Personalization and Localization

  |  August 5, 2011   |  Comments

Is local information important to personalization? Yes and no.

One of the big consulting firms emailed me this week to ask me about personalization and local culture for a project it is undertaking. The main question: Is local information  important to personalization? It should be obvious that the general answer is "yes," but might not be intuitive that oftentimes the answer is also "no."

First, let's define our terms. In this context, the personalization he was referring to was recommending products to people. There are generally two kinds of personalization at work when it comes to recommending products: personalization that maps products to other products based on their attributes, and personalization that maps products to users based on user attributes and needs. We'll tackle them one at a time.

Product-to-product personalization does not involve user data at all. It's the kind of logic that says, "If you liked Book A (which was science fiction by author X) you might also like Book B (which is also science fiction by author X)." That type of personalization is really about the products themselves, their similarity, and how they can be used together to form a complete solution (such as a blow-up mattress and the pump that you need to buy for it). There are no particular cultural or local ideas involved in these equations. You need the pump that goes with the air mattress, no matter if you are in Burbank, Belize, or Bali.

However, if we look at product recommendations based on user attributes, things get a little more complex when we take culture into account. For example, Americans are of the "bigger is better" and "flashier is impressive" ilk. Swedes, on the other hand (at least from my experience), are the exact opposite. They cherish humility and not sticking out too much above the norm. (I guess when your entire society is tall and blond you have nothing more to prove.) Product recommendations in this case would be smart to take these differences into account.

Some technologies will take this into account automatically. In fact, it is wise to split up any self-learning personalization algorithms (collaborative filtering, neural networks, Bayesian networks, etc.) by region, as many don't scale well to begin with. If you create different instances of the personalization systems based on regions, localization is kind of automatic, as the systems are only taking the local behavior into account. Rules-based systems, on the other hand, would need to be tweaked based on regional differences.

When we were planning the global personalization companies for several large international companies (including Reebok and H&M), we did a lot of work to understand the differences and similarities between different countries and regions. Where there were important distinctions in culture, we needed to tweak the way we approached the problem. But more often than not (especially in Western cultures), you will find more is similar than different (depending, of course, on what domain you are talking about). Having said that, it is smart to create major regional groups and create instances of your personalization technologies to work independently over these regions. That way you can see what differences emerge over the course of time.

We spoke only of product recommendations in this column. Business process personalization really does vary greatly over regions. As I discussed in a previous column, some countries (like Brazil) prefer an in-person handshake to close a deal, whereas other countries (like the coastal U.S.) tend to shy away from human contact altogether. In these areas of personalization, regions and cultures make huge differences.

Thoughts, questions? Leave them below.

Until next time...
Jack

Tags:

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Interactive Product Manager
      Interactive Product Manager (Western Governors University) - Salt Lake CityWestern Governors University, one of the 20 largest universities...
    • SEO Senior Analyst
      SEO Senior Analyst (University of Phoenix (Apollo Education Group)) - San FranciscoSEO Senior Analyst   Position Summary...
    • SEM & Biddable Media Manager
      SEM & Biddable Media Manager (Kepler Group LLC) - New YorkAs an Optimization & Innovation Manager at Kepler Group, you will be on the bleeding...