John McMahon, Product Director at IEG4, discusses the evolution of personalisation across the web – highlighting the benefits for local authorities who wholeheartedly embrace it within their digital services
If you’ve been working in digital services for a while, you may remember the birth of ‘Web 2.0.’ It was often dismissed as irrelevant by naysayers back in 2005, but it turned out to be a massive development in the way we use applications. While the layperson may not know what it means or stands for, they will almost certainly have interacted with a service that was born out of the evolution of the internet to Web 2.0.
The term was coined as a ‘catch all’ to describe a shift toward the democratisation of the web; the facilitation of a more personal, me-focused web. It enabled everyone using the internet on any device to create content and share it with a global reach. Importantly, as described in a paper titled Many (to platform) to many: Web 2.0 application infrastructures by Jack Jamieson, it enabled “individuals to create and distribute content with equal (or at least comparable) power as large corporations.”
Putting the web in the hands of the user
You don’t have to look far to find examples of well-known web 2.0 applications. YouTube – the birth of video and media creation that spurred on the adoption of 3G/4G, Facebook – a virtualisation of a friends’ network with the means to communicate with them all and Twitter – a place where individuals can seek news from a primary source and comment on it, all fall under this category, as do Instagram, Wikipedia, Reddit, and WordPress.
This movement was about users being able to create content and, over time, has led to an increased expectation of personalised content. Indeed, providing personalised experiences has led Amazon to become one of the most valuable, and still growing, companies in the world.
In 2020, McKinsey gleaned insight into the movement with an article on the future of personalisation claiming: “Highly personalized customer experiences, when offered to millions of individual customers by using proprietary data, are difficult for competitors to imitate. When executed well, such experiences enable businesses not only to differentiate themselves but also to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. Moreover, our research has shown that personalized experiences drive up both customer loyalty and the top line”.
Personalisation is not reaching its potential
But despite this, in a further report on personalisation, Gartner goes on to state that only 23% of brands in the study personalised their websites with recommendations based on user data inputs.
It’s clear that personalisation increases engagement and supports the conversion of customers to ‘use the digital option’, so it’s surprising that the execution of this strategy has not been implemented more widely. This is not just a challenge in the private sector either. Whilst a large proportion of government websites will feature an online sign-in of some sort, they do not use data about individuals to dynamically adjust the content delivered.
How this impacts local government
Whilst the drivers for digital transformation and personalisation of digital services in local government are different, citizen engagement and minimisation of operating costs are key; both of which are ameliorated with the effects of personalisation.
Local Government Chief Digital and Transformation Officers have seen the importance of implementing a platform that orchestrates data and content from the landscape of applications. In councils, leveraging this to drive personalisation of their digital services is the next logical step.
Council websites and notification services will become more personalised and proactive as technology makes it easier. Indeed, with IEG4’s API framework and its new Broadcast and CitizenVu solutions, we are providing the tools to enable these personalised and proactive behaviours.
Increased personalisation will improve the citizen experience and citizens will be more inclined to opt in to use digital services over traditional methods. Imagine a world where digital local government is used as intuitively as Instagram or YouTube – it’s entirely possible. This will be particularly effective at reaching the younger demographic as generation Z moves into an era where they need to engage with councils and access their services.
Having discussed Web 2.0 and the benefits of personalisation, I need to highlight that we are on the cusp of Web 3.0, which will see the internet evolve towards an even more virtual world, becoming more wide-stream, and, with the advent of the metaverse, decentralisation, democratisation, and personalisation will go even further.
The future of the web is bright; and this time it’s personal.