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Welcome to the Internet of Me

  |  June 19, 2014   |  Comments

The Internet of Me is just what it sounds like: a digital world in which the consumer is king. It's time to ask whether your product is personalized enough to earn a place within his kingdom.

Sorry, Internet of Things. The future of the Web may be the Internet of Me.

More and more, Internet technology is all about personalization. It's everywhere, and it's getting urgent. Call it a Gold Rush or the flavor of the week, but brands are doing all they can to introduce more personalization into their products - and fast.

Earlier this year, AOL acquired Gravity, a company that creates "Interest Graphs" tied to users' preferences that can be used to deliver more personalized editorial and ad content. Reports suggest that Netflix harbors "a vision" for its product in which users will be given three or four highly personalized content choices ideally suited to their tastes. Eyeview, a personalized online video company, recently launched an ad product for Internet-connected TVs that taps the viewer's location, demographic data, and the time of day to personalize messaging.

And then there's mobile. A London company called SwiftKey is offering a smartphone app that The New York Times says can "predict what you will type next" by monitoring what you type on other apps to get to know your personal style. In August, fans of footwear brand Adidas will have the chance to see their favorite Instagram photos printed directly onto the newly launched ZX Flux model of Adidas shoe. The announcement was made last month through an Instagram post and promotional video. So when the brand goes live with its photo print MiAddias app for iOS and Android, personalization will quickly go from mobile to the offline world.

If you're wondering what all the fuss is about, look no further than the way consumers are interacting with tech. In January of this year, mobile devices became the most popular way to access the Internet for the first time. Usurping personal computers, smartphones and tablets accounted for 55 percent of Internet usage in the U.S. compared with 45 percent for PCs, according to research from comScore and Enders Analysis. Currently, more than 58 percent of Americans have a smartphone, and more than 42 percent own a tablet. Forty-four percent of mobile phone users have slept with their devices next to their beds to avoid missing messages and calls, while 29 percent say their phone is "something they can't imagine living without."

Meanwhile, studies dating all the way back to 2005 indicate consumers are interested in personalized content. And while research shows Internet users are "neutral to positive" about customized services and products and consider personalization on sites to be "mildly valuable," they've demonstrated real interest in content that pulls in information about their history and anticipates their future needs, even revealing they would be willing to receive more branded emails as long as they're personalized. According to Adobe and its newly released 2014 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey, "It's clear that delivering personalized experiences is essential to converting visitors into customers."

Is familiarity with hyper-targeted online experiences pushing this trend to the fore? After all, consumers are becoming inured to a personalized experience everywhere they go. Siri helps them decide where they should eat, and which route they should take to get there. Google's virtual personal assistant for Android and iPhones, Google Now, ensures they remember important meetings, events, and dates. In April, Microsoft launched Cortana, an "intelligent assistant" of its own and a prominent feature of the new Windows 8.1 phone. She'll search Bing for whatever you want to know, on command.

These tools are all built around personalization - meeting the users' specific needs in real time, and to some degree, predicting what they might want next. Imagine how jarring it would be to go from such personalized assistance to an utterly generic service or ad. Personalization is well suited to digital media in general, but it's particularly apropos for mobile devices that deliver a more intimate tech experience. For this reason, we can expect the space to explode with products and content customized to the customer's needs.

The Internet of Me is just what it sounds like: a digital world in which the consumer is king. It's time to ask whether your product is personalized enough to earn a place within his kingdom.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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