How zombies and the "uncanny valley" may ruin your personalization efforts.

Don't be a zombie

Video transcript

Hi, this is Sander, CEO of Unless.com and today I will be telling you about personalization - as well as zombies.

Let's start with personalization. It is very popular these days. Almost as popular as zombies. It's everywhere! From automated emails that you receive with your name in it and a lot of other information to where it gets a bit more interesting like personalized offers on e-commerce websites, to the point where it gets really cool: you are trying to converse with a chatbot, powered by AI and then hopefully get relevant answers to your questions.

It is not very hard to see where this is going. Very soon, the internet will change from the fairly static medium that it is today into something like having a conversation with your best friend. So, it will be filled with websites that respond like a human would.

But before that happens, something scary will happen. It's where the zombies are. You know why a zombie is so scary? Because it looks a little bit like a human, but not quite. This is called "the uncanny valley". This term was coined by a Japanese professor in robotics, during the 70s. If any person sees something in between "barely human" and "fully human" he or she feels a strong feeling of disgust.

If you apply personalization, you have to make sure that this does not happen. You have to be subtle. The way to it wrong would be for example, when I reach a website and it would immediately say on its homepage: "Hi Sander, good to see you! What a nice black sweater are you wearing today!" That would totally freak me out, not only because of the privacy issues, but also because of the Uncanny Valley effect.

So, if you use a personalization engine like Unless.com ...

Go ahead, but be subtle about it.

Don't be a zombie.