In "The Next Big Idea: Personalization and Scale," several VCs showcased companies they felt represented the state of innovation and stood as our industry's best bets today. With a few of his stand-out examples, Jeff Crowe, General Partner, Norwest Venture Partners, led a particularly interesting segment of this session -- with this thought: personalization and scale are "mutually re-enforcing." Admittedly, at first, Crowe's mantra on personalization and scale played a bit like industry speak. But, the power was in an example or two.
First, to expand on this personalization/scale concept, when personalization is successfully scaled by companies, media tech providers and other entities, personalization itself is enhanced for the consumer. The consumer experience in these dynamically, highly personalized environments reaches an incredibly satisfying hilt that builds upon itself. And, the company in turn is able to accelerate its own scale, by operationalizing live feedback on consumer demand, preferences and choices. Crowe's illustrations vividly, quickly showed this concept at play.
Take the crowd-sourced product conceptualization, design and commercialization that is the core business of Quirky (www.quirky.com) that he shared. In the Quirky environment, brands look to the crowd for critical product input, feedback and direction. For a sense of scale: there are currently 195K global community members and roughly 1500 idea submissions per week. Major, premium brands are participating and benefit from this call and response with the crowd -- not to mention benefiting their brands by operating in such a progressive manner. Pondering this obviously thriving model, I found myself recalling the earlier days of Twitter -- as more innovative, progressive, open-minded brands started using microblogging and Twitter specifically for not just customer service, but socialized product development. The Quirky case is a robust example of market adoption of this type of exchange.
It is clear in considering any number of examples, that scale is in fact the key -- when delivering personalization. Scale is the ideal scenario for a company, brand or certainly, a retail merchant proffering consumer offers. A take-away from his session that rang true, is that it is certainly not worth it to personalize unless you can do it at scale. Savvy merchants interested in capitalizing on the personalization game, seek sites that have accomplished scale in order to participate there -- and are able to very strategically deliver offers, all the while uncovering critical consumer segmentation, based on their performance in these environments with customers. I left this session doubtless that high-scale personalization is more than a "big idea," but a bold model proving itself out, live and right now.