It was billed as a keynote address on the personalization revolution by chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos at PC Expo 2000 in New York City. It turned out to be a recital of Amazon offerings.

And that was before the PA system at the Jacob Javits Convention Centre cut out.

“Is this a technical conference or what,” a flustered Bezos queried the crowd.

No less than four microphones failed to transmit his voice – or the voices of those in the audience that volleyed questions at him at the end of his presentation.

To his credit, Bezos maintained his composure despite the technical glitches and at one point he had to jump off the stage just to hear the inquiries.

In any case, Bezos’ address was more a jam session on how to use – and the benefits of – to make on-line purchases, more than it was a speech on the value of personalizing an e-commerce site.

“Our mission is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company,” he declared. “You need to listen to your customers, invent and personalize (their on-line shopping experience).”

Therein lay Bezos’ message to the masses: the personalization of the consumer experience is of the utmost importance.

“Put customers at the centre of the universe and try to build a place where they can find anything on-line,” he advised, while demonstrating repeatedly on two massive video screens what can do for its clientele.’s approach is such that it makes recommendations on a variety of products to its clientele based on individual past purchases and purchases made by those of a similar ilk. Furthermore, Amazon believes in the buddy system: what your declared “trusted friends” might find cool, they will pitch your way, assuming you’ll want the same CD, DVD, or book that your pals bought.

“[This method] saves the customer time in the midst of trying to find that needle in the haystack,” Bezos said. “Personalization is unique to the Internet as it allows you to connect with trusted friends…personalization is trying to make the perfect (on-line) store for that individual.”

Bezos’ take on the state of on-line personalization is that it is working well, but the modus operandi is still in the Kitty Hawk-era of completion.

“I think we’re two per cent, this is the very, very beginning (of personalization),” he said. “We will have done so much more 10 years from now. There’s tons to do.

“I do think that one of the things, if this is done right, that we may get out of this technology is…a return to yesteryear,” he said. “[Personalization] is something that has gone by the wayside, and our current shopping experiences are largely not personalized. Perhaps over time, that is something that technology can return.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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