The Toto Neorest Toilet: An Argument For Transparent, Explicit Personalization

The newest toilet produced by Toto does more than keep your tushy warm and offer 2 flush strength options. That is so 2010. The Neorest 700h takes care of  “everything” the next time you “powder your nose.” Go on, keep playing Candy Crush Saga as you sit down and then press a button to be cleaned up and dried. No hands. No toilet paper. No work beyond button pressing.

It seems like objects have all the fun these days. High-tech toilets. Smart thermostats. Fitness devices. We divulge more information to these devices than we tell our therapists. We share our weight, our flush preferences and when we will be getting home tonight with these objects because we know sharing that info is quick, private and will result in something we actually care about – a skinny, clean, warm derriere.

Meanwhile, back in the data center, the evolution of ecommerce personalization is stuck back in the chamber pot era. Most online retailers struggle to know their customers beyond past purchase information and current browsing behavior. And that lack of knowledge results in rather anemic attempts at targeted merchandise and promotions. Most personalization today is little more than a glorified cross sell.

The main reason? Unlike the transparent, explicit information gathering efforts of high-tech devices, ecommerce sites have traditionally tried to “take a best guess” on what customers want by stitching together implicit data behind the scenes (profile, purchase, location, and social graph).

Why sneak around guessing when the easiest way to know what someone wants or needs is to ask them? I am not arguing for long questionnaires. Asking quick, simple questions over time will build an explicit profile that can be transparently used for personalization. The beauty is the data is easy and true. The process is out in the open. And the results are relevant.

The Toto Neorest teaches us three key rules about personalization:

1)   No Surprises, Please

You know what the Toto is going to do before you use it – otherwise it would be highly disturbing and creepy. Be transparent about your intentions, call out the benefits and get permission.

2)   Ask & You Shall Receive

Toto’s Neorest does not guess what I want based on what my 317 Facebook friends want.  It asks outright. Why personalize without the exponential benefit of user input? Quick question are fine. Build personalization profiles over time.

3)   Do Something Meaningful With What I Tell You

I’ll tell you anything if it will keep my bum warm on a cold winter night. What are you offering in exchange for information? Is it truly relevant and needed? Will it make my life easier? Make sure your customers want the kind of personalization you are offering.

Several industry experts have predicted that 2014 will be the “Year of Personalization.” I hope it will be the “Year of Meaningful Personalization.” And the year everybody leaves the seat down whether they have a Toto or not.