Neil Patel was named one of the top influencers of the web by The Wall Street Journal. He was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by U.S. President Barack Obama, and one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
Patel is the co-founder of two web analytics companies, Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg, and has helped large corporations like Amazon, HP, and Viacom to grow their revenue.
He is also a popular blogger. His works have been featured in publications including TechCrunch, Forbes, and Business Insider.
I had a chance to ask him about social analytics and website personalization at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna.
Big data and personalization are trending topics these days and they are also connected to the lecture on business emails that you gave. I’d like to ask your opinion about them.
It is huge. I actually think the web is moving to a more personalized form. Just look at Facebook, Google Plus, or even Google itself, and all these other sites out there.
There’s so much data about individuals, and it could be used in the wrong way. But I don’t think these companies are trying to do that.
I think these companies are trying to give the best experience for you and use the data in ways that benefit you because they know if they make a better experience for you, you’re more likely to tell your friends about their service.
I think that is where the web is going to end up, and we’re going to use it in a whole personalized way.
Do you have any specific markets in mind where you think personalization will play an essential role?
E-commerce is a huge one. People do so much shopping online, and it’s not personalized. Why can’t a computer connect with my fridge and say, hey, you need milk this week.
And then the next week it will be like, oh you’re running out of milk but we’re not going to buy it because you’re flying to Vienna as we can see on your calendar. So you’re not going to be here, and we don’t want to order that, right?
I actually think you can get that personal, it’s just a question of time.
Do you think a company would benefit from using solutions like Facebook Connect to access user data? Can brands improve their visitors’ experience based the information they collect this way?
I believe they would benefit greatly from it. The problem is that you’re limited on what data Facebook gives you, so you don’t have as much as you need. But I think it’s a good start, or at least it’s better than nothing.
What do you think could be the solution for this issue?
I think with time, eventually one of these social sites will decide to give up more data and the others will have to follow in line. So the only question is, who going to do it first.
Both Google’s and Facebook’s advertisements are personalized. Sites like Amazon, with time, can learn what you are looking for and give you relevant recommendations. But there is a gap between the two; personalized ads don’t lead to similar landing pages. What do you think, how could we provide personalized experiences from scratch?
I don’t think it’s going to happen from scratch. The technology is not there yet.
With time you can have a path to that, but it’s too early on, and it’s going to take at least a few more years.
Can’t merging the data in a company’s CRM with the information social logins provide help to get there?
You can do that, but the problem is the amount of data you’re given from the source is very little right now. It’s better than it was a few years ago, but it’s still not enough.
Companies like Walmart have done many tests in this field and tried to make things personalized. For example, they tried to figure out if you’re looking for dog food. In case they found out that you had a dog, they showed you pictures of dogs and stuff like that.
But the test results weren’t positive when it came to improving sales. So the technology is just not good enough to personalize the journey all the way from the ad to the checkout and the recommendations.
Do you have anything in mind that would be a good solution? I know it’s going to take time, but what would you like to see in the future?
I think it’s going to have to be a lot of laws changing.
The question is how can we make laws that allow companies to make the data more open and share it, but do it in a way that is not manipulatable. To create a situation where you’re not manipulating people, and also where you’re not just not trying to make money of the people.
You don’t want to be able to sell the data.
If you can end up sharing it and you can provide users a better experience, then it’s a win-win situation. For example, I know people are afraid of being tracked, but for me, if companies would know more about me and then make my experience browsing the internet better, I’d rather they had that data.
I totally agree with you. Once it would be great to arrive at a site and feel like it was made for you. Could there be a time when mass communication is personalized as well?
Yeah, it would be awesome to feel like they knew exactly what I was looking for and to find sites where you don’t have to keep clicking around. This will be a great experience, and the web will get there. It’s just a question of time.
That’s my vision for it as well. What do you think, should providing data for subscriptions or registrations at e-commerce site get automated as well?
I think it will happen, it’s just time. Marketing automation companies like HubSpot or Intercom are helping to get there. It’s just going to take a few more years and a few more innovative products, and eventually it will all be personalized.