In today’s technology driven world, we as consumers have come to expect personalization and customization. Take your cell phone for example. You change the background picture, ring tones, menu items, case, even add certain pictures to contacts’ profiles so when they call you an embarrassing picture of them (that only you have) pops up. You design your own T-shirt and have it printed, create your own shoes to have made, and more. It’s fun, and makes you feel special. People get all warm and fuzzy inside when they hear the word “customize” or “personalize” with a product they are considering for purchase. And marketers know this and take advantage.
Now that the terms customize and personalize are parts of everyday vocabulary, what’s the difference between them, if any? As a consumer, it’s important to know. After doing some research, it seems to be loosely defined. Everyone has their own opinion, and it does seem to matter which item or items you are discussing to figure out the difference. What I was generally able to come up with was this: if a product is being made to your specifications and qualifications, it’s customized. For example, let’s discuss a computer. You want a certain size hard drive, screen, RAM, DVD burner, etc and order it customized. It is made just for you. Once you get it home, you chose your background image, sounds when opening or logging off, maybe even change the outside color and put stickers and stuff on it—that’s personalization. It’s already made to make these tweaks; you just have to tell it which ones.
An important point to remember though—once you get something customized, you limit yourself. If you decide that you don’t want the exact components of your computer or want to update, returning or adding on can be cumbersome and expensive. Personalizations are meant to be changed and therefore don’t generally have a lasting effect on the product that is personalized.
In software, people often misuse the terms Personalizing and Customizing and it can become confusing. Personalizing software means making it display the components you want, allow access to certain users, look a certain way, or print reports with the items you want to review, etc. Customizing software means changing the software to make it work for your current needs. These customizations may not be easy and future updates may be at risk. Thus it can be more disruptive and expensive than you might think. Software vendors that sell customization most likely don’t want you to know this.
So don’t be fooled into thinking customization is always the best way to go—especially with software. The next blog in the customization series will go into more explanation about the hidden costs of customized software, both upfront and in the long term. It’s not always a bad choice, but our point is that it isn’t necessarily the right choice. Don’t be fooled by a vendor that tells you otherwise.Posted by Ken Hayes, Vice President, ProfitKey International