Have you ever thought about what causes you to buy so much from one company, when there are plenty of others to choose from?
I buy a LOT of books from Amazon. So the other day, I looked at my purchase history of books, and found something interesting:
I bought about 30 books last year. 20 of the books were titles that I planned to purchase, before I logged onto Amazon.com. The other 10 books were recommended to me by Amazon's recommendation engine, which combines my order history with those of other customers who've made similar purchases.
In other words, Amazon was able to increase sales to me by 50%, because they use technology to build personalization into their standard sales process.
Standardization and Personalization are two competing forces for most businesses. Businesses want to personalize, but they have to standardize. Standardization is the engine for rapid growth. When you standardize a process, you can repeat that process, and repeat it at a lower cost. Modern manufacturing has been built on the principles of standardization.
But standardization, by definition, precludes differentiation. And Differentiation is at the heart of personalization. Amazon recommends different books to me than to my wife, because it understands our unique prefereces; it understands our preferential differences, and it builds those differences into their standard processes of presenting, and ordering books, and it does this through technology.
In the majority of businesses, technology is used primarily to automate standardized processes; ordering, manufacturing and billing.
The more successful business also use technology to understand their customers's preferences, but do so in separate "siloed" systems.
The most successful companies will build customer understanding and personalization into the same business processes accross systems.
Where does your company fall along the Standardization vs. Personalization spectrum? What companies can you identify, that have figured out how to combine both?