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28 August 2020

Customization vs Personalization: what are the differences and which should you choose?

Reading time
6 min
Author
Lauréline Kameleoon
Lauréline Saux
Laureline is Content Manager and is in charge of Kameleoon's content. She writes on best practice within A/B testing and personalization, based on in-depth analysis of the latest digital trends and conversations with Kameleoon's customers and consultants.

There are two ways to deliver a tailored website experience to your visitors:

  • Customization
  • Personalization

These two practices are often confused as both adjust the content and functionalities of a website to better meet a visitor’s individual needs. Essentially they tailor the experience so that two visitors to the same site at the same time may have two very different experiences.

However, personalization and customization are not interchangeable. There are radical differences between the two practices.

  • What is customization?
  • What is personalization?
  • What are the differences between customization and personalization?
  • Which practice should you adopt to optimize the visitor experience?
  • Can they be combined? If so, how?

In this article, we tell you everything you need to know.

1 What is customization?

We talk about customization when we allow the visitor to change their own browsing experience, such as displaying content based on their interests, viewing preferences or product customization. Customization is driven by the user.

In this article, we won’t be looking in-depth at product customization (for example, ordering a pair of shoes with your own name stitched into them). Instead,we will be focusing on what can be gained from customizing the content and display of a website or application.

Customization enables users to choose:

  • Content (display or hide an item, a post, etc.)
  • Types of display (color, size, and so on)
  • Search settings (sorting by price point or by size)

The advantage of customization is that it gives the visitor the ability to control their own browsing experience.

But this convenience does have its limits.

Customization requires action from your visitors

You can give them the chance to customize your website, such as by making cosmetic optimizations or filtering the content you offer. But not all visitors will have the patience to apply filters or sort the content to find what they’re looking for.

Too much customization… kills customization

By offering the visitors and users of your website/service too many customization options, you run the risk of offering each visitor an experience that is too different from everyone else’s. This could make it tricky to spot good practices: how can you identify what works and what doesn’t work on your website if everyone is having a different experience?

2 What is personalization?

Personalization is a marketing strategy that involves tailoring the browsing experience, messages and offers on a website based on visitor characteristics.

To adopt a personalization strategy, you have to:

To personalize, we can use all sorts of criteria: behavioral (customer journey, time spent, number of visits), geographic (weather, geolocation), demographic (gender, age, socio-professional category) and psychographic (interests, personality, beliefs).

MANUAL PERSONALIZATION

Personalization can be manual (rule-based), meaning that it’s the marketer who segments their audience according to criteria chosen in advance and who then triggers the actions to be implemented for each segment.

PREDICTIVE PERSONALIZATION

We can also entrust the segmentation to a machine learning algorithm capable of analyzing much higher volumes of data than humans can.

The algorithm learns continuously based on data obtained from visitors as they browse a website and refines itself in real-time.

Once configured, the algorithm is able to determine which segment a visitor belongs to and can calculate their conversion probability based on the data gathered about them. Finally, the algorithm is capable of triggering pre-defined actions as soon as it identifies a visitor as belonging to a given segment.

3 How to customize your website

DISPLAY PREFERENCES CUSTOMIZATION

On Twitter’s smartphone app, users can customize the interface by changing the size of the characters with a cursor and/or change the colors by activating “night mode”.

Twitter - Customisation vs. Personnalisation - quelles différences et quelle pratique choisir ?

SEARCH PREFERENCES CUSTOMIZATION

On the Fnac website (as on many others), it is possible to customize the search settings to view only the products that meet the criteria the visitor is searching for. You can choose the number of products per page and the way they are displayed and sorted. You could also see filtering options by color, size or price range.

fnac-filtrage

CONTENT CUSTOMIZATION

When you create an account on the Medium website, you’re asked to mention at least three subjects that interest you. Following this, you are only shown content from the categories you selected when you signed up (categories that you can then change by editing your profile).

Medium - Customisation vs. Personnalisation - quelles différences et quelle pratique choisir ?

4 From customization to personalization

Club Med has combined customization and personalization to personalize its website home page. When visitors arrive on the Club Med website, they can choose between two themes: sea or mountains.

Once they’ve made their choice, the home page is adapted in real-time. This is customization, as it’s the visitor who chooses what they see.

CS Club Med illu bis

Next, personalization comes into play: visitors are assigned to a segment according to the theme they chose and they will continue to see relevant content on every visit over the next week.

This shows how the two practices can be combined seamlessly to further improve the visitor experience.

5 How to personalize the visitor experience

It is possible to personalize many elements on your website to improve your visitors’ browsing experience, such as around content, visuals and promotions. Here are a few examples that may give you some ideas:

CONTENT PERSONALIZATION

To guarantee that the content they offer matches visitor interests, the team at Routard.com ran a personalization campaign to maximize the relevance of home page content.

Visitors who had already viewed articles on the website and who landed on the home page saw different content with recommended articles related to their interests.

This personalization campaign was very effective as, on average, visitors read the highlighted content 4.6 times more and spent twice as much time on the page.

Pourquoi associer Personnalisation et A/B testing pour optimiser son site ? - Exemple Routard Perso

 

OFFER PERSONALIZATION

On the Toyota.fr website, visitors can’t buy a car but they can make an appointment to test-drive one at a dealership.

To generate the maximum number of test-drive requests that led to vehicle purchases, Toyota wanted to use personalization so that they only offered test-drives to their most engaged website visitors.

Toyota’s marketing team used Kameleoon’s predictive targeting to identify visitors’ conversion probability. The “hottest” visitors were identified in real-time on the website and saw a vehicle test-drive request appear via a personalized pop-in displaying their favorite vehicle and nearest dealership.

This predictive personalization campaign enabled Toyota to double the number of qualified leads sent to dealerships.

toyota2_personnalisation_actions_marketing_manuelle_predictive

While customization and personalization both contribute to improving a website’s browsing experience, they are two completely different practices.

And if you want to see even more examples, be sure to read our Complete Guide to Personalization ebook, which is packed full of use cases.

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Lauréline Kameleoon
Lauréline Saux
Laureline is Content Manager and is in charge of Kameleoon's content. She writes on best practice within A/B testing and personalization, based on in-depth analysis of the latest digital trends and conversations with Kameleoon's customers and consultants.