Maybe It's Personal


by Tim Moran

Since the very first day--way, way back in Internet history--that marketers realized the power of the Web to sell products and make money, one of the most sought after capabilities has been "personalization."

The thinking is always something like, "If we can just serve up on our site exactly what the customer wants when he or she gets here, every time, all the time, we'll make millions!"

Even if the concept is legitimate, the technology needed to make it work has never been quite ready.

Comes now another release touting a new and better version of personalization: "Imagine if a brand was able to greet first-time online visitors with content and product unique to their needs in real time, personalizing the experience with very little visitor input?" Yep, there you go. The millions are waiting.

This time, however, the technology upon which this is based sounds rather interesting. It's called "The Intelligent Digital Platform," and it's been created by developers at Accenture Technology Labs. According to the release, it "gives businesses the capability to move away from the 'one size fits all' Web site now used to greet virtually all online viewers.

At the same time, it provides the 'back office' data that can help the brand team achieve a desired outcome." One Joshua Kahn, a developer at Accenture's Labs in Chicago, explained, "It's making use of technology that promises to change the very nature of how we interact online and the applications used by the Web."

Here's an example: Two visitors arrive separately at the URL of a fine spirits company for the first time. The first user, who came via a Google search for a generic term, indicates that he was born in 1986. The second, who searched for the name of a spirit from a particular region, reveals that he was born in 1956.

The first user gets a landing page where he is invited to a local tasting and shown bottles of spirits in order of price from lowest to highest. The second user is taken to another page where he sees information on food pairings for different drinks and a product catalogue that displays more expensive items.

Does The Intelligent Digital Platform really have the potential to, as Kahn said, "dynamically change the Web site to give visitors what they want to see, in a way they want to see it." Could it be that technology has finally caught up to the desires and goals of the marketing department?

Kahn thinks so: "It's making use of technology that promises to change the very nature of how we interact online and the applications used by the Web." Could be. Let's see, I wonder if I can amble over to that fine spirits site and order up a double Hennessy Paradis Extra Rare.