The Art of Mass Personalization

The term “mass personalization” may seem paradoxical. But for your meetings to continue to thrive, you must deliver personalized experiences to a large group of people.

Every other month, I anxiously await the arrival of my Stitchfix box. If you’re not familiar with Stitchfix, it’s a personalized online styling service where five clothing items and accessories—handpicked for you by a stylist based on your budget, taste, and lifestyle—are delivered to your doorstep on the date and at the frequency of your choosing. When you sign up for the service, you complete a style profile that covers your likes and dislikes, as well as your shape, size, and what you’d like to spend. And prior to each shipment, you can add a note that tells your stylist specific pieces you are looking for.

I’ve been doing it for almost a year now, and I love it. Of the five pieces I get in the mail, I’d say I usually keep between two and three. My last box I wanted all five—but my bank account said otherwise.

Why do I love it so much? For three main reasons: It’s clear my stylist listens to my requests, I like that I have a say in the experience but there’s still that element of surprise, and each time I open a box I usually think, “Wow, this is so me.”

To put it simply, Stitchfix, which was founded by CEO Katrina Lake in 2011 when she was a student at Harvard Business School, has mastered the art of mass personalization. The company credits the mix of stylists, technology, and data science it uses with helping keep customers happy.

“It’s about the experience and relevancy, the ‘Huh–they get me, and I keep keeping things they send me,’ ” said Chief Algorithms Officer Eric Colson to earlier this year.

You know where else experience and relevancy matters? Your association’s meetings and conferences—and mass personalization is one way to achieve both. Plus, with attendees experiencing this type of personalization in other aspects of their life, they’ll expect your association to soon start delivering the same.

A new insights paper by Freeman XP, “The Next Big Opportunity: Mass Personalization and the Art of Brand Experience,” looks at how personalization can drive value throughout the course of an event and how organizations can get started.

“With the right personalization strategy, you can deliver highly relevant, deeply engaging program elements that will transform your event into an experience to remember,” the report says.

While achieving mass personalization for hundreds or thousands of attendees sounds daunting, Freeman XP suggests starting your strategy by asking three critical questions:

  • What do you want to achieve? Determine your organization’s overarching business goals and objectives. Where does personalization fit in this vision?
  • What are you already doing? Look at the past years’ programming. Whom were you trying to reach? Which messages resonate best? Pay close attention to any lessons learned.
  • What does success look like? Use these insights to translate your business goals and lessons learned into clear and definable outcomes for your next event.

Once your determine those answers, you can then begin designing the experience and figuring out how to smartly use technology before, during, and after an event to deliver on those elements of personalization.

“The more relevant the event, the more attendees get out of it—which in turn delivers better outcomes for every other stakeholder involved, from organizers to sponsors to exhibitors,” the report says.

Your end goal should probably be similar to my feeling about Stitchfix: You want attendees to feel like you listened to them, you want them to feel like you know them, and, of course, you want to surprise and delight.

“Reprinted with permission. Copyright, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership (November 2016), Washington, DC.”

Written by Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. You can connect with her  here or follow her twitter feed here