Hyper-personalisation: How Spotify knows your music tastes better than you!

Hyper-personalisation may seem like a fashionable marketing buzz-wood, a case of unwarranted hyperbole to enhance what is already a perfectly well understood and thought-out concept. However, the distinction is discernible, especially in an age where consumer expectations are growing with every experience they have. Where personalisation might mean communication from a company based on name or perhaps location, hyper-personalisation incorporates the use of big data (e.g. browsing behaviour) to provide even more personalised and targeted content, products and services. Although it is not necessarily a new term, it is becoming vastly important for brands as we move into an age where big data is becoming easier to harness.

Companies now have the infrastructure to be able to create more meaningful engagement with their customers through hyper-personalisation, and no industry has showcased this more effectively than the entertainment and media sector - where streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix have strived to refine their complex recommendation engines.

Do you ever get the feeling that Spotify knows your music taste better than even you do? Well, that’s because it actually might. Through the ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist, Spotify provides each individual user with a tailored and personalised selection of 30 songs, and while automated recommendations aren’t new, Spotfiy’s complex algorithm isn’t just based on a user’s saved songs; it delves much deeper into their musical taste. 

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The playlist curation process first starts with examining the circa 2 billion playlists created by other users, taste matching your musical preferences to others – and suggesting songs based on those played like-minded musical heads. That may seem relatively simple – but Spotify also generates a profile for each individual user down to a micro-genre level. So not only does Spotify know you’re a fan of dance music, but it also knows you’re a fan of ‘ambient dub techno’, before you even knew this yourself, or had even heard of the genre!

This level of hyper-personalisation enhances the customer experience immeasurably, by providing users with highly individualised content without having to exert any effort themselves, and if it means they score additional brownie points with their friends through telling them about a cool new band that are going to be the ‘next big thing’…then even better.

Netflix are another company that boss hyper-personalisation. By now, all Netflix users have become accustomed to the row of films and tv shows under the heading ‘recommended for you’, which is based on previous watches.

They have not just stopped there though. They recently revealed that they use data to not just individualise the content that is shown, but also how it is presented – according to Netflix Technology Blog  they show different film covers (based on static imagery taken from films) to different individuals based on previous sub-genres watched and actor/actress preferences. One example given is the cover art of Good Will Hunting. If an individual user watches more comedies – the cover artwork will feature Robin Williams, the idea being that this makes the content more appealing and thus enhancing the user experience.

The key to nailing hyper-personalisation is knowing what is relevant and what may be seen as intrusive. With the vast amount of behavioural data available to companies there is an increasing mistrust among consumers as to how this is used. Companies should take care in only collecting data that is relevant to the specific experiences they are personalising.

There are examples of how attempting to personalise experiences has gone awry; such as mortuaries sending Christmas hampers to people in assisted living. The importance of gauging sensitivity levels is becoming increasingly important when personalising experiences, and companies need to take a common sense approach to how and when they target customers and what products or services they are promoting.

When done right however, the benefits of providing individualised experiences are huge. The increased emotional engagement it creates has links to increased customer loyalty and satisfaction, and in an age where time is the hottest commodity, showing proactivity as a company minimises customer effort.

Oliver Nightingale - Senior Research Exectutive 

Annabel Gerrard