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Illustration by Sarah Leigh
January 22, 2019

Questioning Personalization Is Good For Your Engagement Model

Stick with me here: It’s 9am on a Monday morning. I’m responding to an RFP for a website redesign while I’m writing this, answering the big, overarching question that every RFP includes:

Pitch us on how we can make our digital platform better.

One hundred percent of the time, it’s a safe bet to advise any organization—regardless of budget, scope, or sector—to get rid of most of their content and streamline the content they do keep; and, when streamlining, to keep in mind not just what core audiences need to do on their site, but what is going to motivate those audiences to actually interact in meaningful ways.

Basically no one ever does it. As an untested rule, maintaining evergreen content and collecting enormous amounts of data is seen as the way to deliver the best possible experience; But why? And to what end?

We often ask people to offer up data without truly telling or showing them what we are going to do with the information they give us. It’s a “no need to tell us about you, we’ll just track your every move and decide what you should do next” situation. For the organizations that ThinkShout works with, in real life, that kind of one-sided experiential control would never fly. So why does it work in digital? Especially when the writing’s on the wall with everything from healthcare to junk food being calibrated and marketed to us based on our own personal data in ways which are inequitable, ethically compromised, and socially disturbing?

Imagine a world where social good organizations have a clear pathway to build great user experiences that reflect their organizational values in digital.

Users arrive on your site and are greeted, not by a banner asking you to consent to allowing your cookies to be tracked (with a link that you will never click on to read about what the heck cookies are, regardless of how conversational the tone is) but by a clear and visually dynamic set of options, each one offering a different website browsing experience.

The options aren’t some movie star’s name followed by a high level description of a list of ingredients and cooking techniques you can’t follow: They’re a straightforward list of personas and the types of information, resources, or product that each persona is typically be interested in, driven by a Jobs to Be Done analysis. You could visit a pet welfare website and select a persona that is represented by an image of a cat, dog or chinchilla. Once you pick your animal, the entire website browsing experience updates, with content, colors, photos etc. that speak to the persona (furry friend) you opted in-to. Don’t like the experience you chose? Don’t worry, you can easily swap out for another viewing experience.

What makes this idea so interesting and different? It’s not actually the technical build, though the details on how to create an experience that doesn’t exploit user data with Google looking over everyone’s shoulder is actually relatively complicated. The answer is mutual respect and consent. Ongoing, clear, enthusiastic consent.

Which brings me back to every RFP we receive. Organizations and individuals are so bombarded by personalization and data collection—as well as the pressure to build a site that can actually leverage personalization software—that it’s become an unquestioned expectation, rather than a feature to be determined based on need and outcomes. Instead of asking what we might do differently from the start, as is the case with data collection, we most often hear organizations struggling to comply with regulations and seeking to develop complex solutions to protect data that they can’t even actually leverage effectively.

Organizations and individuals are so bombarded by personalization and data collection—as well as the pressure to build a site that can actually leverage personalization software—that it’s become an unquestioned expectation, rather than a feature to be determined based on need and outcomes.

Consent Based Calibration is an opportunity for organizations to redefine the digital browsing experience and work with critical core audiences in a transparent way to give them what they need while clearly defining what the organization needs at the same time.

What does this mean for your organization?

  • A focus on simple interaction points—not on layers of search and filtering and sorting for the end user
  • Little to no website migration costs when rebuilding or updating
  • Reduced content management and staff time
  • Lower cost website builds
  • Many possibilities to create new measures of success and engagement

Interested in learning more? Us too. If you’d like to partner with ThinkShout to implement consent-based calibration in digital at your organization, reach out. We’d love to hear from you. And we can’t wait for your questions.

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