The Possibilities of Automated Personalized Content

I had my birthday recently and was, once again, surprised at how many people cared enough to take 10 seconds to congratulate me on Facebook. Along with these wishes from people near and far, my inbox also filled with messages from various sites and services all wanting to wish me a special day (and offer free shipping too!).

I want to talk to you about the three different birthday experiences through automated communications from companies I have a relationship with. There are likely tens – if not hundreds – of services and sites that have basic enough information about me to wish me a happy birthday. I’m not sure if that’s actually a good thing, but let’s just leave it at that for now.

Happy Birthday #1

The first one to wish me a happy birthday was my phone carrier. The text was pretty straight forward and said:

Tele2 Automated Personalized Content

Hi Anton,

Us here at Tele2 wants to wish you a happy birthday, we hope you’ll have a great day.

Best wishes, Tele2

They may have gotten the facts right, but there are no emotions attached to it. You can argue that this is the right way for them to communicate since I don’t exactly have a close relationship with my phone carrier, but I do think it was too impersonal and I would have preferred some thought behind it.

Happy Birthday #2

The second birthday wish also came in the form of a text message – this time though from my dog’s veterinary clinic. YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT. Here’s their text:

Evidensia Automated Personalized Content

Happy birthday!

We’ve noticed that today is your birthday and want to wish you a great birthday!

Best wishes, EvidensiaPlus

‘We’ve noticed that today is your birthday” Seriously? Ah yes. So have I.

First of all, it would make far more sense for them to text me when my DOG has her birthday. I might be the one paying the bills but their actual relationship should be with my dog – not with me. If they would congratulate my dog on her birthday, it would definitely strengthen my relationship with them, though. They could also easily kick in a 10% discount in their store on the day of my dog’s birthday and gain some more in-store sales.

Happy Birthday #3

The third one came in the form of an email and the sender was my stock broker/bank. I normally don’t click on emails like this, but something about it that made me curious.

The email itself is pretty simple but communicated with a personal tone:

Avanza Automated Personalized Content

Happy birthday!

Since we can’t celebrate in person with you today, here’s a video from us! Hurray!

All the best, Johan (CEO) and Sven (Chairman of the Board)

The link goes to this videoclip (be sure to watch it to the very end)

Why is this different from the other two?

  1. They chose to use email – a medium that’s more on my terms. Texting is for family and friends OR emergencies. Both of the places that chose to text also have my email address, but I guess they chose to text because they want to seem personal.

  2. Neither of the first two was at all personal as they didn’t have a realistic view of our relationship. Without understanding the basis of the relationship (or even who it is with), it is difficult to connect on any level.

  3. The video has humor! This is the CEO and the Chairman of a financial institute and they’re not afraid to come across as humans.

Personalized automated content can achieve great things – but – great power comes with great responsibility (well put Uncle Ben from Spiderman).

The secret is… well …to make automated content not seem so automated. There may not be a human being on the other end pressing ‘Send’, but that doesn’t mean it has to sound like a ‘Have you forgot your password’ email. Personality within your brand is vital to creating a great user experience.

I’ve been trying out some very basic endings to my newsletter recently based on our previous commitments – have you noticed? Depending on whether you’ve bought my book, subscribed to my UX-Course and so on, you’ll get different endings! Go sign up and see what the ending of the next email will be (and you’ll be notified of posts just like this).

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