AOL's Vanity Plates Will Not Drive Personalization

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If AOL's objective in releasing My eAddress is to replicate the successful trend created by MySpace and tap into the world of personalization, they've certainly missed their mark.

AOL's offer of entry-level customization is simply a vanity plate for e-mail, diminishing the AOL brand without adding any measureable value for marketers. AOL is offering customization, not personalization.

Personalization is an answer to leverageable information; a recognition, understanding and service to individuals online. Those who provide information in the form of customization or a comprehensive online persona expect to be recognized; they are communicating measurable information to marketers, providing the opportunity for companies to cultivate loyalty through personalization.

AOL has not provided this, merely enabling the newest creative outlet for tasteless kitsch, which you can share with 100 of your friends. With e-mail already being a commodity, is there any value in AOL's new release?

Not really although AOL's branding sacrifice highlights the growing importance of e-mail as a means of personal communication, it also highlights their lack of marketing prowess. Marketers need to look at the big picture, and leverage the medium as a communication tool, rather than absently throwing away conversion opportunities.

First, we need to react to the attitude surrounding individual customization efforts. Today's online landscape demands personalization, that is, the creation of one-to-one dialogue with site visitors.

With increased consumer participation comes the expectation that this attention and detail will be returned in marketing efforts. This means that the detail and accuracy of marketing campaigns must at least equal, and certainly should exceed any level of customization offered.

New levels of customization require a new level of assessment, insight, and most importantly, response. Marketers' biggest problem today is that we often have more information than we know what to do with. To better understand customization and user demand, an increased importance on higher-level web analytics is necessary.

From these results, optimizations, e-mail auditing, and real-time personalization efforts can be utilized to take advantage of every aspect of user provided information and create the best individual experience possible.

The time is right to begin to personalize offerings to different visitors; to capitalize on the vast amounts of information provided, and react accordingly to make the most of their investments. Customers stay with companies that know them, and personalization is about building customer relationships. AOL has missed the mark on personalization, and hit the cheesy e-mail space dead on.

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