A business-to-consumer organisation

Personalisation is also considered as quite popular amongst users. For example, a choice stream survey found out that 81% of Internet users are interested in receiving personalised content. This suggests that personalisation or customised content is generally a good thing amongst consumers (Zid, 2004). However, customisation/personalisation cannot always be a good thing for consumers. Sometimes it is best to separate the two terms. For example, a recent survey suggests that online customers find that visitors to various e-commerce sites would rather customise a site themselves than have it automatically personalised for them (Nunes, 2001). This suggests that consumers cannot enjoy the full benefits of personalisation. Moreover, it highlights that personalised content not always works.

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Another drawback for customers involved with customisation and personalisation is the fact that if they feel that companies know too much about them then privacy becomes a big issue. Therefore, the user might opt out of special offers and promotions in the future and may give little information as possible. Some companies abuse the information they obtain from customers and therefore get criticised for sending ‘Spam’ (see appendix 3). This illustrates that consumers are intelligent and may sometimes question the techniques firms use in collecting information. Nevertheless, customisation/personalisation is still important for consumers as new technology makes things easier to purchase products and services over the Internet.

Firms who adopt customisation/personalisation can benefit from the fact that in B2B (business-to-business) relationships privacy is not a major concern. For example, Yellow Freight Systems Inc offers users portals that personalise the data presented. This makes it easier for the firm to do business with other companies (Wilson, 2001). This helps to explain why more and more firms are confident in doing business with other businesses when adopting customisation/personalisation techniques.

Another benefit for companies in using customisation/personalisation technology is that personalisation is growing. For example, according to Wilson 43% of midsize and large firms plan to employ personalisation. This helps to clarify that personalisation is a key player in firms and is still quite a big factor, despite drawbacks. Personalisation can also enable businesses to build one-to-one relationships with customers through profiling and understanding them. For example, the mobile phone industry uses customisation as a profit-making tool. The website yourmobile.com (http://www.yourmobile.com) sold over 75 million personalised ring tones and 10 million logos in 85 countries (Searby & Gerry, 2001) (see appendix 3.1).

However, the major drawbacks for firms trying to implement personalisation are that sometimes they might be at conflict with the user. Generally, people are more inclined to start using things quickly rather than take their time to learn about them. Therefore, from the outset the customer behaviour might change. This suggests that firms have to be careful when trying to implement this technology.

Sometimes firms who rely too much on personalisation can also regret taking the risk. For example, in 1999 the strategy firm Mainspring relied too much on personalisation but had spent too much money and therefore found that they had spent too much and achieved nothing. This example helps to highlight the dangers on relying too much on this type of technology. Nevertheless, generally customisation/personalisation are invaluable and more and more companies will keep adapting this technology despite the criticism.

A business-to-consumer organisation (B2C) should consider a number of factors when implementing customisation/personalisation through the Internet. Therefore, it should be asked whether these factors would alter the way in which businesses operate in the future. One of the main factors a B2C organisation should consider is legal factors. Sometimes certain businesses can break the law by sending unsolicited mail, also known as ‘spam’. Therefore, Karr (2001) argues that legislation should be introduced. For example, in June 1997 Morrison & Foerster (a law firm) sued Etracks (marketing company) who claimed to have sent 6500 illegal emails to Morrison & Foerster over a six-month period (Retsky & Lans, 2002). This highlights the dangers of sending out lots of information to the customer if a firm does not consider the legal implications. Would this therefore mean that tougher legislation would mean firms would lose out?

Technological factors are also important for a B2C organisation to consider when adopting customisation/personalisation as this will force changes in legislation around the world that protect individual privacy. For example, new spy software on the Internet, such as Professional Edition is powerful enough to monitor e-mail, keystrokes, and online activity. It also lets users customise settings (Donaldson, 2002). Does this therefore, meant that B2C firms must adapt quickly to technology and anticipate legalisation when deciding to implement customisation/personalisation?

Firms should also consider social bonds when operating on the Internet. For example, findings have indicated that the Internet is considered to have had little impact on social bonds in an inter-firm relationship between with the consumer. Emails sent by firms cannot convey language or emotions (Rao et al 2003). Therefore, it should be asked whether social factors play an important part in customisation/personalisation. Would a better understanding with consumers change the methods firms employ?

The evidence suggests that customisation and personalisation are two different, but similar terms used on the Internet market. Customisation itself will continue to grow due to an increase in technology. However, firms must carefully monitor the changes in the environment such as legislation and technology in customising websites. Firms must also consider privacy as a key factor as some customers have started to question the information they give to companies. However, on balance customisation/personalisation plays a significant role for B2C firms. For example, research suggests that in the 21st century almost 73% business executives agree that 50% or more of US companies will adopt most customisation of products and services. Therefore, the fact that the Internet plays a significant role in implementing customisation and personalisation is valid.