Personalization vs. Customization: What's the difference?

Personalization vs. Customization: What's the difference?

When you think of personalization and customization, you might assume they're the same thing. After all, both terms refer to the process of tailoring something to fit the preferences of a specific person or group of people, right?

While there is some overlap, personalization, and customization are distinct concepts with different implications for the end user. In this blog post, we'll explore the difference between personalization and customization and highlight their importance in enhancing the customer experience.

Personalization: The art of tailoring the experience

Personalization is simply the process of tailoring an experience to an individual based on their unique preferences, interests, and behaviors. It is executed for the user by the company. This might include anything from a personalized product recommendation to a targeted ad campaign. 

The goal of personalization is to create a deeper and more engaging connection with the user. By offering a personalized experience, companies can develop a sense of loyalty and trust that keeps users returning and improving customer loyalty. According to the Epsilon survey, 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from companies offering personalized experiences.

Customization: Putting the Power in the User's Hands

While personalization is about tailoring an experience for the user, customization is about giving the user control over their experience. Instead of making assumptions about what the user wants, customization puts the power in the user's hands, allowing them to create an experience uniquely suited to their needs. It could be configuring a physical product in line with one’s tastes or adding and removing specific items in a subscription service.

The goal of customization is to provide users with a sense of ownership and control over their experience. When users feel they have a say in how a product or service is designed, they're more likely to engage with it and form a deeper connection with the brand.  A study by Deloitte found that 50% of consumers expressed interest in purchasing customized products or services. This indicates that there is a demand for customization among consumers. 

While personalization and customization may seem similar initially, they have some key differences. After all, they both involve tailoring an experience to meet the user's needs. However, as we dig deeper, you’ll see why they cannot be used interchangeably. 

Personalization vs. Customization: The primary difference?

Personalization vs Customization Comparison Table
Personalization Customization
Refers to tailoring an experience to an individual based on their unique characteristics and preferences Refers to allowing an individual to choose or modify certain features of a product or service to fit their needs or preferences.
Focuses on delivering a unique experience based on data and behavior of individual users. Focuses on giving users control over certain aspects of a product or service.
Aims to create a highly individualized, relevant and engaging experience. Aims to provide flexibility and choice to the user.
Relies heavily on user data, such as browsing history, purchase behavior, and demographic information. May or may not involve data, depending on the level of customization allowed.

Personalization is all about using customer data to create a personalized experience tailored to their preferences and interests. On the other hand, customization creates a sense of ownership and control over the experience, as customers are actively involved in shaping it. The technologies behind them also separate one from another. Personalization uses data analysis and algorithms. Customization, on the other hand, requires interactive tools and features that allow customers to create their own experiences.

Personalization can lead to a stronger and more meaningful connection with the user, as they feel like the product or service is specifically designed for them. 

Personalization or customization: Which approach fits your needs?

When it comes to deciding which approach to take - personalization or customization - there are a few things to consider. 

Expectations of the target audience

The first question you must ask yourself is about your target audience's expectations. Do they want a highly personalized experience, or do they prefer to have more control? The answer will guide you in taking the right path with better results. 

The nature of your product or service

The nature of your product also should inform your decision. For some, personalization is key to creating a solid emotional connection with the user. Imagine a skincare routine personalized to your skin type and concerns - much more appealing than a generic one-size-fits-all approach, right? But for others, customization might be the way to go. Take a clothing retailer, for example. They can offer customization options for items like t-shirts or sneakers to appeal to customers who want to express their unique style.

Your business goals and resources

The decision between personalization and customization also depends on your specific business goals and resources. Personalization requires some sophisticated data analysis tools and algorithms, while customization might require more interactive features and user-friendly interfaces. 

By considering these factors and understanding your customers' unique needs, you can make an informed decision about which approach is the best fit for your business.

Challenges in implementing customization and personalization

So, let's be honest, personalization and customization sound great in theory, right? But, when it comes to actually putting these approaches into action, there are some challenges to consider. 

User expectations

Brands invest in personalization because that’s what users demand today. However, once you go down that road, there’s no turning back. You have to be consistent in your personalization and customization efforts. Consistency is what will help you establish brand loyalty and trust while the opposite can cause frustration. 

Privacy concerns of users

Another challenge is finding the right balance. You don't want to go too far and make people feel like they're being stalked or like their privacy is being invaded. But, at the same time, you don't want to be too hands-off and not provide any kind of personalization or customization options just to be on the safe side. 

Privacy regulations

As well as user concerns, privacy regulations by governing bodies complicate personalization and customization. Whether you will implement personalization or customization, make sure that you take the necessary measures to make sure that the data is collected and stored in compliance with regulations, is secure, and is only used for the intended purpose.

Data accuracy

One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the data being used to create a personalized or customized experience is accurate and up-to-date. People change, so do their needs, expectations, preferences, even likes and dislikes. So, if the data is off, the whole thing can go downhill and hurt the connection between your brand and your customer. And no one would forget a bad experience.

Resources and capabilities

Creating personalized or customized experiences can take a lot of time and resources, which isn't always feasible for all businesses. So, there's a lot to think about balancing what you can offer with what you actually have the capacity to deliver.

All that being said, don't let the challenges deter you from considering personalization or customization for your business. With a thorough analysis and solid planning, you can create an experience that truly resonates with your customers. And, ultimately, that's what it's all about, right? Making your customers happy and creating a lasting connection that keeps them coming back for more.

5 things to consider for personalization and customization

When you're looking to add some personalization and customization to your customer experience, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

  • First off, you'll want to make sure you're collecting relevant customer data so that you can use it to create a more personalized experience. This could include things like purchase history, browsing behavior, or even basic demographic information or collecting zero-party data about their preferences by using interactives as we do with Storyly!
  • Of course, to do this, you'll need the right technology and tools in place to collect and analyze that data effectively. Make sure you're using tools that are up-to-date and that you're taking advantage of all the features they offer.
  • But it's not just about data collection - you also want to ensure you're giving customers a chance to provide their input and feedback on their experience. This could mean asking for feedback on a purchase or allowing them to customize certain aspects of their experience.
  • At the same time, you want to make sure you're being transparent about your data collection and usage policies. Customers are understandably concerned about their privacy, so it's essential to ensure you're taking steps to keep their data secure.
  • When it comes to customization, it's important to strike a balance between providing enough options and not overwhelming customers. You want to give them choices, but you don't want to make it so complicated that they give up and go elsewhere.

Personalization and customization in practice

Having discussed different aspects of both, let’s look into what each looks like in real life with successful use cases from different brands.  

Personalization examples

Location-based personalization 

Starbucks uses location data to offer personalized offers and discounts to customers when they enter a store.

Product recommendations

Amazon is known for its product recommendation engine, which uses customer data to suggest products based on a customer’s previous purchases or browsing history.

Personalized Stories for your app and website

If you're looking to create a more personalized experience for your website or app users, the leading mobile  format Stories might be just what you need. You can personalize these Stories to your heart's content while also delivering a full-screen experience. For example, you could create cart abandonment Stories that remind users of items they left in their cart, or celebrate their birthdays to show your users that you care about them on their special day, or even share unique promo code Stories to increase brand loyalty. If you want to see a real case, check our case study with Decathlon to learn how they reduced cart abandonment with Storyly’s personalized Stories!

Customization examples

Product customization 

Nike allows customers to customize their sneakers through its Nike By You service. Customers can choose their sneakers' color, materials, and other details to create a truly personalized experience.

Similarly, some restaurants allow customers to customize their orders by choosing their preferred toppings, sauces, or sides. At Subway, for example, customers can create their sandwiches by choosing the type of bread, meats, vegetables, and sauces they want.

Service customization

Today many consumer brands and online service providers that offer subscription services let you tailor their product and service in line with your needs. Dollar Shave Club allows its customers to choose the content of package; users can pick the number of the razors they want and add shaving butter, aftershave and hair gel if they want to. Another example is Adobe Creative Cloud. Depending on your requirements, you can choose a plan that provides access to all of Adobe's Creative Cloud apps, select just a few apps, or opt for a plan with only one app. 

Interface customization 

Users can customize the interface of their smartphones by choosing the wallpaper, icons, and layout. This feature allows users to create a unique experience that reflects their personality and preferences. If you are using Slack, you definitely have seen how you can customize the theme with the colors you choose. 

On a final note…

Let's wrap this up by saying that personalization and customization are fantastic ways to boost your customer experience and brand loyalty. The approach you choose will ultimately depend on your goals and what your customers want.

If you're looking for a more tailored experience that matches customer expectations, personalization is the way to go. But if you want to let your customers create a truly unique experience, customization is what you are looking for.

Sure, implementing these strategies can be a bit of a challenge. Still, you can tackle it by gathering relevant data, using the right technology and tools, encouraging customer input, prioritizing customer privacy, and avoiding too many options.

At the end of the day, whether you choose personalization or customization, you can expect to increase customer engagement and brand loyalty. So, what do you say? Ready to give it a shot and see the difference it can make for your business?


Dilayda Soylu

Product Marketing Manager at Storyly, covering launches, managing products and always excited about new tech solutions. Knows/ writes about customer insights and new features. A hopeless dreamer, loves zen thinking and being in nature at the first opportunity.

Subscribe our blog

Get the latest post in your email.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.