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From The Personal To The Purchase: Making Brand Recommendations In The Personal Zone
Open Amazon.com on a browser and the first thing you’ll see, after the featured product at the top of the page, is a list offering products “related to items you’ve viewed.” Scroll down the page and almost every suggestion will be based on browser history and on your purchase record. It means that no two people ever see the same Amazon home page.
It also means that the entire site feels like a personal zone. But there’s more. Access to the “real” personal zone is at the top of the page where a link promises to take users to “Your account.” It actually opens a drop-down menu that leads to 22 different personal zones. Amazon collects enough data about its visitors (as well as its customers) to ensure that every user experience is unique and no two customer journeys are ever the same.
It’s a policy that has disadvantages as well as benefits. Users are always directed to products they’re likely to find interesting but while 38 percent of American households are members of Amazon Prime, the company does not release figures relating to use of the Family Library, a feature that lets household members download each other’s Kindle purchases. Despite its value to users, the feature is buried at the bottom of a personal zone that prioritizes targeted suggestions over squeezing extra value from previous purchases.
That approach to a personal zone works on an ecommerce site. Sites that collect data that is more personal tend to be more cautious. Bank of America’s website takes visitors to their current account and uses real estate on the side of the page not to pitch products but to offer information. It’s possible to feel that that information is not targeted, that everyone would be interested in the bank’s savings plan or its deposit options but because of its location, it feels relevant. And because the bank is offering advice in a field that many people find confusing, it also feels helpful.
Healthcare forms use a similar content strategy in their personal zones. Links might lead to pages where users can buy additional insurance but greater emphasis is placed on health education, on diet advice and healthy eating. While ecommerce firms aren’t afraid to turn an entire website into a kind of personal zone that deepens towards account pages, and to focus on sales rather than on customer enhancement, for banks and for healthcare firms the personal zone is first a place to teach and inform. It’s used to deepen the customer engagement that’s necessary before the next sale can be made.
Brands don’t just display information in personal zones, they also use it to guide customers to the next stage: to make their next purchase, to make an appointment, to book a meeting with a financial advisor. How they make those recommendations and the degree to which they feel personal rather than commercial are essential to customer retention as well as conversions. Personal zones are powerful stopping points during the customer journey but how brands use them and the content strategies they formulate to exploit them will depend on the business as well as on the customer.
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