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Prepare for the proliferation of personalization

This week I read two really neat books. One of them is called "Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web" by Tim Berners-Lee, the original creator of the web. While the first half of the book Berners-Lee gives a brief history of how his invention came into being, the second half provides some fascinating insights on where it's heading.

According to Berners-Lee, as the growth of this network of interconnected networks (we call the Internet) grows, so too will the need for computers not only to communicate with each other (through hypertext for example, as they do now) but also to work more efficiently in concert with each other. In one example, Berners-Lee mentions pooling and streamlining more powerful resources together, which go beyond mere information or applications. His vision includes the process of combining the greatest of all human endowments: Creativity.

But the underlying requirement for accomplishing such is the need to increase the level of interactivity between computers. Consequently, Berners-Lee mentions that new, more powerful web languages (like the increasing popularity of extensible markup language, or XML, and extensible style language, or XSL) will help the development of both applications and websites to become more dynamic, more interactive and more efficient than ever before.

Now, how do these apply to Internet marketing?

Personalization, which is the obvious parallel in the field of ecommerce, will provide consumers with greater flexibility and choice, a more personalized online experience, and greater leverage when it comes to buying products on the Internet. Since the web is completely user-driven, and when compared to other types of interruption-based, broadcast media, it is no wonder that the demand for personalization is growing.

Internet marketers must therefore realize that the web is not just a communications medium but also a direct marketing tool. In fact, the web is more of a process than it is a medium. A site that interacts with its visitors, personalizes their experience and provides an atmosphere that can be completely customized by the user will reap greater rewards down the road. Whether that atmosphere is commercialized or not, it is still more powerful than the TV, radio or telephone.

It is true that the second of the two books mentioned above, Seth Godin's "Permission Marketing," discusses a completely different issue -- i.e., the benefits of niche-oriented, permission marketing versus broad, interruption marketing. However, there is a parallel. As time goes on, more and more marketers will rely heavily on personalization, which in turn will require a greater level of interactivity with visitors. And the technology for accomplishing just that is exploding.

Take for example the recent partnership between pop diva Britney Spears and a company from my own hometown, called http://www.YOUtopia.com/, a teen "e-loyalty" site. Other personalization sites include:

Granting a marketer the permission to solicit one's business provides, with the help of the Internet, the ability to also personalize that experience to a tremendous degree. This is the fascinating twist: With the web, one can not only grant permission but also customize that permission. Imagine calling your cable company to tell them not only what shows you want to watch but also what commercials you want them to air, how to air them and the level of interaction you wish they have with you. This is all possible with the Internet right now.

These two well-known authors, Godin and Berners-Lee, conjoin at a level of which all webmasters and Internet marketers must be aware: A growing need for more personalization, dynamic content and interactivity on the web. Keep in mind that maintaining a simple website is fine. However, netpreneurs could be shunning away from the enormous potential of the web if they fail to make their sites more interactive.

In essence, long gone are the days of the "one-size-fits-all" or stale site (or email message, for that matter) that provide mere information that's too broad or too passive. We are, as Stephen Covey once mentioned in an interview, transitioning from the "Age of Information" to the "Age of Wisdom." To find out more, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, the CRM (customer relationship management) consultants at http://www.1to1.com/, provide many resources on new technologies in this arena.

If you run an ecommerce site, you may want to find out if you need personalization or not, or if it can help your business. Take this very informative survey, provided by the folks at http://www.guesttrack.com/, a personalization tool supplier: http://www.guesttrack.com/exec/gt/doesitneed.html

Nevertheless, this growing need for customization (as well as the growing distaste for broad, interruption marketing), which are both part of a trend that's reflected in John Naisbitt's High Tech, High Touch, is silently creeping upon us. But as the number of marketing messages continue to rise, particularly on the web, that silence is slowly being broken over time with consumers demanding for more control and companies that provide it breaking new sales records.

The potential is screaming at us. Are you listening?

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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