35-45% of IT spending to realize new digital channels and touchless capabilities. 

This is where personalization comes into frame, and can unlock novel potential lines of customer engagement. Can personalization be done with analytics, segmentation, attribution, and push notifications? Yes, but historically that’s been one segment, one campaign, and one handcrafted persona at a time. Machine learning platforms, such as Amazon Personalize, now provide a scalable and automated method to deliver personalization without the heavy lift associated with traditional data science initiatives. 

So how can Amazon Personalize create a more meaningful engagement pattern for brands to help customers get more of what they need to thrive into the future? 

Here are some areas where Amazon Personalize can apply:

Enhanced Routine Shopping

Millions of users are spending hours a week performing repetitive task work on Amazon Fresh, Instacart, or other grocery chain websites to update the fridge and pantry. Let’s face it, this isn’t exactly an inspiring activity for most of us, and we sometimes get stuck in a food rut. Let’s look at what personalization can do here:

  • Andra is up late doing online grocery shopping and is going through the motions to complete an order. 
  • During the process, Andra is presented with vegan menu-ideas and associated recipe links, closely related to her dietary patterns obtained through shopping history.
  • The menu ideas provide bundled ingredients and personalized notifications of recipe links to Andra’s associated phone number. 
  • In this case, Amazon Personalize positioned the personalized option, correlating Andra’s shopping history with her nutrition patterns to present relevant content suggestions from a model trained for personalized ingredients and associated recipe information. 
  • Andra broke out new recipes, ingredients, and ideas that come from a deeper brand relationship, and a 15% increase in cart value at checkout. 

Context Aware Engagement  

We are all hit daily with outbound email, digital adserv, and retargeting content that robotically consumes our time. Once in a while we will engage out of curiosity or actual need. It’s a numbers game. But think instead of the potential for campaigns to run highly personalized content, with context aware notifications targeting a specific audience at the right time and place. 

  • Martin hasn’t golfed in months and is still unsure of the right time to rejoin the sport. 
  • On a Tuesday, Martin gets a notification that it’s seniors day at the local club, with suggested available tee times providing lower traffic volumes on the greens and tees. 
  • In concert with geofencing and backend services, Amazon Personalize drove the notification, correlating demographics, user-preferences, and timing based on a training dataset serving dozens of personas and interests. 
  • Martin committed to a time and space, where he otherwise would not have engaged. 

Enhanced Virtual Healthcare

During COVID, patients avoided hospital/institutional care, including those requiring medically administered products. New prescriptions for chronic medications decreased, including hypertension, diabetes, and depression, as patients faced significant unemployment and financial burdens when seeking care. While to hospitals and private practices initially faced revenue cliffs from lack of patient engagement, telemedicine use skyrocketed during the pandemic, indicating greater acceptance and trust for remote provider engagement.* (The high interest in this topic led our healthcare and AI leaders to dive into this topic  in an informative webinar early in the pandemic.)

We see incredible opportunities for personalization to drive deeper engagement with patients into the future. Personalized digital experiences, coaching, and post-visit engagement have the power to reshape the patient experience throughout their healthcare journey and adoption of digital health tools has never been higher.  

  • Betty was diagnosed with hypertension last year and has not been feeling well. 
  • She avoided the  local clinic last year, and now seeks an online consultation. 
  • During the virtual visit, Betty self administers a blood pressure reading and discusses overall medication options with her physician. She agrees to receive virtual coaching and is enrolled in a program. 
  • Following the visit, Betty receives daily lifestyle and nutrition tips, articles, and advice to her mobile phone and email, with coaching specific to her condition.  
  • In this case, Amazon Personalize correlates Betty’s medical history, and presents tips and guidance from numerous validated online healthcare advisory data sources, using a model trained for providing specific lifestyle and nutrition guidance. The file-based data sources used to train the model are curated and indexed using Amazon Kendra.
  • In addition to updated medication, Betty engaged daily with her virtual coach and received ongoing support to improve her health. 

Loyalty Programs 

The gap between customer loyalty and loyalty-based rewards is staggering. Most of us default to major brands for routine shopping by default, but what do those brands do to retain customers? As we’ve seen in quick service retail, there is abundant opportunity for brands to establish and personalize rewards to keep customers engaged. In an economic downturn, or even when a brand is simply looking to establish their digital presence, personalized loyalty programs offer unique ways to build and nurture long-lasting relationships with consumers.  And there are reasons why engagement counts now more than ever. 

  • Kunal has been a loyal customer at a convenience store chain for years. 
  • He is seeking some basic supplies but aims to minimize in-store dwell time if at all possible.
  • It's the end of the week and Kunal receives a notification about a purchase special, which relates closely to his purchase history.
  • In this case, Amazon Personalize correlates Kunal’s transaction history, presents a shopping cart customized to his history for the day of week along with a few new recommended items.  
  • Kunal selects curbside as a rewards member benefit, has his goods loaded into his car, and transacts via mobile / touchless.
  • Following the transaction, Kunal receives an update to his rewards balance including additional points from the touchless purchase. 

Amazon Personalize, Why Now?

Businesses more than ever are seeking deeper context for their customers, and customers are seeking contextually aware offers that suit their specific needs, time, and place.  For most companies, user context, buying patterns, preferences, and interests is spread across dozens of data sources. Conceptually, this data unlocks an incredible opportunity to better understand the user context and provide a base platform for driving deeper engagement with the user. 

Amazon Personalize provides brands the ability to inject personalization into digital experiences relatively quickly. The starting point is an existing customer dataset and a mindset of quickly iterating on personalization concepts. This allows teams to identify the most fungible use-cases for this technology without gold-plating the initial concepts.

We also note the limited supply of data scientists in the market, and recognize the prospect for the Amazon Personalize platform to short-cut the skills gap with a ready to use Machine Learning platform that automates a number of data science related tasks. Amazon Personalize is a gateway for brands to quickly innovate, experiment, and drive deeper connections with their customers. 

Here’s a recent example of our work with Personalize. Thinking about integrating personalization into your program? Let's talk.

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