In the movie Minority Report, the year is 2054 and John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, is a police captain in PreCrime, a specialized division that has the power to predict future crimes and stop them by apprehending criminals before they act. In the YouTube clip inserted below, we watch John Anderton walk into a mall.
As he walks through its halls, images and videos reveal themselves to him, each calling out to him by name and each offering him personalized deals. Notably, when he finally walks into the Gap, an internationally known clothing store, the hologram greets him as "Mr. Yakamoto" instead of by his name, much to his irritation. It's a clever move by the scriptwriters to show the effect of a machine making a mistake.
Mass Personalization Defined
When I first heard the phrase "mass personalization," I thought that it seemed to be a contradiction of terms. How can it be mass if it is personalized? How can it be personalized if it is for the masses?
But it is not an oxymoron after all. The movement to Big Data has meant that you can process billions and trillions of data points and -- in discovering patterns in consumer behaviors -- generate unique responses to specific triggers.
So when we talk about mass personalization, we are talking about how the machines get it right: how we take the information that is collected — Big Data — and deliver back product and service information and targeted marketing that is made personal for the right individual in the right place at the right time.
Let's leave behind 2054 and return to the present day and the real world.
Mass Personalization, Today's Examples
This is a screenshot of my Amazon page.
It has tailored offers that are based on my past purchases, on my interests, on my demographic profile, and on my location. I have kids, so you'll see some children's books as well as stuff on sales — the stuff I usually look at.
Amazon is not the only brand that uses mass personalization, of course, Another example is Netflix, an on-demand media streaming company. The company recommends movies to its users based on what they have already looked at and their demographics. Similarly, Lands' End, a clothing retailer, stores data about its customers' sizes and preferences. The company then offers products to its website visitors that are based on their profiles. It's seasonal and location-aware too, so you will not be offered ski clothes if you are visiting the site from Singapore.
As this process of tracking and recording consumer behavior becomes widespread, the resulting Big Data will be even better for mass personalization efforts. Big Data enables the micro segmentation of consumer markets in real time. Everything about who you are, where you happen to be at that moment, and what you are doing will converge to deliver experiences that are unique to you.
So whether you receive a detailed analysis of the fantasy football team you created on Yahoo! or get a personalized report on your Facebook behavior from Wolfram Alpha, mass personalization will bring what really matters to you.
Mass Personalization, Internationalized
But how do our translation and localization efforts jive with mass personalization? Here at Moravia, we believe that this represents the next wave in the technology.
And it is a considerable challenge: Traditional international concerns like concatenation of strings and punctuation are again relevant because the reports are traditionally built using variables. In which language(s) is the Big Data? Do you translate the source material or the output? The result will vary a lot depending on the language pair and subject matter. While, yes, machine translation and post-editing will be critical, informational design and architecture will be too.
With the development of natural language processing in multiple languages, these challenges may diminish. But we're far from it.
Nevertheless, mass personalization — as another key driver of technology — holds considerable promise for brands, local and global. Let's talk in the comments about how you see Big Data and mass personalization working for your business!