Is 2024 Finally the Year of 1:1 Personalization?

Generative AI’s Role in the Personalization/Privacy Paradox

By Vanessa CartwrightPresident, NA & UK Astound Commerce

Most people, including leaders at the retail brands we serve, will remember 2023 as the year Generative AI went mainstream. From early experimentation with ChatGPT or DALL-E, to reading the Biden AI Executive Order, to following Sam Altman's tumultuous departure and return to OpenAI, AI has been impossible to avoid. It’s here to stay and will inevitably become part of our everyday lives.

Many predictions from past years say “this is the year of 1:1 personalization.” But in fact, retailers have been chasing 1:1 personalization at scale forever, the big blocker always being the sheer cost and effort required for asset creation, especially in relation to large multi-channel advertising campaigns. AI has now hit the scene, with its powerful ability to quickly generate individualized assets, like copy and images, specifically tailored to customer preferences. Is 2024 poised to finally be the year of 1:1 personalization at scale?

2024 is poised to be the year of 1:1 personalization at scale. All brands should start their AI-powered journey to personalization by building a secure, actionable, trusted data governance foundation.

- Vanessa Cartwright, President, NA & UK Astound Commerce

For this to manifest, AI would have to gain massive adoption in retail, and start impacting the bottom line for ecommerce. This will require a trigger for momentum. Our clients have been focused on testing generative AI for workflow efficiencies like on-brand content creation, product descriptions, product image generation and email content. But we believe that the precipice to large-scale technological adoption lies in customer data: generative AI’s ability to safely and securely ingest customer data, with a human in the loop, to power content creation. And any conversation about customer data starts and ends with trust and security. How can brands not only innovate with emerging tech like AI, but also protect privacy frameworks? Trust and security could be the one thing that blocks generative AI’s potential to help retailers finally realize 1:1 personalization.

AI is tightly linked with data protection and quality. It’s more important than ever to ensure that you have solid Data Governance practices in place: what data is being collected? How is it being stored and processed? Is data sensitivity well understood? To help brands overcome this hurdle, keep a few things in mind:

  • Develop a process, from the start, where Marketing and Merchandising teams work closely with Technical Security teams on how data masking and other initiatives are being applied to ensure PII is protected

  • Be open and transparent about how your brand wants to use Large Language Models (LLMs). This means focusing on processes like clear consent management practices (e.g. customers wishing to opt out of their data being used in LLMs).

  • Prepare to expand your teams or partnerships; growing AI roles include data architects, AI ethicists and AI solution architects

  • Keep humans in the loop! 2024 will not be the year where generative AI can go it alone. Your brand is your most valuable asset, and humans will always be best to protect it.

I hope that when we look back at 2024, we can say that our industry finally achieved the elusive goal of 1:1 personalization at scale. All brands should start their AI-powered journey to personalization by building a secure, actionable, trusted data governance foundation.

The State of the Retail Industry 2024

JAN 2024