Hi Caroline: The Following May Be of Interest to You

Having gained traction in other markets, personalized video technology has near-unlimited applications

Hi Caroline: The Following May Be of Interest to You

It’s not a stretch to suggest that the above personalized wording will easily grab the reader’s attention over the generic. Firstly, the recipient is addressed personally.

Secondly, what follows promises easy consumption as only information of interest to the reader is being delivered.

Now, imagine this degree of personalization offered in a video: after clicking a link, the viewer is presented a ‘just-for- you’ moving/talking visual presentation that is customized just to them to create an intensely personal experience. Can one say ‘engagement?’

Contemporary calamities such as the pandemic, climate change, and politics have brewed the ‘perfect’ storm of uncertainty, anxiety, and a feeling of being disconnected. On the positive side, these issues have spurred us on, seeking out innovation to adapt to the evolved status quo; personalized video technology addresses the ‘disconnect’ perfectly!

What Is Personalized Video?

Personalized video is singular, visual storytelling specific to an individual, automatically built with and by their data. “They are unique and are typically created by a fully automated system.

When we say, ‘built with,’ we mean that data – such as the name, birthdate, claim amount, etc. – appears as text in the video as well as in the voice-over. With ‘built by,’ we mean the personal data controls the video itself. A personalized video explaining the status of a dental claim could have a voice-over such as ‘Dear Caroline, we received your dental claim June 15th in the amount of $523.25…”, this having been built with data from a file.

To further personalize the experience however, Caroline’s demographics are employed: the background music could be age-based, imagery gender-based, and, if Caroline isn’t enrolled in direct deposit, a clip explaining its advantages could be pulled in just for her. In the closing of the video, a help-line number is displayed which could vary based on demographics as could any white labelling. Perhaps Caroline’s profile indicates she prefers German and so all text and voice-over is supplied in German ‒ having been automatically translated.

Better systems or services will create video well beyond the simple inclusion of personalized text. They will create the voice-over and do so in one or more voices. They will automatically translate text and voice-over, allow for demographics to drive colours, imagery, pace, background music, and even determine which clips to include. In other words, the entire look, feel, and sound of a video can be driven by personal data.

Where permitted, data could also create opportunities for targeted cross- and up-sell of individual products by pulling in pertinent clips.

All of this is called personalized video and the benefits are many, well beyond engagement alone.

How Does This Magic Happen?

First, data is extracted from an existing claims, pension, payment, HR, or other database and written to a data file as a ‘video request.’ These files are typically in standard XML, JSON, or Excel format. Next, this file is deposited to a secure FTP site or a local folder to which the system has access. The personalized video system is continuously polling these folders for new data files and, when found, creates the videos and deposits them also to a folder. At this point, the videos are physical files. Subsequently, the intended recipient is informed by way of SMS, push notification, eMail, or other mechanism. This can be achieved any number of ways, depending on the video generating system and whether you would be employing a third-party service or have implemented a system in-house for full control. In the end, there will be links to watch the videos.

Security dictates that the link would be hosted on a secure portal behind a firewall so when the recipient logs in, they – and only they ‒ would be able to access it.

Types of Personalized Videos

So far, I’ve been discussing videos containing personal data. It is not difficult to imagine many other uses for such systems: there is no reason at all they can’t create customized videos for clients, suppliers, or even create regular postings to social media. These videos would, of course, be customized with data other than personal.

The videos can be triggered in a number of ways:

  • Event/Transaction: Pension or group insurance enrolment, claims payment, birthday, reminders, follow-ups
  • On Demand: the user selects from a menu, for example ‘Explain my Benefits’ or ‘What’s in my Portfolio’
  • Scheduled: regular social media posts, annual pension updates, health library subscriptions, benefit statements.

Simply dropping a data file into a specific folder can trigger the system to create videos, facilitating integration with existing systems.

Social Media Posts

Automated, customized video posting to social media is an interesting application of these systems. Sure, one could manually or automatically post the same videos on a rotating basis – not very exciting. However, posting a new video every day looks like some effort was put into the task, even if one were to limit the customization to include the posting time and date.

But why stop there? Varying background music, season-specific messages, near-end-of-year warnings, job openings, specials … and much more are all possible with imagination and automation. Creating and maintaining brand awareness on social media couldn’t be easier or more attractive.

You’re probably wondering about the structure of the video templates. Think of personalized video generation as being like mail-merge where someone designed a master document template with place- holder data fields. The mail-merge process then fills these fields with data from a file and prints the result. Similarly, for personalized videos, someone has created video templates with placeholder fields. For systems that accommodate ‘build by’ and not just ‘build with,’ a library of optional clips is also created. In the earlier example, I mentioned a video that included an optional clip encouraging direct deposit for those who are not yet enrolled. Video template creation is typically performed by contract video editors who are readily available for piecework hire.

As far as content is concerned, there are numerous sites from which imagery and even stock video clips can be purchased. Music is also readily available at a very reasonable cost. Any video editor will know where to source content and license it for you.

In the health and pension industry, the applications are near unlimited, I’ve only touched on a few.

The use of personalized video is not yet common in Canada, but has gained traction quickly in the U.S. and the UK. Now is an opportune time to look for exclusive arrangements with a supplier. A few organizations putting this to good use are AAA, Zurich, Salesforce, Barclays Bank, Bell Canada, Ceridian, BMO, Adidas, Netflix, Exxon, Stanley Black and Decker, JP Morgan Chase, American Airlines, Google, S&P Global, Audi, and Walmart. In the UK, there’s Aegon, Aviva, Fidelity, Legal and General, Mercer, Scottish Widows, and Standard Life.

These can be a significant differentiator, brand promotor, and loyalty creator at a time when engagement is paramount to success. Consider that video is currently the premiere medium for information disbursement.

Add to all of this, the generally accepted ratio of retention from video presentation is 90 per cent. For text, it is 10 per cent. That’s staggering!


Roland Wilhelm is the owner of Singula! Voice and Video.