On a Web site, personalization is the process of tailoring pages to individual users' characteristics or preferences. 

Commonly used to enhance customer service or e-commerce sales, personalization is sometimes referred to as one-to-one marketing, because the enterprise's Web page is tailored to specifically target each individual consumer. Personalization is a means of meeting the customer's needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat visits. There are a number of personalization software products available, including those from Broadvision, ResponseLogic, and Autonomy.

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Personalization in some ways harkens back to an earlier day, by making consumer relationships more closely tailored to the individual. If you've ever bought a book from Amazon, for example, the next time you visit they will - like a friendly and helpful sales clerk - greet you by name and tell you about products in stock that they think you might like (such as more books by the same author, or books purchased by other people who also bought the book that you purchased). Many portal sites, such as Yahoo allow site visitors to customize the page with selected news categories, local weather reports, and other features.

In addition to use of the cookie, the technologies behind personalization include:

  • Collaborative filtering, in which a filter is applied to information from different sites to select relevant data that may apply to the specific e-commerce experience of a customer or specific group of customers
  • User profiling, using data collected from a number of different sites, which can result in the creation a personalized Web page before the user has been formally
  • Data analysis tools used to predict likely future interactions

Because personalization depends on the gathering and use of personal user information, privacy issues are a major concern. The Personalization Consortium is an international advocacy group organized to promote and guide the development of responsible one-to-one marketing practices. Founding members include Pricewaterhouse Coopers, American Airlines, and DoubleClick. The consortium has established ethical information and privacy management objectives; these include, for example, the suggestion that enterprises should inform users about the information being gathered, and the purposes for which it is sought. According to a March 2000 Consortium survey of over 4,500 Web users, 73% of respondents find it helpful to have Web sites retain their personal information, while only 15% refuse to supply personal information online. 63% of respondents disliked having to reenter information that they had already supplied.

This was last updated in March 2007

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