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Hyper-Personalisation - Good or Bad for Affordable Housing?

With increased digital communication, hyper-personalisation is happening. So we question whether that is a good or a bad thing for affordable housing.

With so many conversations going on at the moment surrounding the importance of digital communication and personalisation, it is probably worth taking a look at what marketing professionals have been calling hyper-personalisation. This is content that has been personalised not just by basic information like name and job title, but communication that is truly unique to you. Hyper-personalization combines user behavioural data with real-time information in order to provide the most relevant content or service to any user at any given time. This can take a tonne of different forms - from content suggestions from newspapers to shopping offers from your favourite retailers. What defines hyper-personalisation is the depth to which the content is being personalised.

The Good Parts of Hyper-Personalisation

The main positive aspect of hyper-personalisation is that on the whole consumers like the benefits it brings. People are becoming more comfortable with the idea of utilising data in order to provide a better service. A research piece conducted by Accenture, for example, found 49 per cent of shoppers would not object to having their buying behaviour tracked if it would result in more relevant offers. The benefits for the end-user are pretty clear - fewer annoying adverts that are irrelevant to you and more companies offering you discounts on goods you find useful and valuable. This is also backed up by some real-world examples. The most famous proponent of hyper-personalisation is Amazon. Their ‘Frequently Bought Together’ section has been a staple of their web design for some time, and it is working. A McKinsey study estimates that 35 per cent of Amazon’s consumer purchases come from product recommendations based on these sections. From an affordable housing perspective - this translates into providing more relevant resident services, communication that is always relevant to the resident and helpful suggestions delivered at the perfect time. This results in increased engagement, a reduction in residents ‘falling through the cracks’ and overall improved resident satisfaction - if it is deployed correctly.


The Bad Parts of Hyper-Personalisation

There are two main concerns when it comes to deploying hyper-personalisation into your communication. The first is to do with fear. In the last couple of years, there has been a cultural shift towards distrust of ‘big data’. Companies are increasingly looking for ways to deliver more and more personalised communication and the general public is getting wearier and wearier of the amount of data companies and organisations appear to be collecting. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, the Equifax Leak in America and the implementation of GDPR have all led to calls to reduce data collection and improve accountability. In order to deploy effective hyper-personalisation, an organisation needs to be gathering a large amount of data. In affordable housing, this is likely to cause significant alarm - with worries about housing providers overreaching into residents’ lives. There is also concern about mistakes being made. In January of this year, insurance giant Aviva managed to send an email addressing everyone as ‘Michael’. Clearly mistakes can happen and with the increasing complexity of personalisation, the chance of a mistake happening increases exponentially. Personalised content only works if it is personalised for you. Content personalised for another person is likely to completely turn a resident off your business as it breaks the ‘illusion’. The reason that personalisation works so well is that it appears (even if only slightly) that your business is focused on them specifically. When that veneer peels away and reveals that communications have been personalised for everyone the results are disastrous.


Tread With Caution

There is no denying that hyper-personalisation is coming to every industry. Much like when email marketing was first becoming popular, there will be critics and proponents but the benefits for businesses are undeniable. For affordable housing providers, it is about ensuring that residents are kept front of mind. The goal should always be to provide a better service and if that can be done by utilising big data signals to deploy hyper-personalized messaging then no housing provider should shy away from that. We here at Switchee already understand the power of a relevant message delivered at the right time. We’ve been helping housing providers send messages and schedule appointments automatically based on the likelihood a resident is suffering from fuel poverty or mould. The one big thing is to ensure that there are restrictions in place on the type of messaging that can be done and that no hyper-personalised content can contain personally identifiable information. Ultimately, the most reckless thing a housing provider could do is send a message to the wrong resident with information that is legally protected.

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