Create one-to-one customer relationships, move beyond basic demographics

Written by Thomas Stanek & Christopher Skinner

Imagine if we could create a one-to-one relationship with all consumers not just based on their standard actions such as click-thru, banners, demographics, market baskets, and loyalty programs but based on their personality. Actions are “nice to knows” but don’t truly encapsulate a consumer’s motives and character, which ultimately influence their actions. To have a true understanding of each individual, we must understand their personality; essentially, we need to get up-close and personal.

In today’s world we use consumer actions such as click’s to understand a unique user. But do these types of actions really paint the full picture of a user and their preferences? With the ever-changing mobile-first world, the old adage of “actions rule all” may not connect the dots to and around the consumer in the most effective manner? 

Let’s use an example to illustrate the point:

User A purchases a new camera through a well-known e-commerce site. Based on users A’s actions, a banner ad for a camera case would be displayed/advertised for potential purchase. This is very standard in today’s market and logically makes since. There also may be advertisements for products User A recently viewed. These types of marketing to User A are logical but based solely on online “actions” and not the users’ real-life behaviors, choices or personality. If we knew the individuals personality better, we may be able to predict that, based on the type of camera purchased and past behavior, User A is an extrovert that takes risks so a group travel advertisement may be more enticing.

Bottom line, it may be time for the industry to evaluate the lack of conversion and working media based on actions and take a turn to understanding the consumers’ personality, which could transition into loyalty, growth and enhanced brand value.

One’s personality is defined as a set of individual traits that are affected by the development of an individual’s values, attitudes, personal memories, social relationships, habits, and skills.[1].  

So the questions are:

  1.  Can we categorize personalities and traits
  2. Can we build and estimate personalities based on the date currently available
  3. Can we relate personality traits to potential participation or acquisitions

Can we categorize personalities and traits?

Well the answer to that question is absolutely yes. As Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers proved many years ago the psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions can be categorized using the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in personality and decision making by which humans experience the world – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time. The MBTI was constructed for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. “The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.[2]

Can we build and estimate personalities based on the date currently available?

Yes, based on data instead of a self-assessment which means it is seamless to the consumer.

MakeBuzz uses proprietary computational linguistics software to translate the hundreds of data points they’ve aggregated on a persons’ interests, demographics and activities into a set of traits that make up Myers-Briggs types. Their database contains the personality profiles of over 215 million people, which means they can generally able to match ~50 % of any given CRM.

Can we relate personality traits to potential participation or acquisitions?

Absolutely. Through personalization applications like Product Recommendation, you can use personality to increase conversion of loyalty efforts. Personality + Past Purchasing is a better indication of what someone might purchase than past purchases alone or basic demographics. It can also help you perform better out of the gate to new users who haven’t purchased by providing insight into who they are – and what they might like.

As illustrated in Figure A, knowing the source of the decision based on demographics, actions, past purchases, and personality allow for a more accurate and personal prediction of hitting the consumers conversion “bulls-eye”.

Without knowing consumers personality traits we are missing what intrinsically motivates their reasons for a purchase. If we are able to combine current organizations CRM’s with personality traits we begin to paint a more robust picture of users and consumer which ultimately proved better experiences and increased revenue.

As we move into the next phase of the ever-changing consumer it may be advantageous to map out and target their traits and personality rather than just actions and clicks. So, to ensure success in the future, perhaps it is time for all of us to get a little more up close and personal!


Written by Thomas Stanek & Christopher Skinner

[1] Engler, B. (2009). Personality Theories: Eighth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.

[2] Myers, Isabel Briggs with Peter B. Myers (1995) [1980]. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black Publishing. ISBN 0-89106-074-X.

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